There is a lot of coffee consumption in the world today. The majority of adults and even some teenagers rely on coffee to get their morning started and basically prepare to survive the day. Coffee is non-negotiable for some and for others it’s a treat that they enjoy to warm up.
How many of us actually know where coffee comes from? For something that is consumed at such high levels around the world, it seems like we should know where coffee beans and our coffee comes from! Whether you’re a fan of Arabica coffee, robusta coffee, or some other coffee plant, it’s a good idea to understand the origin of the coffee bean.
In this guide, we will share all of that with you. It’s a rather interesting story when you really dive in.
Coffee Beans 101
Your coffee every morning comes from a bean. You’re probably already familiar with these magical beans that coffee comes out of. Maybe you even grind your own coffee every morning to prepare your home-brewed coffee the way you like it.
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But where exactly is is that coffee beans come from? These beans are harvested from coffee plants and they don’t really look like the beans that you see when you buy robusta beans or arabica beans or even dark green beans from your local grocers.
Coffee beans actually come from a coffee cherry. Can you imagine your very own plant of coffee cherries? There are 4 main types of coffee beans that are used. While there are more options, these are the most popular options and the ones that you will see or hear about the most.
Most Common Coffee Plants
- Coffea Arabica coffee bean
- Coffee canephora or robusta
- Coffee liberica coffee beans
- Excelsa coffee bean
The most popular and perhaps the most widely used options from the list are the Robusta beans (or coffea canephora) as well as Arabica coffee beans.
Coffee Cherries and the Coffee Plant
Whether you prefer Robusta or Arabica, the coffee plants that the beans are sourced from are primarily the same. Coffee plants that produce coffee cherries can grow upwards of 32+ feet tall, although they typically are not grown this high. Those farmers or producers that harvest your delightful coffee arabica or robusta coffee cherries know just when the coffee cherries need to be harvested to produce the best beans.
Did you know that Robusta, Arabica, and other forms of coffee actually have a unique maturity level at which the coffee beans are harvested from the coffee plant? This timing of when the beans come off the plant is really the primary indicator that determines whether your coffee will be Arabica or Robusta or some other coffee plant flavor. Of course, these are also taken from different types of coffee plants but the maturity of the bean makes a significant difference for your coffee.
Where do Coffee Beans Originate From?
What do coffee beans grow on? Well, the coffee cherry plant is really not that much different than say a cherry tree. These plants are most commonly located in South America but there are coffee plantations in other areas of the world as well. Some of the most popular coffee regions include South America, Central America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Hawaii is also a known coffee plant source with a popular coffee bean production.
There is more than one way for coffee to be harvested. If water resources could be an issue, the planters typically use a dry method, in which they use the sun to dry the cherries. In this case, they will use rakes to move them around much like you might leaves and do everything they can to prevent them from getting wet.
In other areas, harvesters use the wet method in which the pulp is removed from the cherry at harvest and the coffee or the bean is left inside the skin and dried in that manner.
Coffee Trees Information
If you’ve never seen a coffee tree, you would be surprised to know that they are not small plants. This fruit is produced from a seed that really takes years to mature to the point of harvesting and growing capabilities that will provide quality taste when you produce your coffee.
When the coffee plant starts producing, they actually grow flowers at first during the process. Then the cherries from which the beans are grown start to produce and grow. These grow in different varieties and will turn colors like orange, red, yellow, or even pink. Different colors will indicate when the fruits are ripe and when they should be picked.
These coffee plants tend to live an average of about 40 years. Some plants have been known to live up to 80 years. The plants that coffee come from is typically only grown to about 7 fee and it looks like a shrub as it grows. Farmers will prune it to keep the height down so they are easier to maintain.
Where Do Coffee Beans Grow Best?
While it would be nice to grow a coffee plant just anywhere, they don’t thrive in every climate. You will notice that most of the countries listed earlier for growing have climates that are warm and higher higher levels of sun as well as wet seasons in the climate.
If you consider climates like South America, this is the idea location or setup for the growth of coffee plant or coffee bean, regardless of whether it is Arabica or another type of bean plant. The leading coffee producers are not Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil, and Ethiopia.
How Does the Coffee Plant Become the Coffee or Bean?
Obviously, if it is berries or cherries on the tree, you still need a bean in order to make the coffee right? The bean actually is found inside of the cherry and then there is a full layer of processes that have to happen to transform from plant picked coffee to roasted coffee ready for your use.
Once the cherries are harvested and taken care of through the wet or dry method, the coffee must be hulled. This is the removal of the coffee beans from inside the content basically. The skins are removed and the bean may even be polished to get it smooth nd clear for the next step of the process.
At this point, the beans are sorted into categories that vary based on size and weight of the bean. This sorting process is also when the family or producers would toss out any bad or defective beans before they package them and prepare to export them to the country that is buying the coffee to brew and share with you!
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Some companies have coffee tasters that will test batches of coffee as they are received to ensure the flavors are great so they know the quality is right for their customers. The testing process is both visual and flavorful for the coffee. All of this happens before the coffee bean is roasted and prepared to be sold to coffee shops or other companies that distribute them for you.
Interesting Facts About Coffee Originations
We’ve shared just about everything you should know about coffee and where those beans come from and how they are processed. Now, we have some fun facts to share that you might find interesting.
- Coffee actually comes from cherries
- Coffee plants and trees look like shrubs and can grow very tall
- Starbucks uses Arabica coffee for their infamous signature coffee. These are sourced from the Asia-Pacific region for the most part.
- Cuppers or testers that test prior to roasting, could potentially test 100+ samples in a single day and still be able to taste the differences.
- The most practiced harvesters could harvest up to 200 pounds of cherries in a single day, which translates to roughly 30-40 pounds of beans for coffee.
- Cherries ripen at different periods. One branch may have to be harvested multiple times before it gets every little cherry at the appropriate level of maturity.
- It takes approximately 9 months total from flowering time to harvesting time to grow cherries and harvest them.
- Did you know that bees feed on coffee flowers and actually get caffeine from them as well? No wonder the busy bee is always going!
Now that you know just where your coffee comes from and you understand the process, we hope that you appreciate even more just what it takes to bring you that delightful cup of morning, afternoon, or evening coffee that you just can’t live without.
We hope you found this guide to be intuitive, insightful, and maybe even a little bit funny for you as you read through the processes and the facts to truly understand where coffee comes from. It’s certainly an interesting process and maybe you learned something new today!