Coffee is a complex beverage, requiring the skill of an artist to create, and the discipline of a scientist to understand. Under the correct circumstances tasting coffee should reveal a complex tasting profile created by over 1500 chemical substances (approximately 850 volatile and 700 soluble).
There are a limitless number of factors that determine how the final cup will taste. This is probably the reason coffee becomes such a passion for so many, and attracts inquisitive minds. This is what we find most fascinating about coffee. As we routinely cup our coffee, we have yet to taste two identical cups of coffee, and while we haven’t kept count, our cupping protocol accounts for many thousands of cups to date.
The flavour profile of the green bean begins at the coffee growing farm:
From the farmers choice of varietal; farm location; altitude and weather patterns; to their choice of cultivation process including quality of the soil and fertilizer; organic versus non-organic farming techniques; harvesting methods (mechanical versus by hand); milling method (dry versus wet); and drying methods employed; will each greatly affect the flavour profile of the green coffee bean, and it hasn't left the farm yet!
The next link in the chain is shipping. Coffee shipping and logistics is it's own profession. As green coffee is a grain with a shelf-life, and the precious moisture content in the bean that will ultimately determine it's flavour has to be protected at all costs. Coffee cannot sit in hot shipping containers for weeks at a time. The best shipping methods and brokers ensure coffee spends the absolute minimum amount of time in a container and on shipyards around the world.
Green storage continues as it goes into the hands of localized brokers around the world. Their storage methods become an extension of the shipping process and must ensure the coffee isn't exposed to massive temperature variations and kept in climate controlled storage, while limiting coffees exposure to Air Conditioning. Air Conditioning absorbs moisture out of the air, and will suck the moisture out of green coffee. Additionally, if the storage facility is in an area prone to massive humidity swings, the moisture content in the green coffee will fluctuate accordingly, and will speed up the aging process. Worse yet, excessive humidity can increase green coffee's moisture content over 12% into the "possibility for molding" range.
Finally, green coffee finds itself in the hands of the roaster. Possibly the single most influential step in properly developing the flavour of the coffee, is the roasting process. The skill of the roaster is constantly challenged to determine how each and every batch of beans should be roasted to maximize its potential, rendering the roasting process both an art and a science.
Finally, after all the effort and care taken to prepare the bean by the farmer and the roaster, the final step in the process, Preparation/ Brewing, can very easily undo all the hard work. Proper preparation of the coffee by an expertly trained and qualified Barista cannot be overstated. This is not limited to the operation of an Espresso Machine, but also to the proper understanding of every aspect of coffee and its fundamentals to produce a consistently exceptional cup of coffee, driven by nothing short of a passion for coffee.