Coffea: Coffee

Family: Rubiaceae
Common name: Coffee, Arabian coffee, Coffee shrub of Arabia, Mountain coffee, Arabica coffee, Robusta coffee

A walk through a coffee plantation is wonderful during most times of the year since coffee plants flower profusely from March to May. The green fruits appear soon after and they start ripening by November with hundreds of red plump berries in each plant.

There are two main types of coffee plants that contribute to almost 100% of the world’s coffee consumption, Coffea arabica or Arabian coffee and Coffea canephora or Robusta coffee. Coffea arabica has a milder, sweeter taste, whereas Coffea canephora is more bitter and darker.

The plants look very similar to each other, the leaves of Coffea arabica are slightly smaller with a glossy upper surface, whereas leaves of Coffea canephora are larger.

Coffee plants grow to a height of 2-4 meters, though they are usually pruned and kept at 1-2 meters. They have a rounded crown and simple elliptical leaves, which are dark green and about 10-15 cms long.

The flowers are white with 5 distinct petals and stamens clearly visible above the surface. The flowers have a light, heady scent which attracts bees and pollinating insects towards them. The flowers only live for 2-3 days, drying into brown flakes before falling away.

Fruits are called coffee cherries or coffee berries, each fruit containing 2 beans called coffee beans. These beans are dried, roasted, ground, and sometimes mixed with other ingredients to make coffee powder. From filter coffee of South India, to Espresso, Mocha, Cappuccino, and Frappe, Coffee is the drink that keeps the world going. There are coffee lovers all over the world, who cannot start their day without their favorite brew.

The leaves, fruits, and beans of the coffee plant contain caffeine, which is basically nature’s protection to prevent the plant from being consumed by cattle. The plant starts producing coffee beans after 4-5 years of growth and continues to fruit every year for over 60 years making them a very durable and profitable commercial crop.

In India, coffee plants are mostly seen in the South Indian states of Kerala, Tamilnadu, and Karnataka, though more states are now developing coffee plantations.

The leaves and fruits are used to make coffee cherry tea and coffee leaf tea. The coffee beans are used to make appetizers, chocolate-coated snacks, wines, preserves, beverages, and savory dishes. Coffee is used to flavor ice creams, milkshakes, candies, beverages, cakes, pastries, chocolates, and other dishes.

Coffee also has many medicinal uses, as a stimulant, analgesic, and aphrodisiac. It is used in the treatment of stomach ailments, headaches, migraine, asthma, jaundice, malaria, vertigo, sores, and mild poisoning.

Coffee is used to make deodorants and herbicides, The bark and leaves are used to make mulch and compost. Wood of the plant is used to make small wooden utensils and furniture.

Propagation is through seeds.