So many people have come to me with that question. Or, quite possibly, it is that so many have wanted to know, but feel silly asking. I'm going to shed some light on what this whole world of espresso is about. And the best part is, that I'm only going to scratch the surface - leaving plenty of room for more conversation! This industry is a melting pot of different cultures, opinions, techniques and forms, and it's getting more and more exciting. Whew! I am certainly no expert, but I do love what I do and have been in this game for over twelve years. Theres no doubt in my breath when I say, I love all that it entails.
First, a lovely little tid-bit is, coffee is not a bean. It is actually the seed of a fruit. It was originated in Ethiopia and has a cute little story to go along with it. As fable tells us, a goat herder by the name of Kaldi, was tending to his flock when he noticed a change in their behavior. When they ate this mysterious berry, they would dance around with magical energy. He harvested them, took them back to camp, threw them in the fire and the rest is history. Pretty sweet way to discover such a large economic commodity.
Next, espresso is a brewing technique. Nope, it's not a type of bean. MIND BLOWN. When you purchase of bag of coffee from your local shop, (please don't buy coffee from grocery stores), you are buying coffee that essentially, can be brewed in any way you please. Whether it be cold brewed, French press, espresso or just plain drip, the great thing about coffee is that you can cater it to whatever taste you prefer.
So at the very start of the growing process of said fruit, there are two main types of coffee species, Arabica and Robusta. All species are grown between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn (along the equator where the chance of a freeze is unlikely). Arabica is considered a higher quality bean and is used in the majority of coffee. It is grown at higher elevations and produces less fruit than our other main species. Robusta, is grown more easily at lower elevations and in turn produces more coffee. However, you don't see this in most specialty coffee as it comes with a muddy, rubbery taste. However, Robusta carries a higher caffeine content then Arabica. Ok... am I loosing you yet?
Many people think espresso has more caffeine in it then drip, which is not always the case. As a rule of thumb, one espresso shot will have about 50-80 milligrams of caffeine. Whereas a cup of drip coffee generally contains 120-130 milligrams. I know, I know, mind blown again right? The caffeine content ranges depending on the roast, the origin and the technique in which you are grinding, compacting and extracting the coffee.
So there ya have it. The most beginning stages of your cuppa. Like I said, we have only cracked the shell of the cascara (that which protects the seed of the coffee fruit). Soon you'll have an array of lingo to toss around in your next coffee conversation!
With love and so much gratitude,