Where Does Coffee Come From?

Coffee is one of the most loved beverages globally. The International Coffee Organization (ICO) reports that at least 1.4 billion cups of the beverage are consumed daily. About 45 percent of this figure comes from the U.S alone.

coffee cherries.

With that said, ever wondered where coffee comes from? Wondering whether it grows on trees or plants? How do coffee beans end up in your cup? In this article, you’ll discover where coffee comes from and how it finds its way into your cup.

The Origin of Coffee Beans

Coffee was first grown in Ethiopia, a country in the horn of Africa. From there, coffee eventually found its way to Central America, South America, and Southeast Asia. Today, the top 5 coffee-producing countries are Ethiopia, Brazil, Indonesia, Colombia, and Vietnam. Brazil is the leading coffee producer in the world for at least 150 years now.

Coffee Plants Described

Coffee comes from two plant varieties, including Robusta and Arabica coffee plants. To start with, Robusta coffee (also referred to as Coffea canephora/Coffea robusta) is loved for making coffee with earthy notes. Also, robusta coffee has a bold flavor and tastes a little grainy and off bitter. It leaves a smooth aftertaste that feels like peanut butter.

On the other hand, Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica), is preferred by coffee lovers who dislike the harsher notes that come with Robusta coffee. Arabica coffee is loved for its softer and sweeter flavor. Arabica features fruity, berry, and sugary notes. Also, Arabica coffee has more acidity than Robusta. Arabica coffee is characterized by a winey taste, thanks to its higher acidity.

Are Coffee Beans Grown on Plants or Trees?

Coffee beans are considered seeds, which are known as coffee cherries. Upon planting a new coffee tree, it takes about 2 to 4 years to produce ripe beans that can be harvested. However, you may be wondering whether coffee beans grow on trees or plants. To answer this question, it’ll help to explain the distinguishing factor between trees and plants.

Essentially, a well-grown and mature coffee plant grows to about 30 to 40 ft. tall. A plant that can grow longer than 20 ft. tall and a trunk diameter larger measuring at least 3 inches is considered a tree. Coffee plants start off as plants and eventually grow taller and larger to become trees.

Once the coffee cherries (also known as berries or cascara) turn red, they’re ripe and ready for harvesting.

How is Coffee Grown?

After planting new coffee plants, they mature over time to produce cherries. The cherries are harvested upon ripening. Harvesting is done by picking ripe cherries by hand. Thus, harvesting them is a labor-intensive exercise. However, harvesting is mechanized in some coffee-growing regions that have a flat landscape and vast coffee fields.

Upon harvesting, coffee beans are processed using either a dry or wet processing method. Coffee-growing countries with limited water resources often use the dry coffee processing method. In this method, freshly harvested cherries are poured and spread on large, raised platforms where they’re sun-dried. The harvesters prevent the coffee cherries from going bad by turning and raking them all day. They’re covered during rain or at night to protect them from any wetness.

On the other hand, the wet processing method is done by removing the pulp/husk from the cherries after harvesting. Thereafter, the beans are dried with just the skin covering the beans. After processing the beans, they’re ready for milling.

Getting Coffee Beans from Cherries

Once the beans are processed, they undergo a process known as milling before being exported to roasters. The milling process includes hulling, whereby the parchment skin from wet-dried beans or the dry covering of dry-processed beans is removed. Sometimes, the beans are polished to remove any excess covering.

Next, the beans undergo grading and sorting according to their weight and size. Any defective beans are discarded. The good beans are packed in bags and shipped to roasters.

When roasters get the processed and milled beans, they’re tasted by cuppers to determine the taste quality. Professional cuppers taste numerous samples daily and can still note any differences between the beans.

Coffee Tests

Coffee beans undergo several tests, including visual tests to ensure they look good. Upon undergoing visual tests, the beans are roasted. Thereafter, roasted beans are ground into different grind sizes. Ground coffee is brewed under a controlled water temperature in a boiling cup for the cupper to test the aroma given off by the coffee.

Once the brewed coffee rests, the cupper slurps a spoon of coffee quickly and spits it out. By so doing, the cupper spreads coffee evenly over their taste buds to point out the characteristics of the brew and any flaws. Also, the cuppers taste coffee to assess whether different beans can be blended. Additionally, testing is done to assess the best roast.

Once a supply of coffee beans is tested thoroughly, the beans are roasted. Roasting is generally done upon importation. The reason behind this is that roasted coffee beans should reach consumers within the shortest time possible. Processed beans are typically green in color. They’re put in a coffee roaster until they turn brown.

Where Does Starbucks Get Its Coffee Beans?

You might be wondering whether Starbucks, one of the largest coffeehouses in the globe, uses arabica or robusta coffee to brew their popular coffees. Starbucks only uses arabica coffee, which explains why Starbucks coffee has a more refined taste. They source their coffee from Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America. Starbucks is also known to source beans from Timor, Rwanda, and Guatemala.

Starbucks also brews a hybrid type of coffee known as Starbucks Reserve, which comprises a blend of coffees from Kenya, Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, and Uganda.

Some years ago, Starbucks faced a major public relations disaster. Starbucks had to fix its image by investing at least $100 million to support coffee-growing communities and collaborate with coffee farmers through various programs. Also, Starbucks commits itself to ethically sourced beans and fair trade to maintain a good image of its business.


As you can see, it takes a lot of effort to get coffee beans from trees into a tasty cup of coffee at home. Thus, when buying or brewing coffee, you’ll appreciate the intensive labor that goes into every single cup of coffee.


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About the author

Hi I'm James and coffee is an integral part of my routine: from waking up to getting ready for work in the morning, to spending time with friends after work in the evening hours. It’s not just about being caffeinated; it's about enjoying every single moment of your day with that perfect cup of joe! At Coffee-Prices.com, our goal is to provide no-nonsense, clear and up to date information about coffee.

James Black

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