The Coffee Plant
The coffee plant originated in Ethiopia, but it is now grown in many tropical climates around the world including Hawaii, the Caribbean, Central America and parts of South America, Asia and Africa. It is an evergreen shrub, or small tree, that blooms with small, white, fragrant flowers. After blooming, the coffee plant will bear small, oblong fruit called cherries. As they ripen, the cherries shift from green to yellow, and eventually bright red when ripe. Each cherry contains two seeds – these seeds are the beans that will eventually be picked, processed, and roasted. A coffee plant will begin to produce fruit after 3 – 5 years and will continue bearing fruit for 50 – 60 years.
Arabica and Robusta are the two species of coffee plants most commonly grown for their beans.
Arabica (Coffea arabica): Because they produce a more flavorful cup of coffee when roasted and brewed, the beans from the Arabica coffee plant are considered far superior to those from the Robusta plant. Arabica coffee plants are somewhat delicate. They demand a precise temperature range and annual rainfall, which limits the areas in which they can be grown. There can be no droughts or frosts or the Arabica coffee plants will die. Arabica plants grow more slowly than Robusta, and they are typically grown at high elevations – between 3000 and 6000 feet. For these reasons, Arabica coffee plants are more costly to grow and consequently the beans the plants produce cost more than Robusta beans.
Robusta (Coffea canephora): The beans from the Robusta coffee plant can, at best, be described as flat and neutral in taste when compared to those from the Arabica plant. Robusta coffee plants can be grown at low elevations and, as the name Robusta implies, they are very robust – able to withstand weather related problems that would seriously harm Arabica plants. This hardiness means the Robusta plants are less expensive to grow and consequently the beans they produce cost less as well. Typically, large commercial coffee roasters purchase most of the Robusta coffee bean crops. They often blend their Robusta beans with some superior Arabica coffee beans to impart a better flavor.
Kobos Coffee sells only coffee beans from Arabica coffee plants.