Coffee 101

Coffee from berry to cherry

Exactly who discovered the wonders of coffee and when it happened is the stuff of legends, but we do know that coffee has been cultivated for around 1500 years. Whether it is coffea arabica or coffea robusta, producing coffee from planting to harvest is a time consuming process.

From Seed to Coffee Tree

It takes a newly sprouted coffee plant three to four years to produce its first clusters of fragrant white flowers, and it will not reach full production until it is about seven years old. Most trees will produce fruit for twenty to twenty-five years. In some locations such as Mexico and Brazil, coffee plants produce flowers for six to eight weeks, but in locations closer to the equator such as Kenya or Columbia, a coffee plant can have flowers, immature berries, and ripe berries simultaneously, which makes harvesting a manual and labor-intensive process.

The Coffee Berry

The pinhead-sized coffee berry will not appear until six to eight weeks after each flower’s fertilization, and climate dictates how fast the fruit develops. During a period of roughly fifteen weeks, the berry (actually a drupe) will undergo rapid growth after which it will stop expanding in size, although changes will continue to occur within the fruit. Sometime around thirty to thirty-five weeks from flowering, the berries will begin to change color from green to yellow and ultimately to bright red when they are often called “cherries.” Depending on altitude and climate conditions, it takes an average of eight to nine months to get from bloom to harvest.

The ripe coffee cherry has a bright red skin covering a pale pink pulpy flesh, which surrounds the seeds, or beans. A coffee berry usually produces two beans, although some will produce three, and about five percent will contain only one (peaberries).

Originally, coffee berries were eaten as a food, and because of its stimulant properties it was used medicinally.