Coffee is such an important part in the lives of many people around the world. Many of us don’t even start our day before we have a cup of coffee. To me coffee is more than just an energy boost – it’s integrated into the social aspect of our everyday lives. Think about it, coffee is a conversational piece. What’s the first thing most people say when they want to get together, “how about we meet for a cup of coffee?” A lot of us know about coffee and are around coffee all the time, but what is coffee?
Coffee is a drink made from roasted coffee beans. The coffee bean is actually the seed contained in the fruit of the coffee tree, referred to as the coffee cherry. Coffee trees are able to grow up to 30 feet but they are generally pruned short. Coffee trees are covered with dark-green waxy leaves that grow opposite each other in pairs. The coffee cherries grow along the tree branches.
Coffee grows in warm, humid climates up to 6,000 feet above sea level. It takes on average about a year for a cherry to develop. Realistically, the plant needs to grow for about 5 years before it’s fruit has commercial value. Coffee plants can live up to 100 years but are most productive between the ages of 7 and 20 years.
Two Species: Arabica and Robusta
There are two species of coffee that are important in the commercial coffee industry. Arabica and Robusta.
Coffee arabica originates from the original coffee trees found in Ethiopia and is approximately 75-80 percent of the world’s coffee production. The trees produce a small white flower that emits a sweet smell. These trees make a fine, mild aromatic coffee. Arabica coffees are usually higher in price due to the fact that they cost more to cultivate.
Coffee robusta consists of 30 percent of the world’s coffee production. The trees produce more coffee cherries than arabica trees and grow at lower altitudes and are more resistant to diseases. Most of the world’s robusta is grown in Central and Western Africa and parts of Southeast Asia. Robusta beans make a more bitter coffee as compared to coffee arabica and are used in coffee blends, espresso and instant coffee.