If you enjoy sipping a cup of Joe every morning, you might be wondering where and how coffee beans are grown. We’re sharing all, including tips on growing your own coffee plant – in today’s article. Let’s get started.
How Coffee Beans Are Grown
Coffee beans grow in tropical climates—often referred to as the ‘coffee belt’ by coffee experts. Some of the most popular places for growing coffee along the coffee bean belt include Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam and parts of Latin America. These countries have conditions that vary in altitude, rainfall and temperatures, making them ideal environments for growing coffee beans.
What Coffee Needs to Grow
There are a few prerequisites that coffee beans need to grow, with the climate being one of the most important factors. In particular, they’ll need to be protected from direct sunlight and severe rainfall in order for the coffee beans to grow. Above all, countries that have both a dry and a wet season are the optimal conditions to grow beans. Plus, with more moisture in the ground, the dried coffee beans have the opportunity to spread for germination to occur.
Additionally, altitude plays an integral part in growing high-quality beans. In particular, you’ll need altitudes of between 1,800–3,600 feet for both growth and maturation throughout autumn. With altitudes exceeding 3,600 feet up to 6,300 feet, you’ll need regular rainfall.
Where Do Coffee Beans Come From?
A coffee bean comes from a plant that can grow up to 10 metres in height when grown in the wild. Coffee beans grow into a cherry (often referred to as a coffee cherry) that forms from these plants. Surprisingly, the beans that we know actually come from seeds, and you’ll typically find two of these seeds within each coffee cherry.
Coffee experts pick these seeds from coffee plants at just the perfect level of ripeness to capture as much flavour as possible. Different beans have a unique flavour that’s specific to their harvesting process and maturity levels. Once the coffee seeds are planted, the beans are removed from the coffee fruit and roasted. Many people don’t know that it’s green coffee beans that are removed from the plant, and it’s during the coffee roasting process that the beans begin to look like we recognise: brown and firm.
A Coffee Plant’s Appearance
Most coffee plants consist of dark green, waxy leaves that grow in pairs. These leaves play an important process in photosynthesis, where the leaves convert sunlight into energy. This energy that is produced enables the plant to grow into cherries that hold the coffee bean.
The plant’s branches are where the coffee beans grow. After up to five years of growth, the coffee plant will begin to flower, forming small, fragrant white blossoms where the leaves and branches meet. These flowers cause the plant’s sex cells and help the plant to reproduce over time. After around six weeks of the flowers pollinating, the seeds begin to develop where the flower sits. These seeds grow into a beautiful red, orange, yellow or pink shade, with the colour being dependent on the coffee variety.
How Long Do Coffee Plants Live For?
Coffee plants can live for up to 40 years, and some varieties can even live for up to 80 years.
The Different Types of Coffee Plants
So what types of coffee plants are there, and what are the characteristics of each? Although just subtle differences, once you know, we are sure you’ll be able to tell the two apart.
Arabica Coffee Plant
An Arabica coffee plant produces what most people describe as the best coffee. These bean plants were discovered in Ethiopia, which is where nearly half of the world’s coffee is now produced. Developing high-quality flavours and aromas, this coffee plant produces a sweet, complex coffee flavour.
Robusta Coffee Plant
Alternatively, a Robusta coffee plant contains fewer sugar compounds, creating an earthy, bitter flavour with higher caffeine content. Robusta beans are easier to grow and prepare than Arabica coffee, which makes them much cheaper to grow and sell. As a result, this type of coffee bean is usually used for instant coffee.
Growing Your Own Coffee Plant
Like the sound of growing your own coffee cherries at home? It’s totally possible to grow a coffee plant yourself, and below are some factors to bear in mind.
If you plan on undergoing coffee production indoors, you’ll need to place your coffee tree in an enclosed space for optimal growing conditions. Ensure that your chosen room has a window, too, because coffee trees require around five hours of sunlight every day. During winter months, or if you don’t have a window, you’ll need artificial lighting to help the coffee cherries to grow. Furthermore, you should allow plenty of room when you plant coffee trees indoors since they can blossom into a large size.
Moreover, you’ll need to keep the room’s temperature between 15 and 27 degrees Celsius. At night, allow the temperature to drop to around 7 degrees Celsius. Most importantly, set up a thermostat so that these temperatures are consistent. A fluctuation can destroy your coffee plant and prevent it from flourishing.
You might think that growing coffee in your backyard might be easier since the plant will have more access to sunlight, but this is only applicable to those who live in warm climate areas. Unfortunately, sudden temperature drops can kill a coffee plant, so you need the temperature to remain consistent.
But this doesn’t mean that you can’t grow coffee beans in your garden; it’s just an important factor to consider. Firstly, identify an area for growing these tall plants because, similar to indoor growth, they’ll blossom into large trees. Additionally, you might want to test the soil’s pH levels first. In particular, you’ll want to aim for a pH of around 6 for gentle acidity. This is the first thing you’ll want to check and spend time on because, like any other plant, if the conditions aren’t right, your coffee beans won’t grow.
Caring for Your Plant
Once you’ve planted your coffee tree, you’ll need to care for your plant. Below are some factors to keep in mind.
Fortunately, you can rely on the rain to water an outdoor coffee plant, but this isn’t the case for indoor plants, so you’ll need to water them at least twice weekly. Although, when the weather becomes colder, you can reduce this to once a week. Continue with this watering routine until the coffee cherries grow and blossom.
You can encourage your plant to grow by adding fertiliser to the soil. A fertiliser will dissolve and soak into the soil along with the water. However, you should only fertilise the soil if it’s necessary so as not to overdo it. After around six months of using fertiliser, use a high-nitrogen kind that’s designed for orchid plants and apply it every couple of weeks, increasing the frequency in colder weather.
Finally, you’ll also need to prune your coffee plant, especially as some coffee plants can reach great heights and widths, taking up a lot of space. To avoid this, prune the leaves once the tree reaches around 20 inches in height. Pruning also helps to encourage new branches in an old tree to grow, which you’ll want to do every three years. Most importantly, don’t excessively prune a coffee plant, as this can weaken the coffee cherries.
Different Coffee Species
Grown from a tree that can bear fruit, coffee beans—including Arabica coffee beans—are grown in hot climates like South America. The coffee industry is forever evolving with new flavours and creations. What is your idea of a perfect cup? Let us know in the comments.