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The coffee plant

The coffee plant

Coffee is produced in many of the tropical regions of the world and is produced as far north as San Diego, California.  Typically coffee will grow wherever there isn't a risk of frost, and the plant will not grow anywhere which drops below 30 degrees Celcius.  Brazil Columbia and Indonesia are probably some of the largest coffee producing regions in teh world  Coffee is actually a fruit tree, and grows as a deciduous everygreen.  The coffee plant can become a full sized tree with a full canopy if allowed to grow to its full potential.  However, in a farming setting, the coffee plant is typically grown to about 7 feet tall and pruned down at the end of every third year.  The typical coffee tree takes three years to produce its full harvest after being planted or pruned.  Most coffee is grown from the seed, and coffee is considered True to Seed since it is a self pollinator. 

We are drinking the kernel of the coffee fruit seed when we drink coffee.  The fruit and leaves of the coffee can also be consumed, and contain caffeine as well as other alkaloids which have both analgesic and psychotropic effects.  The flowers also contain a large amount of caffeine and smell like the jasmin flower. When the coffee fruit is picked, it is first pulped of its outer skin and pulp and fermented for 12-48 hours.  The fermentation process removes the sugar from the coffee and adds flavors to the bean.  After fermentation, the pulped fruit is dried on the deck.  This stage of coffee is known as parchment.  When the parchment dries, the outer layer, known as silverskin, is then removed by a dry mill -- the coffee is sorted and returned as green beans.

There are two major varieties of coffee -- the arabica plant and the robusta plant.  Robusta is a variety of coffee which grows well in plantation settings, and produces a highly caffeinated by less flavorful bean.  On the other hand, arabica coffee is considered the gourmet coffee, and is more delicate.  It only grows in more shaded regions and tends to burn in full sun and low elevations.  However, elevation has to be combined with latitude to determine the optimal elevation of a coffee plant.  The arabic variety accounts for about 80% of the worlds production.  Different hybrids and mutations also exist but most are not cultivated because they do not produce the same desired flavor as other coffee beans. 

Coffee is limited to regions which do not have frosts.  Otherwise, the soil conditions of coffee can be simulated and changed artificially.  Coffee can grow in the desert mountains of Yemen as well as the tropical rain-forests of Hawaii.  It wants soil which is slightly acidic around 5.5-6.5, which is why it prefers volcanic soils which have that pH naturally.