1. Pick Your Beans
Long before they’re called upon to stimulate, coffee beans begin as seeds inside cherrylike berries of a tree in the genus Coffea. The persnickety plants require specific climatic conditions to thrive: latitudes between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, temperatures neither too hot nor too cold and about 60 inches of rain per year. Two main species are sold in stores. Robusta is hardier, but inferior in quality; you’ll find it in Folgers Classic Roast. For divinity, stick with arabica beans, which are used in “specialty coffees”—java with complex flavors, such as the mingling of pineapple and lemon found in a Rwanda Musasa. As with wine, each coffee-growing region’s terroir infuses its crops with certain characteristics. Although there are more than 20 major coffee-producing countries, beans from these five are readily found in Portland, and sipping their brews is a good way to start honing your palate.