The Coffee plant – Coffea arabica, it’s been a trading commodity for centuries and grown in Europe since the 1700’s.
Glossy, dark green, 4-5 inch leaves, dress this upright grower.
With good care and a mature plant, small clusters of tiny white flowers develop at the leaf joints of new growth.
As an extra plus, the tiny flowers produce a sweet jasmine-like fragrance.
- Can You Grow A Coffee Bean Tree Indoors?
- Can You Plant A Coffee Bean And Grow A Tree?
- Where And When You Buy Coffee Plants
- What Is The Best Soil For Coffee Plants?
- What Is The Best Coffee Plant Fertilizer?
- How Often Should You Water A Potted Coffee Plant?
- How To Prune A Coffee Bean Tree?
- How To Grow Coffee Indoors
- Coffee Plant Care: Growing Outdoors In Summer
- Coffee Propagation From Cuttings
- Pest and Problems
- Varieties of Coffee Plants
- From Seed to Cup: How Do Producers Grow Coffee?
- Choosing The Right Coffee To Grow
- Planting The Seed
- Caring For The Coffee Plant
- From Farm to Cup
- Coffee Plant Care – Growing Coffee Plants Indoors
- How to Grow Coffee Plant
- Coffee Growing Climates
- Growing Conditions for Coffee
Can You Grow A Coffee Bean Tree Indoors?
Yes, the Arabica coffee plant with its rich, deep green, glossy leaves and easy care make coffee an excellent potted indoor house plant. It thrives indoors but is often overlooked as a houseplant.
This evergreen does not shed its leaves. When growing coffee plants indoors “under-cover” of a greenhouse or sunroom, plants can reach heights of 5′-8′ feet tall.
Related Reading: 7 Ways You Can Use Old Coffee Grounds in Your Garden
How Long Does It Take To Grow Coffee Tree Plants?
To grow and harvest your own coffee, you would need to have a lot of coffee beans for a good cup of “Arabica.”
To make a cup of you own coffee you’ll need about 15 coffee “cherries” for about 30 beans.
After the coffee Arabica beans have dried, they need to be roasted and ground before brewing.
Growing your own fresh brew will take some time.
Reaching a height where a coffee tree can flower, and produce coffee cherries can take anywhere from 4 to 5 years.
Even if the plant never flowers and produces beans it still makes a wonderful indoor houseplant.
Can You Plant A Coffee Bean And Grow A Tree?
After flowering the “fruit,” the coffee cherry, turns red and ripens in about 9 months. The beans can then be picked and dried.
Inside each fruit are two “coffee beans” – which are the coffee seeds.
Don’t try growing “roasted” coffee beans and expect very good results. Your best chance of sprouting coffee beans is to find fresh, “unroasted” beans or seeds.
Notes: Coffee fruits on new tissue. Arabica coffee is self-pollinating. Robusta coffee is pollinating.
Try to find fresh ripe red coffee “cherries” for faster germination.
The dry and harvested “unroasted” berries (beans) still does not germinate very well.
The beans have been dried and moisture removed from the seed. From experience, a fresh ripe red coffee berry will germinate 10 times faster.
I’ve sprouted ripe red Arabica coffee beans in 2 weeks and waited months for dry beans to sprout.
Grower Tip: When buying Arabica seed always purchase ripe undried seed.
Where And When You Buy Coffee Plants
When I’ve found young potted coffee trees for sale in big box stores, home improvement centers, and even grocery stores.
Plants are often:
- Sold in 3” or 4” pots
- Plants three to five inches tall
- One pot with multiple plants (4 to 6) in the pot
- Seedlings bunched in the center to make the pots look fuller
Look for a plant with glossy, undamaged leaves and a compact appearance.
All too often many new houseplant owners immediately replant their new plant into a new and larger pot.
STOP! Do not repot!
Leave the new coffee plant in the same pot until the plants reach 6” inches tall.
Separate the multiple plants and repot into individual 3” or 4” pots.
Fill a container with warm water. Place the small pot of multiple coffee bean seedling in the container and allow the pot and soil to soak for a few hours.
This allows the soil to soften and make it easy to separate the young plants.
While soaking the plant, pot and soil, gather some 4” inch pots and the soil needed for repotting. (More on soil below)
Remove the seedlings from the pot and slowly pull the seedlings apart.
Once all the plants are separated, replant each seedling into its own individual 4” pot.
What Is The Best Soil For Coffee Plants?
There is always a debate as to what exactly is the best soil to grow a potted coffee plant in. It’s best to try and give plants what they naturally grow in.
Let’s begin with what we know coffee plants grow best with:
- Soil on the acidic side. A pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is ideal.
- Lots of compost
Coffee is an understory tree, growing in the shade of other trees or bananas, where new natural compost is always being added continuously.
When plants are small (under 8” inches) potting with an organic potting mix should work fine.
Once plants reach a pot size of 10” or so using a more “specialty” soil mix will create a better environment for the root system to flourish.
Use a soil with a lot of organic matter, good drainage, and volcanic rock.
Below are two soil mixes recommended for planting coffee and promote vigorous growth..
Coffee Soil Mix #1
- 3 parts – Cactus soil mix
- 1 part – Volcanic rock dust
Coffee Soil Mix #2
- 1 part – Peat moss – (naturally acidic, good for pH, helps with water retention)
- 1 part – Compost – (provides nutrients and water retention)
- 1 part – Vermiculite (helps with soil structure and aeration)
- 1 part – Volcanic rock dust (provides iron, other micronutrients)
Tips On Potting Your Coffee Tree Plant
Your coffee plant should reach about 8″ inches in the 4″ inch pot before it is ready for repotting.
Once the plant reaches this size it is ready to spread its roots and grow. At this stage, the plant will require more nitrogen to support the trunk, leaves, and branches.
At this stage, the plant will require more nitrogen to support the trunk, leaves, and branches.
Repot in the spring into a 10” inch pot with one of the above soil mixes when the growing season starts.
In 12 to 18 months the plant should be approximately 24″-36″ and ready for stepping up into a 14″- inch pot (7 -gallon).
What Is The Best Coffee Plant Fertilizer?
Coffee trees are heavy feeders, some call them nutrient hogs.
When young, Arabica and Robusta coffee trees need more nitrogen as the plant is building a root system, stems grow and overall this evergreen is holding lots of leaves.
Without a regular feeding every two months leaves begin to yellow and leaf drop can occur.
Not only does coffee want lots of nitrogen but also more an extra boost of iron.
In Hawaii, you’ll find coffee plantations thriving on mountains formed from iron-rich lava rock. Try incorporating lava dust into your soil.
Chemical make up of Lava Rock via Oregon State University
Depending on the fertilizer you select adding chelated iron will help provide the additional iron your plants may need.
As a general purpose coffee fertilizer try to stay with an organic using an organic rose or citrus fertilizer. Take a look at two from Espoma:
- Espoma Rose-Tone 4-3-2 Plant Fertilizer
- Espoma Citrus-tone 5-2-6 Plant Food
How Often Should You Water A Potted Coffee Plant?
Keep the soil of your coffee tree moist. When watering a potted coffee tree make sure to water the plant thoroughly.
Completely saturate the soil and allow the excess water to drain out the bottom. Do not allow the plant to sit in water.
Learn more about thoroughly watering indoor plants.
Much of the effort in plant care as far as watering coffee trees goes can be reduced by growing plants using sub-irrigation planter (SIP) or installing an automatic plant watering system.
This makes maintaining a consistent soil moisture much easier.
Thoroughly watering your plant once per week is a good rule of thumb. But, it’s also not a very good answer.
Watering any plant comes with many variables.
- Current container and plant size
- Humidity where the plant is located
- The season
- Plant age
Tips Your Potted Coffee Tree Needs Watering?
Keep an eye out for when your tree gets watering.
- Leaves become limp
- Root-bound plants dry out quickly between waterings (time to repot)
- Leaves take hours to recover from limp to strong and rigid
How To Prune A Coffee Bean Tree?
A coffee tree is very forgiving and comes back strong even after heavy pruning.
To keep your tree “in bounds” or keep the plant to a manageable height, pruning can be as simple as pinching back new growth.
For a more severe pruning follow these steps:
- Prune in spring for shape, and a bushier appearance
- Using sharp hand pruners (we like Felco #2’s)
- Remove any dead wood or branches
- At about ¼ of an inch above the leaf axil at a 45-degree angle cut the stem
- Remove any suckers sprouting from the bottom
How To Grow Coffee Indoors
During summer, plants need a climate providing bright filtered light. The type of lighting an indoor coffee plant would receive when growing behind a sheer curtain-filtered or morning light.
Indoors the plants will grow best where they receive early morning sun. Otherwise, keep the plant in a bright location away from direct sun.
The leaves on coffee are tender and thin, put the plant in a location it will not be hit or brushed by traffic.
Plants grow fine under ordinary room temperature, night temperatures should stay above 60. Plants can “hold up” with winter temperatures of around 60 degrees – however, problems can show up.
Check out this “diary” on growing coffee beans indoors.
Related Reading: Health Benefits of Drinking Black Coffee
Coffee Plant Care: Growing Outdoors In Summer
A coffee plant can grow outdoors during summer months on the patio or in the garden. Follow this tips.
- Keep the plant watered and the soil moist
- Feed the plant regularly
- Provide light shading and no direct sun
However, if temperatures head below 64 degrees during their flower season do not expect fruit.
When growing coffee outside, remember coffee is an understory plant. Three hours of direct sun during late spring and summer can kill an established potted coffee tree.
Likewise, a 10-minute frost can also kill a tree. Bring your plant indoors during the winter months.
Coffee Propagation From Cuttings
Cuttings – Growing coffee from cuttings is no different than growing cuttings from other plants.
Spring is probably the best time to take cuttings, placing them into a potting soil medium used for growing cactus with good drainage and in addition mixing in 20% perlite.
Roots should develop in roughly 4 to 6 weeks.
Trying to keep soil temperature between 72° – 77° degrees Fahrenheit.
Make a Little “Coffee Greenhouse”
While roots are forming on your plants, create a mini-greenhouse.
Some people will loop a wire into a pot, cut small air holes in a plastic bag. Place the bag over the wire and tie it around the pot.
Personally, I like using a 2-liter soda bottle. Cut the top off the bottle. Punch a few drainage holes in the bottom and slide the bottle over the pot, creating a small greenhouse.
Pest and Problems
Coffee plants are very robust houseplants, most problems are usually due to cultural errors.
Green leaves dropping off – This condition occurs when plants are kept too dark. Move to a brighter location, but not in direct sunlight.
Brown, dead leaf edges – This often happens when Arabica coffee plants are often placed into too much sun. Look for a spot with more shade. If the leaves are completely brown, cut them off.
Dried out and withering leaves – Check the temperatures… usually, the temperatures are too high. Move the plant to a cooler location and keep an eye on watering. During spring and summer keep the plant evenly moist.
Leaves lose their glossy look – Usually an indication of too much direct sunlight. Move to a shadier location… an east facing window is good.
Mildew – Show its face by causing fluffy gray or white deposits on the leaves.
Fungus infections can usually be controlled by reducing water, but do not allow the coffee plant to dry out. Major outbreaks require a fungicide spray like neem oil or captan sprayings two times 8 days apart.
Insect Plant Scale – hiding under the leaves. Minor attacks can be handled with alcohol and a cotton swab.
Mealybugs hiding in the leaf axils and under leaves.
Varieties of Coffee Plants
There are many varieties of “coffee” used in brewing like “Columbian” or Kona coffee. Also, there are several types of coffee plants that widely contributes to coffee production. Some of those are:
Coffea arabica plant, and also the dwarf Coffea arabica ‘Nana’ – it is much smaller and grows much slower. Coffea arabica is also known as the coffee shrub of Arabia, mountain coffee or arabica coffee.
Coffea canephora, also known as coffea robusta or robusta coffee, hails from sub-Sahara Africa. This coffee tree produces beans carrying a much stronger taste.
Overall caring for coffee trees or plants is not that difficult. Making them thrive is as easy as making sure the plant gets water and food and is buffered from the blazing sun.
Because it thrives indoors, the rich, dark green, glossy leaves and easy culture make growing a Coffee tree as an indoor plant one to consider.
image: 1 | 2 | CC
From Seed to Cup: How Do Producers Grow Coffee?
An espresso: 20–30 ml of delicious coffee. It takes just minutes to drink it. But it takes years to produce it. From carefully selecting and planting the coffee tree through to harvesting, processing, and drying the beans, a producer’s work never stops.
But how do producers decide which coffee to grow? How do they harvest it? What’s involved in processing and drying?
Lee este artículo en español Del Grano a La Taza: ¿Cómo Cultivan Café los Productores?
Coffee seedlings in the nursery at Fazenda Bella Epoca in Brazil. Credit: Ana Valencia
Choosing The Right Coffee To Grow
There’s more than one type of coffee. Some varieties produce high-quality beans but are susceptible to disease. Others are hardier. Some yield more coffee than others, some are sweeter, and some suit certain types of soil.
So, how does a producer choose which coffee they grow?
ICFC Panama biologist and coffee value chain analyst Valentina Pedrotti says it varies from country to country. The climate and local culture often decide a producer’s choice. Many simply grow what is common in that area or what has always been farmed on that land.
But the soil, altitude, humidity, and other climatic features have an impact on the flavor of the final coffee, so it’s important to choose wisely. Other considerations include the cost and expected market value of the beans, and if diseases and pests are an issue,.
In some countries, there are national coffee associations, such as The Colombian Coffee Growers’ Federation (Federación Nacional de Cafetaleros, FNC) in Colombia or Anacafé in Guatemala. Farmers may choose to grow a coffee variety recommended by these associations. The FNC, for example, invests in researching and developing disease-resistant varieties such as Colombia and Castillo.
You may also like Coffee Varieties Debunked: Why Not All Geshas Taste The Same
And availability is a constant limitation. Take F1 hybrids, such as Starmaya. It’s high-quality, high-yield, and highly resistant to disease – the ideal coffee plant, in other words. Yet it’s a new variety and only a handful of producers currently have access to it.
With all these things to consider, it can be hard to choose the best variety. Arturo Aguirre of the award-winning Finca El Injerto in Guatemala says that it’s important producers understand their land. “You have to know where your farm is really well.” The location and soil are deciding factors on whether certain varieties will thrive.
Aguirre also says you should keep in mind that it takes around three years to know whether or not a new variety will thrive on your farm. After all, that’s how long it takes for a tree to mature.
Discover some of the most common varieties in Geisha vs Bourbon: A Crash Course in Coffee Varieties
Coffee plant seedlings in their controlled growth period; later, they will be planted on the farm.
Planting The Seed
The variety has been chosen – now what?
Ricardo Alvarez, an agronomist at Finca Los Tres Potros in El Salvador, says that for the first two stages of the coffee-growing process, temperature is much more important than elevation. For example, Arabica’s ideal temperature range is 18°C–21°C (64°–70°F). If it is hotter than this, it may stress the plant.
Alvarez explains that he starts with a seedbed filled with treated sand to stimulate germination and initial growth, as well as prevent disease. The coffee seeds stay in the seedbed for 70 days.
Next, he transplants the seedlings to individual bags filled with an earthy, fertile soil mix. The young plants stay in this nursery for anywhere between seven months to a full year. He covers them with plastic wrap to control the amount of light. At this stage, it is essential that the main root grows vertically to provide stability and allow the coffee plant to live longer.
A Nicaraguan farmer prunes coffee after harvesting the cherries from the plants. Credit: Maren Marbee via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Caring For The Coffee Plant
Alvarez stresses that before setting up the farm with young plants, it’s important to decide how densely the trees should be planted. The producer will decide this based on how they intend to prune and stump the plants later on. They will also consider how the plants will be harvested and the individual features of the variety.
Learn more! Read Why Plant Coffee in Rows?
Upkeep is needed for coffee plants to last and for production to be consistent. It’s important to prune, or trim, the producing branches and main vertical trunks after each harvest.
The plant should also be regularly stumped to ensure a good yield. This means that each plant is cut to 30–40 cm from the bottom to allow new growth. How frequently this needs to be done depends on many factors, including planting density and the amount of shade. Stumped plants won’t yield fruit until they regrow, so it’s important to divide the farm into lots and stagger stumping them.
Producers may also need to consider completely re-planting certain lots on their farm after the trees reach a certain age.
Coffee pickers harvest ripe cherries in Laos. Credit: Thomas Schosch via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
Coffee plant nutrition happens at the leaf and root, and neither should be neglected. Alvarez says that it is extremely important to take care of the soil and keep up with fertilizer schedules to give plants the nutrition they need.
During the rainy season, undergrowth maintenance will help prevent diseases developing. At other times of the year, producers need to watch out for coffee leaf rust, or la roya. This fungal infection is extremely common and can devastate crops by damaging the leaves, which are necessary for converting sunlight into energy. In other words, without the leaves, the plant cannot survive.
For shade-grown coffee farms, Alvarez also stresses the importance of shade upkeep. The amount of shade needed to produce a good crop will depend on the farm’s elevation and coffee species, but properly maintained shade will allow the plants to ripen at the ideal speed.
Find out more! Read A Coffee Producer’s Guide to Growing Healthy Coffee Trees
From Farm to Cup
Every year, after the rainy season, the trees will flower. The delicate white blooms, with their sweet aromas, are more than just a pretty sight, though. They are important for coffee cherry growth.
With Arabica coffee, there is a nine-month waiting period between the flowering and the coffee harvest. But this isn’t a rest period. The producer must regularly inspect the developing cherries to make sure that they’re ripening at the correct time, as well as check for pests.
And don’t underestimate the difficulty of the harvest. Cherry picking is a long and difficult task, especially when quality-oriented producers are looking for perfectly ripe cherries. Sorting the harvest is also important – and time-consuming. Even a few low-quality or defective beans can reduce the quality of an otherwise excellent lot.
After the cherries have been are harvested, they need to be processed. This means removing the coffee beans from the cherries and then drying them.
The main factors to consider during processing are climate, sunlight, and infrastructure. While drying, it is also important to move the beans around periodically to prevent fermentation and mold.
Processing can be done in many ways, but there are three main methods:
- Natural: Beans are dried in their cherries, adding sweetness and fruity notes to the coffee. Consistency can be harder to achieve.
- Washed: Beans are removed from the cherries and fermented in water before being dried, resulting in a clean and consistent profile. It requires more equipment than natural processing.
- Honey/pulped natural: Part of the fruit is removed, with a certain degree of mucilage left on the beans during drying. The more mucilage, the sweeter and fuller-bodied the coffee – but the greater the effort and risk involved.
Learn more! Read Washed, Natural, Honey: Coffee Processing 101
Coffee beans after processing. Credit: Adam Jones via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
Aguirre says, “It is very hard to grow coffee. Not only is the producer fighting nature’s adversities, but a cup of coffee requires a lot of work, a ton of people… That is the real value of coffee.”
Because to many people, a cup of coffee is an essential daily beverage. But to producers, it represents days, months, and years of intensive crop care. It is early mornings and long afternoons in cold temperatures. It is their life’s work.
Enjoyed this? Check out Get to Know The Coffee Plant
Written by Miguel Regalado.
Perfect Daily Grind
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Cherry ripening on a coffee tree in Nicaragua.
Coffee and human beings are native to roughly the same area of the world, so it makes a kind of sense that we have almost the same sort of life cycle. We must be made for each other.
Remains from some of the earliest identified transitional humans were discovered in the 1960s what is now known as Africa’s Great Rift Valley—which also just so happens to be precisely where coffee plants are indigenous to, often growing wild and unclassified in forests there.
Coincidence? Yes, probably. But it is fascinating to note that there are some similarities between the life of a coffee plant and the life of a coffee drinker.
For instance, the development of the coffee cherry (from which we extract the seeds, which are the lovely little things you and I know as “beans”) takes about nine months from start to finish: The rainy season triggers coffee plants to develop lovely, jasmine-like flowers that mature and drop off the branches. Anywhere on the plant that a blossom was allowed to completely develop, a cherry will grow in its place on the stem. From flower to harvest, the gestation on most plants in nine months—though coffee plants enjoy the advantage of not having to wear unflattering maternity clothes or crave pickles with ice cream.
A coffee plant after the harvest, waiting for the next rain.
Seedlings on healthy and well-managed coffee farms take about two years to start developing coffee cherries, at which point the farmers will start harvesting the crop but can’t yet sell it: The plant has to mature for about five years before the fruit it bears is of any commercial value.
Before the coffee plant can “speak” in cherry, then, it has to be taken care of very closely by the growers, who have to weed around it, feed it nitrogen-fixing fertilizers (organic, please!), and protect it from disease and infestation. Once the plant reaches about five, it becomes a bit hardier, though there is still much maintenance to do on any active farm.
While coffee plants can live up to 100 years, they are most productive between the ages of 7 and 20 as a general rule; proper pruning and fertilization can maintain and even increase their output over the years, depending on the variety. (Okay, humans are typically productive after age 20—in fact, I don’t think I started being productive until I hit 25—but still.)
Of course, the average lifespan for a cup of coffee is another thing entirely: Some people guzzle, others nurse…
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Coffee Plant Care – Growing Coffee Plants Indoors
Did you know that the same plant that grows coffee beans also makes a great houseplant? Considered to be among the easiest and hardiest of houseplants, coffee plant is great for both experienced or beginner gardeners. Not only is coffee plant care easy, but the plant itself is lovely and makes a wonderful addition to the home.
How to Grow Coffee Plant
Coffee plants prefer bright, but indirect, light. This means that they should be placed near a window but not directly in the window itself. They also cannot take temperatures below freezing and will not do well in temperatures that stay consistently below 65 F. (18 C.). Keep them away from drafts in the winter.
When growing coffee plants, the soil needs to stay moist, but not soaking wet. Also, make sure that both the soil and the pot your coffee plant is growing in has good drainage. The humidity around the plant will need to stay high as well. Setting your coffee plant on a water-filled pebble tray will help with humidity. Like many houseplants, a coffee plant will need less water in the winter than in the summer.
Your coffee plant care routine can also include light fertilizing with a balanced fertilizer once every to two three months in the spring and summer. Keep in mind that a happy coffee plant can grow up to 6 feet tall. Therefore, provide enough space for the plant or make pruning a regular part of caring for your coffee plant. If you choose to prune your coffee plant, the best time is early spring.
Many people wonder if they will actually be able to harvest coffee beans when growing coffee plants. If the coffee plant is grown in ideal conditions indoors, it will eventually flower when it matures, which can take three to five years. Even in the best of conditions, however, you can only expect a few flowers to form, but, if you hand pollinate them, they will produce the berries that contain coffee beans. You may not get enough to brew a whole pot of coffee, but you may get enough to give roasting a few coffee beans a fun try.
The Optimal Coffee Environment:
Best Climate Conditions for Growing Coffee Beans
For growing Arabica coffee beans, there are two optimal growing climates:
The subtropical regions, at high altitudes of 16-24° (Illy, 21). Rainy and dry seasons must be well defined, and altitude must be between 1800-3600 feet. These conditions result in one coffee growing season and one maturation season, usually in the coldest part of autumn. Mexico, Jamaica, the S. Paulo and Minas Gerais regions in Brazil, and Zimbabwe are examples of areas with these climate conditions (Illy, 21).
The equatorial regions at latitudes lower than 10° and altitudes of 3600-6300 feet (Illy, 21). Frequent rainfall causes almost continuous flowering, which results in two coffee harvesting seasons. The period of highest rainfall determines the main harvesting period, while the period of least rainfall determines the second harvest season. Because rainfall is too frequent for patio drying to occur, artificial drying with mechanical dryers is performed in this type of coffee growing environment. Examples of countries that have this climate are Kenya, Colombia, and Ethiopia (Illy, 21).
Robusta coffee is grown at much lower altitudes (sea level-3000 feet) in an area 10° North and South of the equator (Illy, 22). It is much more tolerant to warm conditions than Arabica coffee.
For more information about coffee growing regions, ecology, and the best climate for coffee trees, visit the National Coffee Association or the International Coffee Organization.
Coffee Growing Climates
There are two climates that are conducive to the growth of Arabica coffee and they are found between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, a section of the world we refer to as “The Coffee Belt.” These climates are discussed below.
Equatorial regions: In these regions, there is continuous rainfall which encourages the coffee trees to flower repeatedly and yield two harvests. The ideal altitudes range between 3,600 to 6,300ft; this range of altitudes encourages the coffee trees to mature slowly, thus locking in flavor and essence as they do so. Since the trees are grown at high altitudes, they experience lower temperatures from about 60–75°F. Countries like Colombia, Ethiopia, and Kenya are known for their ideal coffee growing conditions.
Subtropical regions: Countries such as Brazil, Mexico, and Zimbabwe are coffee producing countries in the subtropical regions. These regions have distinguishable wet and dry seasons, and their ideal altitudes are around 1,800–3,600ft. There is only one harvesting season which is usually in the colder part of the fall season.
Attempting to grow coffee in regions that do not fall within the above mentioned climates will generally result in lower quality and lower yields of coffee. For instance, lower elevations are conducive to hot and humid environments which will result in the coffee trees flowering too quickly. This will result in bitter or harsh tasting coffee. On the other hand, Robusta coffee can withstand warmer temperatures. They can be grown at lower altitudes no higher than 3,000ft above sea level, and at no more than 10° North or South of the equator.
Growing Conditions for Coffee
Map of Ethiopia
The coffee tree is technically not a tree, but rather a evergreen shrub belonging to the Rubiacea family which contains over 500 genera and 8,000 species individual species.
But of the many species of coffee, only two are of economic importance – those belonging to Coffea Arabica and Coffee Cenephora, or more commonly known as Robusta.
Globally, Arabica accounts for roughly 75% of total world production, while Robusta the remaining 25%.
The majority of the coffee cultivated worldwide is concentrated within ten degrees north and south of the Equator in an area known as the ‘Coffee Belt’ (see below).
Harvest season for those countries north of the Tropic of Cancer typically run between December to February, while those south of the Tropic of Cancer run from May to August.
Arabica being tropical in nature, requires that the plant receives 1,200-2,200 mm of rainfall per year and grown at an ambient temperature of 15°-24°C. Depending on the species, coffee plants can grown to a height of 2.5-4.5 meters, though shrubs are typically pruned to 2-2.5m for easier harvesting.
Robusta on the other hand requires slightly more rainfall (2200-3000 mm/yr) and can grow up between 4.5-6.5m in height.
Typically three to four years after planting we begin to see the formation of delicate blossoms and the scent of jasmine permeate the air. The blossoming usually occur after several episodes of rainfall and last only three days to four days.
After about six to nine months later, these blossoms become what is to become the tree’s fruit (cherry).
The fruit begins as a green cherry which eventually ripens and changes to a deep red color at full maturation. These cherries are harvested and subsequently processed to transform what we call coffee today.
Interestingly, a typical coffee plant will only produce one pound of roasted coffee in a full harvest year.