What Is Coffee?

cof·fee /ˈkôfē, ˈkäfē/ noun. The berries extracted from Coffea plant.

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Coffee trees are cut low to save energy and ease in harvesting, although they can grow to be more than 30 feet tall (9 metres). Each tree is covered in green, waxy leaves that grow in pairs opposite each other. Along the branches, coffee cherries grow. It is not typical to see flowers, green fruit, and ripe fruit all on the same tree as it grows in a continuous cycle.

After the first flowering, the cherries take typically about a year to mature and approximately 5 years to reach full fruit production. Coffee plants can live for up to 100 years, but their peak productivity period is between the ages of 7 and 20.

The origins of coffee can be traced back to the plant genus Coffea. There are over 500 genera and 6,000 species of tropical trees and shrubs in the genus. Coffee plant species are thought to number between 25 and 100, according to experts.

Carolus Linneaus, a Swedish botanist, described the genus in the 18th century, along with Coffea Arabica in his Species Plantarum in 1753. Since then, botanists have disagreed on the precise classification, owing to the wide range of coffee plants. They can grow from small shrubs to tall trees, with leaves ranging in size from 1 to 16 inches and colors ranging from purple or yellow to the dominant dark green.

Coffea Arabica is a descendant of the first coffee trees found in Ethiopia. These trees produce a fine, mild, aromatic coffee and account for roughly 70% of global coffee production. The beans are flatter and longer than Robusta and contain less caffeine.

Arabica coffees are the most expensive on the global market. The best Arabicas are grown at high altitudes of 2,000 and 6,000 feet (610 to 1830 meters) above sea level.

A mild climate, ideally between 59 and 75-degrees Fahrenheit, and 60 inches of rainfall per year are the most important factors for achieving good yields.

Arabica trees are expensive to cultivate because the ideal terrain is steep and difficult to access. Furthermore, because the trees are more susceptible to disease than Robusta, they necessitate more care and attention.

The majority of the world’s Robusta is grown in Central and Western Africa, Southeast Asia (including Indonesia and Vietnam), and Brazil. Robusta production is increasing, despite accounting for only about 30% of the global market.

Robusta is most commonly found in blends and instant coffees. The Robusta bean is slightly rounder and smaller than the Arabica bean.

Robusta trees are tougher and more resistant to disease and parasites, making cultivation easier and less expensive. It also has the advantage of being tolerant of warmer climates, preferring constant temperatures between 75- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit, allowing it to grow at much lower altitudes than Arabica.

It requires approximately 60 inches of rainfall per year and is not frost resistant. Robusta beans produce a coffee with a distinct flavor and approximately 50-60% more caffeine than Arabica beans.

The Coffee beans are the processed and roasted seeds of a fruit called a coffee cherry.

The exocarp is the coffee cherry’s outer skin. The parenchyma, a slimy layer, follows the mesocarp, a light layer of pulp beneath it. The beans are surrounded by a paper-like envelope known as the endocarp, also known as the parchment.

Two beans are lined up side by side inside the parchment, separated by a thin membrane. The spermoderm is the scientific name for this seed skin, but it is commonly referred to as the silver skin in the coffee trade.

There is only one bean inside the cherry in about 5% of the world’s coffee. This is a natural mutation known as a pea berry (also known as a caracol or “snail” in Spanish). Pea berries are sometimes manually sorted for special sale because some people believe they are sweeter and more flavorful than standard beans.