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Coffea, a member of the Rubiaceae family is responsible for the biological
heritage of “coffee.” The Rubiaceae family includes more than 500 genera and
6,000 species of tropical trees and shrubs.It is doubtful the average person
would recognize an actual coffee tree. Most of us would recognize a roasted
coffee bean. Just in case you stumble upon something you think might be a real
coffee tree, here is a quick description of one:•Pruned short in
cultivation•Capable of growing more than 30 feet high•Generally covered with
dark-green, waxy leaves that grow opposite each other in pairs, although a
coffee tree can also have leaves that are purple or yellow (dark green is the
predominant color) The leaves may be 1 to 40 centimeters in size•Coffee cherries
grow along the tree's branches (see below for a description of coffee
cherries)•Coffee cherries bloom into flowering, fragrant, white blossoms after
about a year•Because coffee cherries grow in a continuous cycle you might see
flowers, green fruit and ripe fruit at the same time on a single treeA coffee
tree can live as long as 20 to 30 years. They are capable of growing in a wide
range of climates so long as the climate does not have harsh fluctuations in
temperature. Coffee trees grow best in a rich soil and mild temperature with
frequent rain and shaded sun. Heavy frost will kill coffee trees.It is estimated
that there are 25 to 100 species of coffee plants. In the commercial coffee
industry, there are two important coffee species. These are:•Arabica•Canephora
(more commonly called robusta)Varieties of Coffea Arabica – C. Arabica
include:•Bourbon•Typica•Caturra•Mundo•Novo•Tico•San Ramon•Jamaican Blue
MountainThe original coffee trees were discovered in Ethiopia. Coffea Arabica
comes from these original coffee trees. The coffee trees in Ethiopia produce a
fine, mild, aromatic coffee. Over half of the world's coffee production
originates from the coffee trees in Ethiopia. Arabica coffees bring the highest
prices in the world market of coffee. Better arabicas are high grown coffees,
generally between 2,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level.The Arabica coffee trees
are costly to cultivate due to the following factors:•The terrain tends to be
steep and access is difficult•The Arabica coffee trees are more disease prone
than robusta coffee trees, which requires additional care and attentionArabica
coffee tree beans are flatter and more elongated than robusta coffee tree beans
and “lower in caffeine.”Variety of Coffea canephora – C. canephora var. robusta
include:•RobustaThe robusta coffee tree tends to be hearty and is more disease
and parasite resistant. This makes the robusta coffee tree easier and cheaper to
cultivate. The robusta coffee tree is able to withstand warmer climates and
prefers constant temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees. It needs about 60
inches of rainfall per year and cannot stand up to a frost. Robusta beans
produce a coffee with a distinctive taste and about 50-60% more caffeine than
the Arabica coffee tree beans.Most robusta coffee trees are grown in Central and
Western Africa, parts of Southeast Asia, which includes Indonesia and Vietnam.
Brazil is also a country in which the robusta coffee tree is grown, however,
Brazil accounts for only about 30 percent of the world market.What does a
“coffee cherry” look like? You will recognize a “coffee cherry” by the following
characteristics:•The outer skin of a coffee cherry is called the
“exocarp”•Beneath the exocarp is the “mesocarp,” which is a thin layer of
pulp•This thin layer of pulp is followed by a slimy layer called the
“parenchyma”•The beans themselves are covered in a parchment-like envelope called
the “endocarp” and more commonly called “the parchment”•Inside the parchment,
side-by side lie two beans•Each of these beans are covered separately by another
layer of thin membrane or seed skin called “spermoderm”•The spermoderm is
generally referred to in the coffee trade as the “silver skin.”Source: The
National Coffee AssociationThis article is FREE to publish with the resource
box.© 2007 Connie Limon. All rights reserved.