Coffee Beans in Pots

Coffee Beans Aren’t Really Beans

Today’s post is for the benefit of my fellow connoisseurs in the eSpares Coffee Appreciation Society and any other coffee lovers out there.

With its shape and name, you’d be forgiven for thinking coffee is a bean in the same family as the kidney, soya, broad and cannelloni brethren – but the truth is your beloved cup of black gold comes from a fruit. Really. The coffee ‘bean’ itself is formed from short-lived white blossoms that give way to a red and round fruit that looks much like a cherry.

Although there are a number of varieties of bean – over 60 different types are grown across the world – it is the Arabica and Robusta variants that are the most prevalent. Coffee trees can grow anything up to and beyond 15 metres when left in the wild, although the regular pruning that has to be done on plantations keeps them at a more manageable size of between 1.5 and 3 metres. The tree itself has dark green leaves that are broad and shiny and it is said once the white blossoms appear they are similar in smell and appearance to the flowers of the Jasmine tree.

Countries such as Kenya and Colombia are among the most famed for producing high yields of coffee for both freeze-dried instant and ground varieties of the beverage. The labour-intensive picking of the product is often the most expensive part of the harvesting and processing chain.

Coffee trees are capable of producing for up to 25 years with an average annual yield of approximately 2,000 beans – the equivalent of around one kilogram of raw coffee per year. However, initially the plants can take between three and five years to start production and this is heavily dependent on climate. The bean from the Arabica plants is most reliant on rich mountain soil and performs particularly well in high, volcanic areas – this is where its deep and rich flavour comes from.

Altitude plays a large part in how coffee is grown in a number of other ways. The speed at which the plant can produce as well as the quality and density of the bean is all dependent on the height of the plantation. This is due to the amount of oxygen that is available to the tree as it grows and slower development can mean a longer wait for the blossoms to mature. However, this alters the taste and in many cases gives the bean more opportunity to obtain a full, rich flavour.

Aside from coffee keeping us all focused and working hard here at eSpares, we also sell coffee machine spares like jugs and seals. We stock lots of coffee maker cleaning tablets and filters too.

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  1. Dan W

    on July 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    I hate to be a stickler for accuracy, but I’m going to be. I think you’ll find the coffee “bean” is actually the seed of the fruit not the fruit itself.
    Apart from that, I love your informed and excellent posts and long may they continue (but with more accuracy please).

  2. Matt

    on July 22, 2010 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the clarification Dan W. Although I said that the coffee ‘bean’ comes from a fruit, you’re right that I didn’t make it clear it was the seed and not the fruit itself. I shall try to be more thorough in future.

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