The Coffee Plant
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Coffee
 

Coffee Plant

Coffee producing countries are located between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, as the plant requires a warm and humid climate (22-25c).

Growing in tropical regions, the plant needs moist air, high temperature and daily rainfall to make it flourish and flower.

After approximately three years, clusters of fragrant white flowers appear, only blossoming for 2–3 days. They are quickly replaced by “the fruit” which are small green cherries that ripen to a brilliant red. Harvesting at the right time is one of the most important factors contributing to the coffee’s flavor. In Brazil the harvest is between March and April, in Central America between October and April, and in Africa between March and September.

The plant reaches its peak yield between its 6th and 10th year of life.

At maturity coffee plants can grow to between 10–12 feet although they are normally pruned to 2-3 feet to make picking the fruit or cherry easier, this is normally done by hand. Another reason why they are predominantly picked by hand is that each coffee cherry ripens at a different time.

The cherry contains two coffee beans surrounded by a soft flesh, called mucilage membrane, which is there to protect the “seeds”.

There are approximately 60 varieties of the coffee plant. However, only two are really suited for the commercial market. These are:

 

Arabica - The most sought after bean for its quality and richness of flavour. This species grows at high altitude (approx. 900-2000 metres) in richly fertilized and mineral filled soils. Arabica is a temperamental plant, highly susceptible to disease, frost, and drought. Arabica plants require perfect weather and soil conditions. These beans sell at a higher price due to their quality and limited availability.
 
Robusta - A hardier species which grows more quickly and at a lower altitude, and adapts well to all conditions. Robusta beans are much smaller in size with a less pronounced flavor, but higher in caffeine content. These beans are largely used in instant coffee.

 

Each bush produces on average only enough coffee to produce approximately 2 lb (0.91kg) of beans per year. Robusta plants yield consistently more than Arabica.

In addition to the species of the coffee, many other factors contribute to the overall quality of the green beans. Seed stock, plantation location, soil composition, altitude, weather conditions, fertilization, cultivation, harvesting, and processing methods, will all have a dramatic influence on the finished product.

 

 
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