Learning about Coffee in Gävle

Perhaps the other popular reason (the main one being the Gävle Goat) behind why people make the trip to Gävle is to smell the coffee.

The present presents itself upon alighting from the train station. The refreshing smell of freshly roasted coffee beans silks through the air like a spray of coffee cologne. The hint of coffee lingering like a weak perfume.

That’s because the factory is so near the. Train station. Located barely a 5 minute walk away is a present for the nostrils. The breeze blows the aroma of freshly roasted coffee into the city (especially so in the Summer) and awakens every inhabitant. This is the coffee roasting factory of Gevalia, the home-grown international coffee brand from Gävle.

Gevalia is a historic brand having been started in this city in 1853 by Victor Theodore Engwall. The name is the latinised version of the city. It was a family company for 120 years before being sold to the international beverage firm Mondelez International from which it moved from a mainstream common brand in Scandanavia to a premium brand in the United States.

The factory was closed to visitors on the day I arrived 😦 but the whiff of coffee was still being released from the ventilator. That was good enough for the day… I guess…

Well it wasn’t.

Stimulated by the fragrance of roasted beans I decided to get my coffee fill and learn about coffee, so I popped into the first cafe I could find, got myself a cuppa and did some googling.

You don’t need me to describe coffee, its so ubiquitous its hard to fine any city/town in the world that doesn’t serve coffee – even if it’s bad coffee. But what is it about coffee, how do we choose our coffee, how did this globally popular coffee come-about?

Coffee beans were first cultivated in Ethiopia and first made into a drink in Yemen in the 15th century. The energising quality of the plant were first discovered in the 10th century in Ethiopia, where locals noticed that animals gained energy and vitality upon consuming the plant. It was later sold to Yemen where the drink was related to religious ceremonies by Sufi Islamic clerics. The drink then spread and was for a time banned by Islamic authorities (in some regions) for being stimulating (a ban obviously overturned before long). The drink entered the west through Venice, when Italian traders came into contact with Muslim traders and spread throughout Europe from Venetian borders. Like the Muslim religious leaders, the drink was initially banned (as it got popular) by the Church for being an muslim drink.

How then did coffee get to the Americas and Asia? – Colonialism. The similar climate in places like Vietnam, Colombia, Brazil and Indonesia allowed the colonial powers to increase crop plantations to meet demand back home. So once those places became colonies coffee cultivation began. Obviously there are subtle differences in weather and techniques which lead to different bean quality and profiles – the connoisseurs have a better idea. I just drink it.

Side note but there is also the civet cat coffee in Vietnam and Indonesia. Where raw beans are broken down through the civet cats gut. I don’t really have a point here, its just a fun-fact that I needed to burst out.

That’s the history part out of the way. Let’s get to the flavour.

Even if it is phenomenally fragrant, coffee as a drink is an acquired taste. Not many people start drinking coffee and love it straight away, most people come around to coffee after trying it a few times. But there are so many ways to try coffee though…

The first thing to know about coffee beans is that there really only are two main types of coffee beans – Arabica and Robusta. The former accounts for about 60% of all coffee while the latter accounts for about 40%. Arabica is thought to have a smoother flavour while robusta has a stronger one (hence the name). Unlike what is sold to us, these beans are usually green in colour and need to be roasted to get their dark brownish hue.

Geography and climate obviously play a role in determining the quality of the beans, but the main difference lies in how the beans are roasted which gives coffee its distinctive taste.

According to wikipedia, coffee roasting is the really important “process that transforms chemical and physical properties of green coffee beans into roasted coffee products. The roasting process is what produces the characteristic flavor of coffee by causing the green coffee beans to change in taste. Unroasted beans contain similar if not higher levels of acids, protein, sugars, and caffeine as those that have been roasted, but lack the taste of roasted coffee beans due to the Maillard and other chemical reactions that occur during roasting.”

To fully get the flavour of a coffee, a good bean and a good roast must then be complemented with a good brew.

There’s a lot to learn huh?

Still wanna go to see the whole process though…



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