The coffee plant is a perennial, woody, evergreen, bushy type plant that can grow to 10 metres in height. It would normally be classified as a tree but since the trees are pruned to make harvesting easier, they tend to be kept at bush height. The plant has a trunk with bark and 5 inch leaves that are glossy and dark green in colour. The flowers are small, fragrant and white having 5 to 6 petals to attract insects for pollination. They resemble the jasmine flower, having a similar perfume and shape. These flowers last only a few hours after fertilisation but others very quickly appear to replenish them. One tree can produce up to 30,000 flowers each year. When the flowers die, berries (sometimes known as drupes) develop which ripen, changing colour from green to a bright red. Inside the berry are found 2 small, green coffee beans surrounded by pulp and skin. A coffee plant will reach maturity and produce fruit after 6-8 years of growth and some plants will live up to 100 years.
Coffee, a plant that loves the shade, thrives in regions of high altitude. Originally from Sudan and Ethiopia, these days more than two thirds of the world’s coffee is grown in Latin America. Main growing areas include Central America, Vietnam, Indonesia, Madagascar, Yemen, East and West Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean. Depending on where the coffee plant is grown, each bean will have its own distinct flavour and taste.
The legend is that thousands of years ago in Ethiopia, a goat herder named Kaidi noticed that after his goats had fed on the coffee plant’s bright red berries, the animal was noticeably energetic. He took his discovery to a nearby monastery where the Monks brewed the coffee berries into a drink to keep them awake throughout their evening prayers. After this first discovery coffee soon spread from Ethiopia, across Arabia and eventually found its way as an enjoyable drink around the world
There are around 60 different species of known coffee plants but only two dominate world trade, Arabica and Robusta.
Arabica coffee represents up to 75% of world coffee production. This coffee plant grows slowly at high altitudes of around 2,400 metres, generating higher quality characteristics during the roasting process. An Arabica bean is elongated and fairly flat, with a sinuous groove, producing a more refined flavour and containing around 1% caffeine by weight. The Arabica coffee tree is vulnerable to disease, drought and frost and needs very meticulous farming with just the correct climatic environment.
Sometimes known as coffee canephora, this plant was first discovered in the Congo around 1898. It is more resistant to diseases and yields high amounts of beans from each plant. Containing around 2% caffeine, it grows at lower elevations but produces harsher flavours. The coffee beans produced are usually used for a lower market grade in the processing of commercial blends and instant coffee.
Harvesting and processing the beans
There are two commonly used systems for harvesting the beans:
Picking – a manual process whereby the ripe cherries are selected individually for ripeness.
Stripping – either manual or mechanised, which involves all berries being removed from the plant at one time. However, this process generally requires a further check to remove the under ripe or damaged and fermented cherries from the process.
The beans are extracted from the fruit by one of two processes, either wet or dry. The dry method requires the fruit which has just been picked to be spread out to air dry in the sun for 2-3 weeks, or placed into a dryer. As a result of machining and exposure to the sun, the membranes, pulp and skin are removed from the beans. Wet production results in the coffee beans being placed in tanks of water where they are left to ferment, when the pulp will disintegrate and fall off. The beans are then left to dry as in the dry method, before being taken for milling and sorting.
Arabica and Robusta single origin coffee beans
We aim to keep it simple at The Coffee Wholesalers. Once the above growing and production processes have taken place, we supply them to coffee shops all over the UK for you to experience the amazing tastes and depths of flavours. All our single origin coffee beans are ethically produced and come from designated geographic locations. If you are looking for smooth, rich tasting coffee from Arabica and Robusta single origin beans, contact us for further information. As wholesale coffee distributors, we often have deals on coffee beans bought in bulk.