Coffee Tree

The coffee “tree” is actually a variety of the tropical evergreen shrub. There are three species of the coffee “tree.” All three are of African origin- arabica, liberica and robusta. Arabica originated in Ethiopia and is best suited to higher altitudes from 2000 to 6500 feet. Liberica originated in West Africa and robusta originated in the Congo, both do better below 2000 feet. Liberica and robusta trees are hardy, do well in forest environments and require less maintenance than arabicas. Liberica and robusta trees also produce higher yields, but the coffee they produce tends to have a harsh flavor in comparison to arabicas, as well as, their caffeine content can be as much as 50% higher. The coffee tree does not begin to produce its full yield until its sixth year, and will continue produce for about ten years.

Processing the Harvested Beans

Preparing the harvested beans for market requires that the fruit, inner parchment and outer hull of the bean be removed. These outer layers are removed by either the wet method or the dry method. In the wet method, the beans are mechanically de-pulped and then soaked in fermentation tanks for up to three days. These “washed” coffees have characteristically have higher acidity and sharper flavor than dry processed beans. In the dry method, the berries are either sun-dried or machine dried with the outer fruit intact. After drying they are de-hulled mechanically, producing beans that are characteristically lower in acidity, yet fuller-bodied and more complex in flavor than washed coffees. The coffees produced by the dry method are referred to as “naturals” and have the advantage of ageing better than those produced by the wet method. After having gone through either of the above methods, the coffees are sized, sorted and graded by hand.