The coffee tree is small with tough, shiny evergreen leaves. Its flowers are white, bearing 5 or 6 petals and exhaling a delicate aroma of jasmine.
Pollination is handled by the wind and insects.
The fruit, called a cherry, has red or sometimes yellow skin. It measures 10-15 mm in diameter and grows in bunches. Every fruit contains two beans, each surrounded by a casing called a 'parchment'. The skin is removed to reveal the green coffee beans.
Each tree yields 0.5 to 5 kg of green coffee beans.
After harvesting, a cherry must undergo various stages of processing before obtaining a coffee bean.
Finally, it is roasted to bring out the full flavour of the green coffee bean. This operation is performed in the country where the coffee will be consumed, because its aromas fade quickly after roasting.
The cultivation of Arabica beans has spread to elevated tropical zones with an average temperature of around 20°C. Another species of coffee tree, Coffea canephora, is grown on plains where the heat makes it impossible for Coffea arabica to thrive.
This other tree, from the tropical forests of West Africa, yields the highly caffeinated Robusta coffee (up to 3.5% caffeine compared to 1.5% in Arabica).
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