Where Do Coffee Beans Come From: A Quick Look at the Journey from Seed to Cup

A lot of you probably enjoy coffee without thinking about its origin. The journey from seed to cup is one thing that a lot of people are unaware of.

Coffee goes through a long and complicated process before it becomes the drink we all know of. From growing the beans to harvesting the cherries, it navigates through a series of stages to ensure the best flavor and aroma.

Read on as I talk about where do coffee beans come from

The Origin of Coffee Beans

Coffee, as we know it, is a caffeinated beverage that provides the much-needed energy kick. Nonetheless, it is more than just a drink. Coffee is also a plant, and it is where the coffee beans come from.

Coffee beans are from the coffee plant, which is also known as Coffea. It is from the Rubiaceae family of flowering plants. They are shrubs or small trees with a height ranging from 6 to 15 feet when fully grown. It takes a long time before they mature. Although they will grow by a few inches yearly.

The appearance of the coffee plant will vary depending on the specific type. In most cases, however, it has waxy and dark green foliage that grows in pairs. These leaves cover the branches of the tree. In these branches, the flowers will start growing three to five years after planting.

When the plant develops, it will grow a cherry, which has a bean inside. Technically, the beans that we are accustomed to are the seeds. The flavor and aroma will vary depending on the type of coffee beans.

When the cherries are ripe, they are picked. After harvesting, the beans will be extracted and roasted, and from here, it turns into the coffee beans that we are all familiar with.

The Different Types of Coffee Plants

In understanding the origin of coffee beans, you should know that there are two main types of coffee plants. In turn, they produce two of the most popular commercially produced coffee in the world.

One of the most important things to note is that different types of coffee plant yield different types of coffee beans. Most of what we consume, however, falls into two major groups, which is what I will talk about below.

Arabica

Around 70% of coffee in the world is from the Arabica plant. It is native to Central Ethiopia, but it is now grown all over the globe. Some of the most prominent countries where you will find this plant are Ethiopia, Brazil, Peru, Guatemala, Colombia, and Honduras.

On average, this plant takes seven years to mature. The best ones are those that grow at an average altitude of 1,300 to 1,500 meters, with 1 to 1.5 meters of rain, and with temperatures ranging from 59 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

It takes around two to four years before Arabica plants produce small white flowers after they are planted. They will open up during sunny days, which also means a plentiful harvest.

While they can grow tall, in most plantations, the height is restricted to nine feet. This will provide better nourishment for the cherries.

Robusta

Meanwhile, around 30% of the global coffee supply is from the Robusta plant. Compared to Arabica, one of its biggest advantages is that it is more disease-resistant. It is not only hardier, but its overall maintenance is also cheaper.

Reaching a height of up to 32 feet, Robusta bears smaller round beans compared to what you will find in an Arabica plant. Meanwhile, the leaves of Robusta are also bigger. On average, coffee from this plant will yield up to 2 .7% caffeine, which is higher than Arabica.

The higher acidity of Robusta is also notable. Because of such, it also has a harsher flavor, which some people might not appreciate.

Knowing When Coffee Plant is Ready for Harvest

Growing coffee is a complicated process. Among others, one of the most important is to know when it is ready to harvest. Doing it too early or too late can ruin the overall quality, which will hurt the flavor and aroma of coffee.

The specific timeline can be different depending on the type of coffee and growing conditions. In most cases, however, the coffee plant is ready for harvest within four to seven years. The fruits will grow in clusters on their branches.

The most obvious sign that you can harvest coffee beans is the color. They will start green and become red when ripe, which means that they can be harvested.

One of the factors that will impact the timing of harvest is location. For instance, if it is in the south of the equator, harvesting is anywhere from April to August. Meanwhile, it is from September to March in places that are north of the equator.

The Growing Process of Coffee

In a nutshell, the process of growing and producing coffee can be encapsulated in the following steps:

  1. Planting: Coffee starts as seeds. When it is not processed, you can plant it in an ideal environment and wait until it grows. This is a process that can take years.
  2. Harvesting: Once the cherries are ripe, which means they are red from green, they are ready for harvest. They can be selectively picked, removing only the ripe ones, or strip picked, which strips all cherries from a branch.
  3. Processing: The cherries will then go through the wet or dry processing method, which I will discuss in the next section.
  4. Drying: Depending on whether the process is wet or dry, the drying stage can be before or after removing the beans.
  5. Milling: Before being made available commercially, coffee goes through milling, which involves multiple processes, such as hulling, polishing, grading, and sorting.

Taking the Beans Out of the Cherries

One of the most important stages in coffee production is the removal of the beans from the cherries. This is done as a part of harvesting and before processing. Generally, it involves three stages.

1. Processing

The first step is the processing of the beans, which can be done in two types:

  • Wet Processing: Under this process, the skin and the pulp are removed almost immediately after harvest. With the parchment still attached to the beans, coffee is dried under the heat of the sun.
  • Dry Processing: As the name implies, it starts with drying the cherries. At this point, the husk and pulp are still attached. After drying, the outer layer is removed to access the bean inside.

2. Hulling

This stage is all about taking out the parchment layer. As a result, you will get green coffee beans. At this stage, they are dry and hard. If you taste them, they are reminiscent of grass. It is nowhere near the flavor of coffee that you can expect after the beans are processed.

3. Sorting

The seeds or beans are separated based on different parameters, such as weight and size. It is an important part of quality control. After which, they are roasted and processed. If you prefer decaf coffee, the beans will also be decaffeinated using several methods.

Conclusion

At this point, I hope that you learned a thing or two about where do coffee beans come from. In a nutshell, they are from the coffee plant, which can be Arabica or Robusta. These plants produce cherries, which, when they turn red, are ready to be harvested. After harvesting, the beans are processed until they are ready for commercial release or consumption.

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