Coffee is loved throughout the world. For some people, their day can only start once they take a cup of this delicious, dark liquid. However, not many people think about the origin of coffee beans. So where do coffee beans come from? In this article, we discuss where coffee beans come from in detail.
The Origin of Coffee
There is an unending debate about the origin of coffee. It is a disputed topic. Some argue that coffee was discovered by a Sufi monk who notice that birds were becoming more active after eating the cherries of a certain plant.
Other people believe that coffee was discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder known as Kaldi. According to this story, Kaldi noticed that his goats were becoming jumpy after eating the fruits of a certain plant. The plant was a coffee plant, and the fruits are what we call coffee cherries. Most scholars do agree that coffee was first grown in the Ethiopian Highlands, a country in the horn of Africa.
It is believed that coffee beans were first roasted and brewed in the Arabian Peninsula region, where Yemen exists today. That was in the 15th century. Later, coffee spread to the Middle East by the 16th century. From there, it spread to Europe and the rest of the world.
Where Do Coffee Beans Come From
Coffee beans grow on a coffee plant. The coffee plant is a shrub or bush-like plant. Sometimes, it gets very tall depending on the variety. Most coffee farmers trim it to about 5 feet. Coffee cherries grow on the branches. Coffee beans are found inside the cherries. Each coffee cherry contains two coffee beans.
After harvesting coffee cherries, they are processed to reveal coffee beans. Processing cherries start with removing the skin/husk covering the cherry. Next, the pulp is removed. The last step involves removing the parchment. The parchment is a thin membrane that covers a coffee bean.
Coffee beans are available in several varieties. The most common varieties are Arabica coffee beans and Robusta coffee beans.
1. Arabica coffee beans
These beans are among the most popular coffee varieties. They are believed to be among the first coffee species to be grown. Arabica coffee beans are typically oval in shape and larger than Robusta coffee beans.
Arabica beans are preferred for their complex and vibrant aromas. Also, they have a softer and sweeter taste. They exhibit tones of chocolate, nuts, florals, and fruits. However, they have a higher acidity level than Robusta beans. Additionally, they have a lower caffeine content than Robusta beans.
Arabica beans are generally more expensive than Robusta beans. The reason is that they are more delicate to grow. They require more specific growing requirements, including altitude and weather.
Arabica beans grow best at an altitude of between 500 to 2500 meters above sea level. Brazil is the largest producer of Arabica coffee.
2. Robusta coffee beans
Robusta coffee is mostly grown in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Africa. Robusta beans have a lower acidity level than Arabica beans, thus making them less sweet. Also, their lower acidity coupled with stronger and deeper flavor compounds make Robusta coffee have tones of burnt rubber or wood. Regardless, it gives a rich layer of crema and flavor, making it a great choice for espresso-based coffees.
Robusta coffee grows best at 1000 meters above sea level at most. Robusta coffee plants produce cherries more quickly than Arabica beans. Arabica coffee takes more years to mature. Also, Robusta coffee plants yield more cherries per tree than Arabica.
Another benefit that Robusta has over Arabica is that it is less vulnerable to weather conditions and pests. That is why Robusta beans are often more affordable than Arabica beans. Robusta beans are also preferred for their higher caffeine content than Arabica. Another notable difference is that Robusta beans are often smaller in size with a less pronounced center crease than Arabica.
Where Does Coffee Grow?
Today, coffee is grown in several countries, with the major coffee-growing countries being Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Colombia, and Vietnam. Coffee grows in a region of the world known as the Coffee Belt or Bean Belt. It is a region between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
The location where coffee beans grow affects the taste of coffee. Some of the factors that alter the taste and flavor include climate, soil type, and elevation. Thus, coffee beans from every growing region have distinct flavor profiles.
When Does a Coffee Plant Mature?
On average, a coffee plant starts producing white, fragrant flowers about one year after planting. It takes up to four years for coffee plants to bear fruit after flowering. Coffee plants take about 10 years to produce enough crop for commercial purposes.
A coffee plant has an average lifespan of about 30 to 40 years. They may live longer depending on how well they are taken care of.
Coffee fruits start off as green and turn red or yellow when ripe. Once ripe, they are ready for picking, processing, and roasting.
Coffee is a favorite beverage for many people. Thus, it is interesting to learn where coffee beans come from. They start as seeds obtained from coffee cherries that grow on coffee trees. After harvesting, they are processed, sorted, and roasted to different roast levels. As you can see, your favorite coffee beans are probably produced from coffee trees grown decades ago.