Where Do Coffee Beans Come From?
Saying “coffee comes from coffee beans” is like saying a car comes from a car dealership. It’s kind of a lame, uninformative answer.
So, for this post I decided to answer the question, what is a coffee bean in the first place... and where do coffee beans come from?
The results I found may surprise you… or they may just reinforce what you already knew. Either way, it was a fun question to answer!
Oh, Coffee Plant, Where Would I Be Without You?
Coffee beans come from coffee bean plants, which are a type of shrub or bush.
If you’re wondering what a coffee plant looks like, the closest comparison is a berry bush or a grapevine. These plants can get pretty tall, too. Now, we’re not talking redwood-height here, but they’re certainly taller than you or me!
Most coffee plants have rich, dark green and waxy leaves, although sometimes the color can wander into more of a purple or yellow hue. You can see some coffee plants in the video below.
There are two different kinds of coffee plants: Arabica and Robusta. Now, this might sound simple, but in reality these two plants have many varieties between them.
Of the two, it's the Arabica that is by far the most prolific, with dozens of varieties grown all over the world. It’s also from this “branch” of the family that we get most of the higher-end, expensive artisan coffees.
The other half of the coffee family tree, the Robusta, is made up of only two varieties. But in spite of this, Robusta coffee plants actually do the bulk of the heavy lifting, delivering heaps of the lower quality coffee cherries that keep the world going round.
How Long Does It Take for a Coffee Plant to Grow?
If you’re wondering how long it takes to grow coffee, it usually takes about one year for a new plant to begin flowering. From there it can be another two or three years before the tree begins to bear fruit. Check out this timelapse of a coffee plant sprouting to see it in action!
Once mature, a coffee plant that is properly located in the shade can live for thirty or even forty years.
So… there’s the coffee plant, but how do we get coffee beans from a bush?
It’s time I introduced you to the coffee cherry...
Cherry Coffee Beans, The Fruit of Life
Okay, “fruit of life” might be a little extreme, but do coffee beans come from cherries? Yes. And coffee beans in turn give us coffee, the nectar of life.
These little cherry fruits consist of an outer skin or husk covering an inner layer of pulp. In the center of this pulp are two coffee beans, each covered in a second thin layer, or parchment, and a final thin membrane. You can get a good visual in the video below.
The cherries grow in bunches along the branches of the coffee plant. They start out green and then turn a bright, cherry red once they’re ready to harvest.
Where Does Coffee Grow Best?
The original coffee plant was an Arabica plant that was discovered in Ethiopia, the ancient birthplace of coffee.
From there, coffee plants have been grown all over the world. Most of them can be found primarily on three continents: Central/South America, Africa, and Asia.
Within these continents, there are numerous countries and regions like Guatemala, Colombia, Sumatra, and Kenya that provide extremely good coffee beans that vary from one end of the coffee spectrum to the other.
If you’re interested in learning more about bean origins and coffee-growing regions, check out this article!
So, Where Do Coffee Beans Come From?
So, the next time you’re asked what coffee is made of, the answer can be broken down into a few parts.
- Coffee is made from coffee beans.
- Coffee beans come from the coffee plant, a large shrub or bush.
- Beans are found in the center of coffee cherries, the fruit that grows on coffee plants.
- Coffee plants grow all over the world, particularly in Central/South America, Africa, and Asia.
If you learned something or have some extra knowledge you want to share, leave it in the comments below! And as always, please consider sharing.