Coffee beans are the seeds of a coffee plant, and although they are actually seeds, they are referred to as beans, due to the appearnace they take on. There are several varieties of coffee beans, but the two which provide for the coffee most individuals drink on a daily basis are the Arabica and the Robusta bean, which account for about 75 to 80% of the total coffee produced in the US, and world wide. The Arabica consisits of about .8 to 1.4 % of caffeine, while the Robusta is a much higher amount from 1.7 up to 4 % caffeine in the beans, meaning a much stronger coffee, and they are typically used in espresso blend drinks.
Coffee beans are one of the world's leading exports, due to the fact that they make one of the most consumed beverages around the world, and they account for over 50 % of the foreign exchange earnings for many countries; the US imports more coffee than any other nation, and this is because of the fact that Americans consumer the most coffee in the world.
The coffee plant on which the beans actually grow is between 5 to 10 meters in height, and as the trees grow older, the fewer beans they are able to produce. The tree will begin to bear beans after about 3 to 4 years of being planted, and can continue to produce beans for up to 20 years, although after about the 10th year, they will produce significantly lower amounts. Once the fruit (bean) is ripe, they are generally handpicked, by the process of selective picking, where only the ripe fruit will be removed, or by strip picking, where all fruit will be removed from the tree.
There are also 2 methods to process the beans. First, the wet processing method (Central America and Africa), is where the flesh of the berry is separated from the seeds, and the bean is fermented (soaked in water for about 2 days). This dissolves the residue from the fruit, and then the beans are washed and dried prior to being sold. The dry processing method is a cheaper method, used for lower quality beans. The foreign objects are separated from the fruit, and they will the be spread out in the sun for a 2 to 3 week period. Once completely dry, the pulp is removed from the beans. After either process, the husks are removed, and the beans are roasted, before being sold for bagging.
Each method will produce a different tasting bean, and depending on the quality of the bean, a different flavor blend is also possible. Many developers who purchase the beans add flavoring prior to packaging, in order to create some of the drinks that can be bought in coffee shops today. The infusion of these flavors occurs after the beans have been processed, and the husks have been removed, to ensure that the flavor will not have the grainy after taste. However, not all beans can have flavor added to them, depending on the blend, and how they are processed.
No matter how you drink your coffee, or what flavor blends you love, all the beans that eventually make it into your cup, and your favorite coffee shops, all go through this same process. From the growing, picking, and processing, to finally being bagged and sold to the large companies, which in turn sell the processed coffee to you in stores, and your favorite coffee shops. So, no matter how you take your coffee, it initially goes through the same process, no matter where the beans are grown, or where you purchase your drinks from.
So, the next time you purchase a bag of coffee, you can see the packaging label, to see where the beans where grown, in order to know the process that was used to make your favorite blends and coffee products.