People have wondered whether coffee beans grow on trees for centuries, but the simple truth is that they do not. The best way to think about it is that coffee beans are actually small berries that grow on bushes known as coffee plants.
Tropical farmers around the world harvest these berries and remove their husks, which are discarded. Next, they ferment the beans for several days to break them down, remove their shells, and dry the beans out.
The Process of Planting Coffee Seeds
Coffee cherry production begins with planting coffee seeds in small holes or trenches filled with composted organic materials. Farmers often use rice husks, coconut husks, maize cobs, banana leaves, etc., to make the compost rich in nutrients. After a few months, the seeds sprout and begin to grow into bushes that can be as high as 12 feet (3.7 meters) tall if left alone.
The coffee plants produce large white flowers with a strong musky scent that many consider being unpleasant or overwhelming. However, these flowers eventually turn into small round green berries known as coffee cherries.
The Stage of Ripening
During the final stages of ripening, the coffee beans change color from green to red, yellow, or purple. At this point, rain is helpful to bring out the aroma of the plants and make them sweeter. But too much rain causes quality problems later on by making harvesting difficult or impossible. Some farmers prefer dry weather to maintain quality, but others like to harvest the beans right after the first rains.
Picking the Cherries
When farmers are ready to pick their coffee cherries, they use machines called depulpters. These machines rotate around the plants and shave off each cherry’s outer layer without damaging the inner seed or pulp.
Once harvested, these seeds take about a day or two to ferment in large heaps at about 40 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit).
During the fermentation process, enzymes in the seeds activate and break down complex sugars into simple sugars that are easier to digest. Unfortunately, some fragments of the seed get exposed during this process and can be harmful if people eat them later on. For this reason, farmers take precautions and harvest them as soon as they can.
After fermentation, the coffee seeds change color and take on the sharp and acidic smell of acetic acid. Farmers now use a machine to separate the outer shell from the inner seed, which is now called a green bean. This process results in brown beans that look just like normal raw coffee beans.
Final Drying Process
The coffee beans are now ready for a final drying process that will take about a week. First, the farmers lay them out on a large open concrete or steel platform and flooded with hot air. This process removes any remaining moisture from the beans. They must be dried quickly because fermentation starts again and severely diminishes their flavor if they remain damp too long.
Finally, the farmers sorted the beans again according to size and color. Then the packaging process starts. Depending on the type of coffee plant, farmers may process between 20 to 30 kilograms (40 to 60 pounds) of green beans per hour.
The Facts about the Coffee Tree
The coffee tree is an evergreen that can grow up to 25 feet tall but average 5 to 10 feet tall. It prefers loose soil, especially volcanic soil, and moist conditions though it can grow in drier climates if irrigated.
The tree is pruned from the time it is a little over 1 year old so that it has several main stems and grows into a bushy shape similar to an ear of corn. It produces flowers at the tips of new growths, which require pollination to produce the fruit (the coffee “bean”) that follows.
The flowers are white and grow in clusters, similar to grapes. They smell somewhat like jasmine or beeswax; many people enjoy working with them simply. Because planting them is pleasant due to their pleasant aroma.
The flowers eventually develop into small round green berries full of seeds and pulp, known as coffee cherries. These cherries mature after about 8 months and change in color from bright shiny green to orange, red, or purple according to the kind of varietal grown. Unfortunately, the skin is thin and fragile, so it’s difficult for machines to harvest.
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Is Coffee Bean the Seed of the Coffee Fruit?
Yes, coffee beans are actually the seed of the coffee plant. The coffee fruit produces the bean and is a bright red berry shaped like a small apple with a thin outer skin.
Where do Do Coffee Beans grow on the Tree?
The coffee tree bears fruit which is made up of the seed (also known as the bean) and pulp surrounding it. These appear as green, red, or purple berries that can be harvested to create green coffee beans.
Can You Grow Your own Coffee Bean Plant?
While it’s not common for people to plant their own coffee plant, it may be possible if you live in the right climate. Coffee trees prefer mild subtropical climates, humid summer heat, and fairly cool winters.
Do Coffee Beans get Roasted Before They Are Ground and Brewed?
The beans go through a process known as roasting. Roasting is necessary to bring out their complex flavors and produce that signature ‘coffee’ flavor that everyone loves.
At this point, they may be whole, coarsely ground, or finely ground, depending on how you prefer your coffee.
How Long Does It Take for Coffee Beans to Grow?
The typical life of a coffee tree is around 50-100 years, provided it doesn’t have any major problems. During this time, the plant will continue to flower and produce fruit every year until the roots can no longer provide enough nutrients or water. When this happens, the plant will die, and a new one will need to be planted.
Different Varieties of Coffee Beans
There are over 60 different varieties of coffee beans. Some of the more common types include Arabica coffee, Excelsa coffee, Robusta coffee, and Liberica coffee. Each variety has unique flavor profiles, which tend to be stronger or milder depending on the type.
Arabica is known for producing a mellow taste with little acidity, while Robusta is known for the opposite. The variety of coffee you choose will affect how your final cup tastes.
Coffee cherries grow on trees which are the seed of a coffee plant. The coffee plant can grow for around 50-100 years, producing fruit every year until its nutrients and water run out. Then, it will die, and a new one must be planted. Once harvested, the cherries which make up the fruit are then dried and turned into coffee beans with a process known as roasting. Next, they can be coarsely ground or finely ground, depending on how the final product should taste. Coffee lovers enjoy coffee all around the world in many different beverages and with many different flavors thanks to its 60+ varieties.