I have recently started a marketing internship with Di Bella Coffee and I have quickly realised the world of coffee is a big place filled with unique terms, an incredible amount of otherwise hidden knowledge (or at least hidden to me) and an abundance of technical skill. If, like me, you are completely new on the coffee scene with barista friends scoffing at your lack of coffee knowledge, read some of my biggest coffee realisations to get in the loop.
1. Coffee is often a blend of a heap of different beans (unless it’s stated to be a ‘single origin’)
I was having a tour of the Di Bella Coffee headquarters, which has a distribution section, retail, roasting section, a blending section, basically an everything section. We passed where the coffee beans are stored in massive cylinders and a little bit about the different coffee blends was casually mentioned. It was at this point, I stopped and thought to myself ‘hang on, coffee blends are made from heaps of different beans from all over the world?!’ This was not mentioned out loud, instead I nodded along pretending that of course I knew the coffee I usually drink from my local café is a blend, made from a variety of beans or 'single origins'. So how embarrassing, I didn’t know one of the most important aspects of coffee. But now none of you will feel silly not knowing that crucial fact.
2. Coffee beans come from coffee cherries!
So everyone knows coffee comes from trees (wait…it’s actually a plant, not a tree). But what non-coffee drinkers might not realise is that the seed of a coffee plant is the coffee bean. Yes that’s right, you can plant an unroasted bean and get a coffee plant! However, the most surprising part for me was learning that the coffee bean itself is a part of a coffee cherry! So coffee before it’s harvested and processed (when it’s still on the plant) is referred to as a fruit! Basically a coffee bean is to a coffee cherry as a seed is to an apricot.
3. I had no idea what the word ‘tamper’ meant and even less idea what ‘tamping’ was!
Turns out the world of coffee has many unique words, these two being amongst them. So a ‘tamper’ is that stamp shaped object baristas use to press the ground coffee into that thing with the handle that they attach to the espresso machine (see I still have things to learn!), and the action of doing that is called ‘tamping’. Also fun fact for the non-baristas, those tampers are actually quiet heavy and you can get different weighted ones, depending on your skill level. It is now my understanding that the heavier ones are for beginners as it eliminates the skill of having to judge how hard to press down on the coffee grind (yes apparently that’s a skill!).
4. There are SO many ways to brew coffee!
So I hadn’t really stopped to think about how many different ways a cup of coffee could be made, but I had only ever been exposed to four ways: plunger (parents have every morning), instant (I drank too much in school), stovetop (I always thought this was odd) and of course espresso machines (hello cute barista). If you read them and thought, ‘yep that’s it’, you would be just as mistaken as I was! Brewing coffee quickly becomes more like a science as beakers, funnels and swirly glass tubes are added to devices to manipulate and enhance the coffees natural flavour (I assume that’s why that wacky, yet cool looking, mechanisms are used). Types of alternative coffee brewing include, but aren’t exclusive to: drip filter, chemex, aeropress, syphon, cold brew and pods.