For most of us, coffee has become more than just a staple drink; in fact, our world tends to revolve around this dark, rich beverage.
If you're like me, then your day can never start ideally without a cup of Joe. The aroma of a freshly brewed cup of Joe always activates my taste buds before I even take my first sip. So, to guarantee that I always get my coffee, I always program my coffee maker to start brewing before I even get out of bed.
But have you ever thought about the origins of coffee? Like, where does it come from? Does coffee grow on a tree, or is it from a plant? Well, if you wonder about those things, then you're not alone, and knowing the origin of coffee beans can help you get the best type of coffee. So, if you want to know where coffee beans come from, please read on…
Where Do Coffee Beans Originate?
Despite being known as coffee beans, did you know that they are technically seeds and not beans! These seeds have lots of health benefits that coffee lovers enjoy every morning.
Coffee beans grow on bush-like plants that can grow quite tall, but farmers trim them to about five feet to keep them manageable. The coffee plants contain lots of cherries, with each having two beans.
Coffee plants take around a year to produce white fragrant flowers, but farmers have to wait about 4 years for berries to appear. Farmers have to wait almost 10 years before they can start harvesting coffee beans on a commercial level. These trees can last nearly four decades, but they can live longer when taken care of.
Once they are ripe, they turn red and are ready for harvesting. But, it takes keen eyes to detect the right time to harvest the berries. So you have to be precise when harvesting coffee berries. Coffee experts at Caffe Streets believe picking them too late or too early can hugely affect their final taste and acidity level.
Where Is Coffee Grown?
Legend has it that coffee was first discovered in the Ethiopian highlands. They were introduced to Arab soil by traders who carried their seeds while traveling across Africa to neighboring regions. And this is how Arabica coffee got its name and grew in popularity.
Currently, the best coffee beans are grown in the bean belt, an area between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. This region has perfect conditions for growing plants, and it features some of the world's coffee capitals like Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Colombia, and Vietnam.
What you might not know is that factors such as climate, elevation, and even soil type have an impact on the flavors that coffee beans produce! This is the main reason even soda companies like Wave Soda are picky when selecting the source of the coffee berry for their caffeine.
Do Different Coffee Plants Produce Different Types of Coffee Cherries?
Yes, there are more than 100 coffee plant varieties, each producing a different kind of coffee berry. However, a considerable percentage of the coffee used on the planet comes from two variants—Arabica and Robusta. These two coffee variants differ in price, growing conditions, and taste.
Robusta coffee accounts for about 20% of the world's production, while Arabica accounts for over 75%. Both Arabica and Robusta coffee can reach a maximum height of about 10 meters if not pruned. This is the main reason why farmers prune them for easy harvesting.
Robusta Coffee Beans
Commonly planted in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Africa, Robusta has a lower acidity level than most coffee variants, including Arabica. This means that it is more bitter than Arabica coffee beans. Robusta is a great option for a layer of crema and espresso, thanks to its potent and more profound flavor compounds and simpler acidity.
Robusta coffee plants thrive at a height of over 1,000 meters; therefore, they produce fruits faster than Arabica coffee beans.
Arabica takes years to mature, but they make more berries per tree than Robusta. However, Robusta is less vulnerable to poor weather conditions and pest infestations compared to Arabica. This is the top reason why Robusta coffee beans are still cheaper than Arabica coffee. It’s also worth mentioning that Robusta coffee beans also have higher caffeine levels than Arabica.
Arabica Coffee Beans
Arabica coffee is the most famous kind of coffee on the planet, and it is believed to be the first variant ever planted. Arabica coffee can trace its roots back to over 1,000 BC. Arabica coffee trees were initially planted in the Kefa kingdom, present-day Ethiopia.
In the seventh century, Arabica coffee got its name when it was introduced in lower Arabia and Yemen. Arab scholars made the first written records of roasted coffee.
As for the bean’s appearance, Arabica is generally larger and oval in shape with a more pronounced middle crease compared to the Robusta bean. Most coffee enthusiasts love Arabica coffee because of its complex and vibrant flavor. Many prefer the Arabica beans as they are softer and sweeter with tones of nuts, chocolate, florals, and fruits. Unfortunately, they tend to have higher acidity levels than most coffee variants.
Compared to Robusta and other coffee variants, Arabica coffee beans tend to be more expensive.
Other Coffee Variants
There are many coffee variants that are less common but still very delicious. So you shouldn't be surprised to find Liberica and Coffea stenophylla beans at the shops. Liberica is disease-resistant and does well in low altitude and high-temperature regions. Like Malaysia.
Another coffee variant that researchers are keeping an eye on is the Coffea stenophylla. Stenophylla is a wild variant that used to thrive in West Africa in the past. This coffee species tastes like Arabica and thrives in warm conditions.
Coffee beans come from all over the world, but most people don't know that. They think of coffee as a product that comes from one or two specific places, like Colombia or Brazil. In reality, coffee is grown in dozens of countries all over the world. The top producers are Brazil, Vietnam, and Indonesia, with the most common variant being Arabica. Coffee plants take about four years before they are ready to harvest.