Updated on 16 October, 2021
A coffee bean is actually a seed of the Coffea albosa plant and its basic source for coffee. It's the green pip within the black or red fruit usually called a cherry. Like other fruits, the coffee cherry is also a stone fruit. In some parts of the world, coffee beans are used to make chocolates and a number of other products.
Coffee has always been a favorite beverage all across the globe. As history has shown, coffee beans were discovered by the Arab traders while sailing around in ancient Arabian sea. From that discovery, Arab traders brought the seeds back to Europe and America, where people soon began to roast the seeds. From there, flavors and recipes for coffee started to evolve. Some were flavored with local spices, while others included foreign spices in unique combinations. The roasting process also gave birth to many of the coffee drinks we enjoy today.
Throughout the years, coffee beans were prized for their dark color and great taste. They were used as currency, trading commodities, and more. However, over the years, as coffee beans were roasted longer, their bitter flavor was altered. Thus, during the 19th century, American businessmen began growing coffee beans in the hopes that the better-tasting Arabica bean could be traded back to Europe. The bitterness of the Arabica bean left America's taste buds unable to tolerate its taste.
Over time, Arabica coffee beans were crossed with African coffee beans and even with sugarcanes to create the hybrid variety we now know as arabica. This new hybrid had better-tasting flavor than its ancestor and it retained its natural flavor even when it was subjected to further modification. During the early twentieth century, coffee breeders worked to find ways to produce coffee with a stronger and fuller taste. One way they succeeded was by cross-pollinating Arabica with a European grape, and creating what we call gourmet coffee.
Another way coffee beans were modified during the early part of the century was through a chemical process called roasting. When coffee is exposed to heat for an extended period of time, its caffeine level rises dramatically. This is why American coffee contains twice as much caffeine as does the corresponding Brazilian cup of Folciana. In order to preserve the caffeine content, coffee beans were roasted at lower temperatures until they reached about 160 degrees Celsius (or sometimes even further).
Because of this prolonged roasting, coffee beans lost much of their natural flavor and aroma. Even the flavor of one roast will vary from another. This is not a natural result, but rather an unavoidable one: roasting coffee beans destroys their essential oils which are responsible for coffee's distinct taste. Therefore, coffee plants have to be cross-bred in order to preserve those important oils.
Cross-pollination of coffee crops allowed scientists to introduce what is known as "essential" enzymes into the plant. These enzymes serve to increase the production of certain vitamins and other polyphenols that are responsible for coffee's flavor and aroma. More recent scientific studies have shown that coffee beans contain a chemical compound called ferulic acid. Ferulic acid is found in several plants, but its presence in coffee plants means that it is one of the most important antioxidants in the plant.
Coffee beans can be kept for a number of years at relatively low temperatures. One example is the arnica bean, which is kept at around 14 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower temperatures encourage the development of "stouta beans," which have a fuller body and are less bitter than normal beans. At higher temperatures, " Liberica beans," or the "Cevicidae" bean variety, will produce a stronger coffee. Some varieties of coffee beans, such as the " Caribou coffee" bean, actually do not go through any roasting; therefore, they are often kept in small ceramic containers or aluminum bowls.