The coffee tree is evergreen, growing in over 70 countries with corresponding climates and altitudes. The trees need good care and take about three to five years until they flower for the first time and bear fruit - the coffee cherries.
The coffee cherries picked at harvest each contain two seeds, which are processed into coffee beans. The most common, commercially grown, coffee tree varieties are Arabica and Robusta. Robustas are productive, pest- and disease-resistant and carry rustic-tasting coffee cherries. They are drawn from cuttings, which are first used in the nursery, before they finally planted.
Arabica trees are grown from seeds and bear cherries that are considered to be higher in flavor than those from the robusta trees. The seeds are obtained from the ripe cherries of healthy Arabica trees ("mother trees") and planted for germination. Cherry skin and pulp are removed, the parchment skin around the seed is preserved. The seedling takes aproximately nine months to grow into a young tree with 12 to 16 leaves. This seedling is then planted out. The tree is allowed to ripen for at least three years and is watered daily until it flowers for the first time.
The flowers grow into coffee cherries. These mature on the branch and change their color until they are ready for harvest. The best and highest quality cherries grow in the shade or under a cloud cover. Ideal temperatures are found at higher altitudes, near the equator.
Each cherry contains two seeds, which are called "coffee beans" only after being processed. They lie with their flat side to each other. Very rarely, only one seed is fertilized and grows without a counterpart oval seed. These pea-shaped seeds are called pea beans.
The Coffee Book
© Dorling Kindersley Publishing Company GmbH, Munich, May 2015