Coffee Botany 101

Coffee is the most popular drink in the world. The beverage has been reveled around the globe for centuries for its natural caffeine supplement and rich, full-bodied taste, but what is the secret behind the favored bean? Join us for Botany 101 and learn a quick lesson about the leafy green tree that produces our favorite drink.

Coffee grows best in tropical and sub-tropical climates ranging from sea level to 6,000 feet. In higher elevations, the coffee berries ripen slowly, resulting in higher quality beans. Of these “high-grown” coffees, H.C. Valentine only harvests the top two percent, which are typically grown between four and 7,000 feet above sea level.

The coffee plant is considered an evergreen shrub and is native to Northern Africa, with 25 or more species growing in the wild. Trees can grow up to 20 feet if not pruned, but specialty coffee harvesters typically harvest their trees at five feet. Coffee trees produce their best yield for approximately 25 years. To grow and harvest a successful coffee plant, trees are planted on steep hillsides or in shaded areas so that the tree is only in the sunlight for a few hours each day. The trees are self-pollinating with white, jasmine-scented blossoms that fall to the ground after two to three days of blooming. These blossoms become cherries that contain two coffee seeds, which ripen from green to yellow to red as they mature.

The two most common species of coffee are Arabica and Robusta.

Arabica, grown at an altitude of 2,000 to 6,000 feet, makes up 75 percent of the world’s coffee population and is primarily grown in Central and South America and in Eastern Africa. The coffee is recognized for its sweet and acidic taste, high aroma and consistently reoccurring colors and shapes.

Robusta, which is grown from sea level to 2,000 feet, is primarily grown in West Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam. This type of coffee has more caffeine content than its counterpart, has a heavier, more full-bodied flavor, is more disease and insect resistant and has twice the yield of Arabica.

H.C. Valentine only uses the highest quality Arabica beans produced from four continents in the coffee-growing belt that is 100 percent organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified, USDA/QAI organic and comprised of Fair Trade blends and single origin varietals.

The next time you brew your favorite H.C. Valentine roast for family and friends, dust off your botany skills and share how your beans are grown.