Did you know coffee is available at the Howard County General Hospital Farmers Market? Every Friday, the Cosmic Bean Coffee Company provides a variety of flavors and blends. Owner Rob Haroth gives us a brief tutorial on coffee.

A great-tasting cup of coffee goes through many steps before it reaches your cup. Growing high-quality coffee requires patience, since it can take up to five years for a coffee tree to mature and produce its first beans. “Beans,” by the way, aren’t really beans. They are seeds of the coffee cherries and each tree produces only enough cherries for about one pound of roasted coffee per year. The cherries have to be processed to remove the surrounding fruit and protective layers to get to the beans, which must then be cleaned and classified by criteria that include size and color.

The next step is roasting, which is part art and part science and can have a profound effect on the way coffee tastes. It involves timing and monitoring at two critical points. The “first crack,” a loud popcorn sound, happens at 375° F and the “second crack,” a much faster and more frantic sound, is when you have to decide whether you will pull the beans out to let them cool or continue roasting to get a darker bean. Coffee can go through six phases during roasting: green (before roasting begins), yellow, cinnamon, city, full city, Vienna, French and Italian. In my opinion “full city” is the optimum roast for most coffees. That’s when it has reached its full flavor potential. I think Italian has too much roast flavor that can overpower the taste.

We usually bring 15-20 varietals from around the world to the markets, including coffee from Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Rwanda and more. We also sell a few of our own blends. One of my favorites is called Buddha’s Blend, because the inspiration came while I was at a Buddhist retreat and the coffees I use are from Buddhist countries like Indonesia and Viet Nam. I think Africa is probably my favorite region for coffees. Coffee from Ethiopia is very aromatic with blueberry, apricot and mango notes, and Tanzanian Peaberry has delicate citrus notes and a distinct cocoa flavor with floral hints. It is best when roasted to “city” or “full city.”

It’s good to note that some studies promote the health benefits of coffee as a heart saver, liver protector, diabetes foe and Parkinson’s fighter – so go ahead and enjoy your favorite morning beverage.

With Cosmic Bean Coffee, I really hope to enhance the enjoyment people get from the experience of drinking coffees from around the world by educating them about specialty coffees and the roasting process. I have a lot of interests and I’ve always been an entrepreneur, so some of my hobbies have turned into businesses. About ten years ago I started roasting my own coffee in a small roaster at home. I’d give it away to neighbors and friends and got a lot encouragement to try selling it at farmers markets. Coffee was something I could do part time while still working as a curriculum designer, but now I can indulge my passion for roasting coffee full time.

Rob Haroth is the owner of the Cosmic Bean Coffee Company. When Rob isn’t roasting coffee or bringing it to a local farmers market, you might find him tending his bees or teaching holistic practices like meditation and qigong.

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