Coffee is generally grown in the tropics. A steady supply of rain, not too much and not too little, and absolutely no frost, are perfect growing conditions. This means the growing of coffee is perfectly suited to much of Central and Southern America, Africa and Asia.
Several species of shrub of the genus Coffea produce the berries from which coffee is extracted. There are two main species which are cultivated commercially: Coffea Canephora, more commonly known as “Robusta”, and Coffea Arabica. The two types of tree produce two completely different tasting beans. The Arabica tree grows at high altitudes and produces a softer and more flavoursome bean. As a general rule, the higher the altitude the better the taste. Robusta coffee on the other hand can be grown at much lower altitudes. This coffee has a full bodied taste and is mainly used in instant coffee due to its high caffeine content, however it is a crucial addition to many great quality blends owing to its body and strength.
The coffee life cycle begins with a coffee seed, planted in nursery beds and attentively cared for with the right amount of water, shade, and sunlight. 3-5 years later, a coffee tree will yield its first exportable harvest. A coffee tree can be harvested 8-9 months after the tree begins to blossom with jasmine-scented flowers. 2 months on from the flowering, clusters of green or yellow berries appear where the blossoms were, and roughly 6 months later these berries ripen into rich red cherries, ready to be picked. Coffee beans growing on the bush do not necessarily ripen at the same time. As a result, some coffee farmers may harvest 1 bush 4 times or more to ensure that they process only the top quality ripe beans. The harvesting of coffee cherries is very labour intensive, especially for those farmers that want to ensure quality by picking only the ripest cherries.
In total we buy coffee from 23 countries right around the globe. Some of these are well known as popular coffee growing regions, such as Colombia, Brazil and Costa Rica. Some however are lesser known as coffee growing areas, yet produce some fine coffees, such as Ethiopia, Malawi and Vietnam.