Local coffee beans have come a long way to get to your cup in London. From the geographical journey to the evolution that has happened in the way that coffee is produced and appreciated, a lot has changed in recent years. In particular, transparency over supply chains has meant that we now want a lot more information about how our products get to us - so this is the journey of local coffee beans in London.
A rich and delicious history
Coffee has been loved by Londoners for centuries and has been drunk and sold in the capital for many years. In the 17th century, for example, there were coffee shops as well as ‘Italian grocers’ that sold the coffee direct. At that point in history, coffee was extremely bitter, and so London purveyors started experimenting with adding in different ingredients, from spearmint to wine. However, it still wasn’t that easy to make coffee at home at the time - that was something that would come much later. But the real origin of coffee goes all the way back to the 11th century when the arabica strain of coffee bean is said to have been discovered by the goat herder, Kaldi, in Ethiopia.
The farm-to-table movement
Like many other products that came from the tropics, coffee did not have ethical origins, and it has taken many years of campaigning and the pressure of the farm-to-table movement to begin to change this. Today, there is much more transparency when it comes to how beans are sourced and whether ethical standards are being met. Worldwide coffee associations such as Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) and International Coffee Organisation, together with roasters such as Bean Smitten are committed to responsible and sustainable sourcing. Local coffee beans have come a long way in terms of fair trade and today coffee culture in London is often rooted in supporting those that can show strong and fair ties to local producers.
Coffee requires specific conditions to grow.
That’s why your local coffee beans have such a long journey to get to your cup in London. Coffee will only grow close to the equator, between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. Here, the soil, temperature, topography and climate are all perfect. The characteristics of the coffee will depend on where it has been grown and everything, from altitude to seasonality, can affect what you eventually taste. Typical characteristics include notes of molasses and chocolate in coffee that comes from South America, earthy, spicy and full bodied beans from Asia and bright citrus notes in East African coffees (widely regarded as some of the most complex).
You wouldn’t want to eat a raw coffee bean.
And, as a result, there is a whole process that coffee goes through before it gets to the consumable stage. Coffee beans start out as the seed of the coffee cherry, which is found on coffee trees. These unripe cherries can be red, orange or yellow but are picked when they darken. The fruit taken off the seed inside is what will eventually become your coffee. Seeds can be removed naturally - where the cherry is left in the sun until it naturally separates from the seed (natural process) - or using machines that force the seed out (washed process) before drying on raised beds. After that, coffee is sent to the mill for cleaning, polishing, sorting and grading. Finally, the coffee beans are ready to be exported, ready for roasting.
Local coffee beans have an amazing journey to their London destination - so much goes into creating every single cup.
For more information on what is a speciality coffee read our other blog post here: https://www.beansmitten.co.uk/post/what-is-speciality-coffee