The story behind perfect coffee from crop to cup

From coffee’s discovery, to the ways we harvest our beans today and make the perfect selection for slow roasting, the history of coffee might surprise you.

The discovery of coffee

Coffee cherries on a coffee plant

There are several tales of how coffee was first enjoyed, but the most popular one dates back to 850AD and an Ethiopian goat herder called Kaldi.

One day, Kaldi noticed his goats being especially lively after feeding on the ripe berries from a bush later known as an Arabica bush. Kaldi tried the berries himself and started to feel just as uplifted.

Local monks quickly learned of Kaldi's discovery and tried the berries for themselves. They found that the unusual berries helped them stay awake and energised during long periods of prayer. And they also discovered that if they crushed and infused the ‘magical’ berries with cold water, they could enjoy them as a drink.

It wasn't until much later, between 1000AD and 1200AD, that people tried roasting and crushing seeds of the coffee cherry (the 'magic' berries) and infusing them with hot water. It made a delicious drink, more like the coffee of today.

icon

Coffee plants only grow in tropical regions between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn in a region known as the bean belt

How is coffee grown and harvested?

Coffee cherries

The coffee you know and enjoy has travelled a long way to reach your cup. Coffee is most often grown in the tropics, in places like Brazil, Ethiopia and Colombia.

Young coffee plants are raised in nurseries and, when they are about a year old, are transplanted into the main plantation on the coffee growing estate where they are nurtured for five years.

After this, the plants begin to grow fruit called 'coffee cherries'. It is the seed (or bean) of these ripe, red cherries that’s used for roasting and producing the coffee beans we recognise.

There are thousands of species of coffee plants, but only two are used commercially: Coffee arabica and Coffee canephora, or Robusta. Our iconic Signature Blend of coffee is the perfect combination and balance of delicate Arabica and strong Robusta bean.

Arabica vs Robusta: what's the difference?

Arabica

Sweeter, with a higher acidity level for more complex aromas and flavours

Robusta

Smaller in size, but with a higher caffeine level for a more intense, full-bodied taste

From crop to cup: what happens next?

Exterior view of the Costa Coffee roastery in Basildon, Essex

Once the coffee cherries ripen and have been harvested, either by hand or by machine, the pulp around the seed is removed and the seeds dried and turned into green coffee.

The green coffee beans are then carefully quality checked, organised by size, and bagged into breathable fibre sacks to make sure they remain dry and clean until it can be exported. At Costa, we responsibly source all our raw coffee beans from 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms.

All the coffee we serve in our shops, at Costa Express machines or from your favourite mug at home has gone through this process until it reaches our own Roastery. Here it’s precisely slow roasted for a minimum of 18 minutes to ensure the beans keep their hearty flavour, rich aroma, and smooth taste.

So, next time you’re able to sit down and relax with a great cup of coffee, it’s worth taking an extra moment to appreciate all the time and careful attention that’s helped make it perfect.