Evolution, The Art & Science of the Coffee Bean

When we talk about coffee, most will agree coffee is a magic bean of sorts, the magic that we all need, want, and crave daily. However, the coffee bean, and its current popularity did not always exist, coffee went through quite the evolution to becoming what it is today, along with the exquisite taste that coffee beans acquired along the way.

Coffee, is perhaps, the most popular and desired consumable liquid known to man in current day. It is so popular in fact, that an estimated 2-2.5 billion cups of coffee are consumed everyday all over the world. While people may have differing views about the taste of coffee, and the best method of brewing the perfect cup of coffee, most cannot argue that we are a society addicted to the experience, the taste, or simply the caffeine that comes a well brewed cup of coffee.

The Caffeine Effect

The genetic mutation of caffeine in coffee is also as unique as the beverage itself. Coffee has one unique substance that makes it so desirable. That magic substance is Caffeine. Caffeine is highly addictive. So addictive that it also happens to be the most popular substance in the world and people love it. It is the caffeine that gives you the energy to work through your day, and caffeine that helps you stay on top of all your work.
Caffeine is what helps you late at night studying for the exam next morning because it keeps you alert and on your feet. However, what made coffee into what it is today? Where did it come from? It is quite an adventurous story along with some science involved, of course. We often find ourselves wondering, and you might have too; why does caffeinated beverages not work as well as coffee? The answer will be discussed as you keep reading.

The Genetic Evolution

Now, coming on to the evolution of caffeine in coffee beans, it is particularly interesting to note that caffeine is something most people crave when coffee is mentioned. Caffeine, in the beginning of the process acts as a precursor compound called xanthosine in coffee.
The coffee plant then makes an enzyme that takes away atoms from xanthosine, while a second enzyme adds other atoms on another part. After which, the plant used additional enzymes and additional clusters to proceed, which leads to xanthosine being converted to caffeine. Research suggests that caffeine in coffee plants is not only used to face off the completion, it also benefits the plant in many ways.

Initially, when coffee was not yet discovered. It is set to believe that the discovery began as pure chance, the food drying process was existent back then and the berry being exposed to heat for the drying process (roasting now) evidently led to the carbonization of the bean which became a beverage which could be used all over the world.

Initially, during the evolution of the coffee plant itself, a mutation in the gene allowed it to modify xanthosine, as mentioned previously. However, over time, the gene duplicated by another mutation and the new versions were able to multiply and mutate further which led to different forms and versions of it.

N-methyltransferases is the gene causing the mutations and duplications of the evolution. However, the caffeine found in coffee beans and caffeine found in tea or chocolate has been found to be different, which proves that there are various diversities in the caffeine production itself.

When reading about the history and evolution of caffeine in coffee beans, it makes you wonder and understand why the entire population of earth is incline towards drinking more coffee. Chocolate and tea does not taste the same as the caffeine in coffee – this is because it is not and we finally understand it.

Researchers suggest that caffeine in coffee also helps in many things such as when the coffee leaves dry up, they fall to the ground contaminating the ground and negating any chance of germination from other plants. Furthermore, while the leaves are still attached to the plant, they are protecting the plants to not be eaten by insects.

Caffeine is quite literally protecting the coffee plant in various ways. Knowing so many little details about the gene that causes you to be having this delicious drink makes you wonder.

Coffee bean was initially just a berry, however, over time it was discovered that it was a delicacy waiting to be used by many around the world. N-methyltransferases, the gene that causes all this magic to happen is the reason for various versions of caffeine types that exist all around us in things we casually enjoy, such as chocolate.

Picking Processes – How We Raise the Beans

When talking about the process between the plant and your coffee mug, the mutations that go into the process, is as following:

When the coffee fruit is ripe, it is handpicked to remove the ripe fruit only which is called selective picking. Once the berry is out, there are two methods to process coffee berries. One of which is the wet process, this is when the flesh of a cherry is separated from the seeds and then the seeds are kept to be fermented by soaking in water for approximately two days. The residue is then washed off with water to present you with coffee.
The second process is less watery, known as the dry method, which is widely used because of its simple and cheap process. Once the fruit is ripe, the twigs and other objects are removed from the berries and is laid out in the sun for drying, which takes up to 3 weeks’ time, the process of drying matters a lot in the taste of the coffee.

Legend of a Red Cherry

Today, coffee as we know it is a brewed drink prepared by roasted coffee beans. However, back when it was discovered, there were different ways it was consumed. Originally, coffee in its most basic and unprocessed form is a red cherry. That red cherry grows on a coffee plant and includes a bean at the dead center of it. That bean is what is used today to make our version of coffee; this is done in two methods, which will be discussed later on.

Legend has that coffee was discovered by a goat herder. He noticed his goats eating a red cherry like fruit and then not wanting to sleep at night and were instead running all over the place. He tried the fruit for himself and had a similar experience, very likely due to the high levels of caffeine in the fruit. It was then passed on to monks who tried it and had the same experience. Word got out and eventually reached Arabia, where coffee gained its initial popularity. Now, this is a theory as the legend has it.

Back in the early days, coffee was made by combining the fruit with animal fat and making a protein rich snack bar full of caffeine. It was also turned into a wine like drink by fermenting the pulp and using it without the bean. It was not until after the 13th century that the method of roasting dried coffee beans was discovered.

When the Arabian traders brought coffee to Arabia, it was cultivated on Arabian Plantations for the first time and they extracted the beans from the husk and pulp of the coffee cherry and proceeded to boil the beans in hot water. That gave birth to first ever brew of coffee, known as kahwah back then.

Coffee became insanely popular and coffee houses like Froth Coffee Bar in Haslet, TX, started opening up everywhere. It was known widely for its properties of keeping people awake and fresh for long periods. Eventually, the knowledge if the existence of a drink like coffee began to spread, very much so due to the thousands of pilgrims that would visit Mecca every year which led to the coffee resolution. Since then, coffee has been one of the most widely used beverage in every country of the world.