The Coffee Plant

Coffee grows as a green-leaved tree or bush with blossoming white flowers. The coffee shrub originally comes from Ethiopia but, in the course of time, spread to Southeast Asia and South America.

There are two basic types of coffee:

  • Arabica accounts for about 70% of the world’s coffee production. It is grown in the higher regions of Central and South America and is popular for its flavor and fragrance.
  • Robusta has spread throughout central and eastern Africa. Although it makes up only thirty per cent of the total coffee production, it has become more important because it can resist diseases better. It also has smaller beans and can grow at lower altitudes than Arabica.

Map of Coffee Production
r = coffee robusta
a = coffee arabica
m = cultivation of both

Coffee plants grow in the warm and moist climate of the tropics and subtropics. Most coffee trees grow best between 1000 and 2500 meters above sea level.

Coffee trees produce fruits called berries. At first they are yellow, and then become red as they mature. An average coffee tree can produce enough berries to make about a pound (half a kilo) of roasted coffee.

Coffee seeds are grown in nursery beds. After a year they are planted in specially prepared fields. It takes a coffee tree about six years to produce a full harvest of coffee berries. The largest ones can get up to six meters tall, but they are normally trimmed to a height of 1.5 to 4 meters.

Berries of a coffee tree