1. Soil and Terroir
Terroir encompasses many aspects of your coffee’s growing conditions, including soil type, climate, elevation, and the plants surrounding that precious coffee plant. The same term is applied to the wine industry, as these factors can make a big difference in final product.
The National Coffee Association calls Arabica plants “finicky” because they thrive better in high elevations with rich soil (think Jamaica’s Blue Mountains or the volcanic slopes of the Kona region in Hawaii.) But all coffee is grown in the “Bean Belt”—the warm climates surrounding the equator, from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer.
2. Variety of Coffee Plant
The Arabica plant produces finer quality coffee beans than the Robusta species. The Robusta plant can be grown at lower elevations and produces more coffee cherries, but they are of a lower quality. Arabica beans are grown above 600 meters and are more difficult to cultivate, but the reward is worth it! (At Cameron’s, we only use Specialty-grade Arabica beans, which are the finest among Arabica beans.)
Beyond this difference, though, did you know there are many sub-varieties of Arabica plants? These “cultivars”—or cultivated varieties—are the natural result of centuries of farming and breeding of the plant.
3. Farming Practices
This is where our fabulous farmers from around the globe come in. The techniques used for farming affect the end product significantly, including their practices in irrigation, pruning, fertilization, and even planting pattern.
4. Picking Method
The highest quality coffee berries are those that are picked at the perfect ripeness. Machine harvesting may be quicker, but can’t differentiate between ripe and unripe fruit. The best method for picking is to do it by hand, so that workers can choose the coffee berries that are ready for the next step toward becoming that cup of joe. The majority of Cameron’s coffee beans are hand-picked in their country of origin.
There are three main ways to process the coffee cherries before they’re stored and shipped. Cameron’s uses all three types in our different blends.
Dry, or Natural Processing is a traditional method in which the cherries are laid out in the sun to dry naturally, usually over a week to two weeks. To prevent molding, the cherries must be turned frequently as they dry. This method requires less water usage (good for many parts of the world), but more manual work. Once dried, the skin and outer fruit can be removed from the bean, often by hand, leaving behind a coffee bean that provides full body and low acidity.
Wet Processing, or Washing, is just that. The cherries are first brought to the wet mill where they are “pulped,” meaning the fruit, or “pulp,” is removed from the cherry and you are left with the seed, or “bean”. At this point the beans have a sugary coating on them still, so they go into a fermentation tank. Then they’re washed and dried either in large dryers or laid out to dry in the sun. These beans are generally considered to have brighter acidity, more clarity, and lighter body than dry processed. We use wet-processed beans from Ethiopia in our new Roastmaster’s Blend, a sweet, earthy, citrusy blend.
Finally, pulp natural, or semi-washed/honey-prep, is the mix of the first two methods. The cherries are pulped, and then set out to dry naturally within the fruit pulp and parchment layer before the bean is extricated. Pulp natural beans are known for their sweetness and fruitiness in the cup.
6. Shipping and Storing
Green coffee beans are traditionally shipped in burlap bags, and are delivered directly to our facility in Shakopee, MN. Beans could end up with off-flavors if they’ve been improperly stored, stored too long, or have been exposed to less-than-ideal conditions in transport. At Cameron’s, we buy only specialty-grade coffees. We know the coffee has been handled, transported, and stored correctly.
This is the fun part. We could write an entire article just on our roasting processes, but this is where our Roastmaster does his work. With careful measurements, timing, and years of experience, Cameron’s Coffees are roasted to perfection. Our coffees are roasted by coffee professionals who love coffee and love what they do, then packaged and shipped to stores or directly to you!
As much happiness as we coffee drinkers get from our coffee cup, it’s clear that there are hundreds of people and centuries of perfected processes behind those wonderful beans. We hope that you’ll try a new Cameron’s blend whenever you’re restocking your favorites—and experience the subtleties between our different beans and blends. Whatever you choose, you’ll find Cameron’s coffee to be always smooth and never bitter.