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How well do you know your coffee?

There are two types of drinkable coffee in the world: Arabica and Robusta. They are commonly referred to as gourmet and truck stop. Industry insiders call them specialty coffee and canned coffee. There are several reasons why specialty coffee is more expensive.Arabica coffee naturally has more flavor than Robusta coffee. Surprisingly, it also has about one-third less caffeine than its cheaper cousin. (Yes, that truck stop brew does have more caffeine.) Specialty coffee tastes stronger because it has more natural taste not because it has more caffeine. Also, specialty coffee tends to be roasted darker, which adds more flavor to the beans.

Arabica sells for a premium not only because of its taste, but because of how it is grown and processed. Arabica plants take longer to start producing crop, are more susceptible to disease, are grown at higher altitudes and use much more hand labor, all of which add to production costs.

About those beans

Coffee beans are actually the seeds inside coffee cherries. These cherries look just like the cherries we’re used to, however, they don’t taste as good. The cherries grow on trees that are cut to about eight feet in height to allow for easier picking. They are ripe and ready to pick when they turn red. Each coffee cherry holds two beans. Some freak cherries only hold one bean; these are called pea berries and tend to have more intense flavor.

Machinery is used to separate the beans from the cherry. The remaining part of the cherry is recycled in the fields as fertilizer. After separation, the beans go through a preparation process that includes soaking, drying and storing periods before being shipped to roasters as so-called “green coffee.”

Once the green coffee arrives at either at a manufacturing plant or an independent coffeehouse, the beans must be roasted before they can be used. At Mugsy’s Coffee Company in Clarksville, owner Ray Huot (at left) takes this job very seriously. Ray is a master roaster with years of experience in producing the perfect finish to each bean. His staff is trained in the proper brewing process before they are allowed to operate the espresso machines.

Defining coffee

ORGANIC: coffee grown without chemicals and pesticides. Farmers are paid a premium for growing coffee organically because this requires extra labor and reduces yields. Most farmers grow organically by default because they cannot afford these additives.

SHADE GROWN: Traditionally coffee has been grown underneath large trees. These larger trees shielded coffee plants from the sun, which allowed the beans to develop a full flavor. Large farms have developed methods to grow coffee without the shade and have cut down many trees to make room for more coffee plants. Smaller farmers have never cut down the shade trees and therefore are not contributing to deforestation.

FAIR TRADE: The fair trade movement helps guarantee a minimum wage to farmers. Mugsy’s is committed to working with farmers and believe minimum price is only one part of fair trade.

Now that you know what you are brewing up in the morning, get out there and see what your local coffee shops are serving up.

Ray Huothttp://mugsyscoffeeco.com
Ray Huot is the owner and roaster at Mugsy's Coffee Co., which is located near Gate 3 on Fort Campbell Boulevard. You can usually find him near his roaster in the back room at Mugsy's, or keeping tabs on the coffee-making process in his coffee shop. He has published several articles as well as a twice monthly coffee newsletter. You can visit his website, mugsyscoffeeco.com, or shop online at shopmugsys.com.

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