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The fascinating life of  Coffea arabica (Arabica coffee) *







COFFEE  a life wrapped in silk and gold, a secret well kept by Arabians that finally broke the barrier of mystery and spread along Asia,  later to Europe and from there to the world.   Coffee is a social drink to share with friends; bringing  together people of all ages, complexions and tastes.









Did you know that coffee is drank  everywhere at all hours, and originates from Africa?  Probably from the province of Kaffa, today known as Ethiopia, several thousand feet above sea level,   but nobody knows for sure exactly when and how it was first discovered.    Coffee trees were cultivated in monasteries 1.000 years ago, commercial cultivation followed but not until the 15 century. The Arabs adopted it and kept its secret very carefully until it was taken out of Arabia and cultivated in the Dutch colonies in India and Java. The Dutch then introduced it into Europe.  Coffee houses became favourite meeting places for both social and business purposes in other European countries including Austria, France, Germany, Holland and England. From Europe it was taken to USA. North Americans are now the world´s largest consumers.The Dutch also spread the coffee plant in Central and South America starting in Surinam to be followed by plantations in French Guayana and Brazil.   Coffee made its way around the world and established as one of the most valuable commodities. Millions of people earn their living from it and millions enjoy drinking it.


What do you know about coffee and where it comes from?






* Do you know there are two main species of coffee cultivated today?  They are Coffea arabica(arabica coffee) – 70% of world production – and  Coffea canephora (Robusta coffee).

Two other species are:  Coffea liberica (Liberica coffee) and Coffea dewevrei (Excelsa coffee)






Coffee arabica is an evergreen tree. It is a tropical plant. Its leaves are broad, shiny, and shaped like an arrowhead; and are almost the same size. They can be either yellowish, dark greeen, bronze or tinged with purple.


Its flowers are small, white blossoms that cluster at the base of the leaves.  Coffee belongs to the botanical family Rubiaceae (family Genus), species coffee, varieties arabica, canephora and liberica. There are probably at least 25 major species, all indigenous to tropical Africa and certain islands in the Indian Ocean, notably Madagascar


The coffee plant is a major source of oxygen in much of the world. Each hectare of coffee produces 86 lbs of oxygen per day.









The coffee plant can grow to heights of 10 meters, if not pruned.  The root can extend 20-25 kms in total length.


Countries that grow coffee, keep it at three meters for easy picking.


Each tree can grow one to twelve pounds of coffee per year, depending on soil, climate and other factors. The plants can grow from seed or from cuttings

Coffee arabica grows best when there are no frosts or hot extremes; in fertile, well watered but well drained soil; with only two hours a day of direct sunlight.  The best coffees are grown either on small sized estates or on peasant plots


Do you know that coffee trees take up to 5 years to mature?







Some differences between Arabica and Robusta









After rain




From flower to ripe cherry

9 months

10-11 months

  Do you remember that coffea arabica originated on the plateaus of central Ethiopia?


Yield (kg/beans/ha)





Growth optimum

1000-2000 m

0-700 m



Caffeine content of beans





Root system










Coffee is harvested during the dry season. The fruit of coffee trees are small oval berries about the color and size of a small cherry.  Inside the sking and pulp are nestled two coffee beans.

Berries do not ripen uniformly. The same branch may display ripe red berries, unripe green berries and overripe black berries.

About 12-20 kg of export ready coffee is produced from every 100 kg of coffee cherries harvested.



You have probably heard that  coffee cherries are harvested by hand



Coffee beans must be removed from the fruit and dried before they can be roasted. The unroasted coffee beans are known as green coffee.

Once coffee is picked, it can be prepared in 2 ways: by dry method

(also called the natural method) is the oldest, simplest and requires little machinery.  The coffee produced is called natural coffee. Most coffees from Indonesia, Ethiopia, Brazil and Yemen are dry-procesed;

or by the

wet method, which requires specific machinery,  important quantities of water and a more complex process of sorting, cleaning, pulping, fermentation and washing.  The wet method is generally used for all the Arabica coffees and is rarely used for Robustas..




Grading: there are four main criteria for grading coffee:  where and at what altitude it was grown, how it was prepared and picked, and how good it tastes, or its cup quality. 
We know commercial coffee and specialty coffee. Commercial coffee is roasted and packed in large plants; specialty coffee is usually roasted in small stores or factories, using traditional methods and technology.

Coffee lover and specialist Kenneth Davids says that “the best commercial blended coffees are quite good. The worst are atrocious. The best specialty coffees, brewed freshly and correctly, are more than good; they are superb.”

Roasting coffee

Roasting is a vital process, the key to excellent coffee, simple in theory but the key to excellent coffee,  a skill not easy to master.  The beans must be heated, kept moving so they don´t burn or roast unevenly, and cooled, or quenched, when the right moment has come to stop the roasting. 











So many ways to make coffee

There is no single best way to make coffee, each of us prefers one method to the rest.  It can be

ü      Arab or Turish coffee,

ü      The filter method

ü      The plunger

ü      The jug

ü      Expresso and Cappuccino

ü      The Moka Napoletana

ü      The percolator

ü      Soluble or instant coffee

ü      Flavoured coffees (there are about 100 varieties available, but the most important flavouring added to coffee over the world is milk)





Specialty coffee stores carry as many as 30 varieties of coffee. They have European and non-European names,  market names,  grade names,  estate names,  flavouring names, names of blends,  house blends,  organic coffees,  brand names,  caffeine-free coffees, etc





Do you know the meaning of cupping?


Cupping is tasting coffee. The taster is also known as the liquorer.





Coffea arabica
















(add a link to another page with more words)



and another page with ICO´s Consumer vocabulary


Coffee is traded under 1000s of different names in the coffee market.


Blends are mixtures of two or more straight coffees.


Organic coffees are coffees grown without the use of harmful chemicals.


Decaffeinated, or caffeine-free, coffees have had the caffeine soaked out of them.


Caffeine does not accumulate in the body, so its effects are short lived and transitory.


A cup of decaffeinated coffee contains about 1-5 mg caffeine.






Find what these words mean:






Specialty coffee



MORE (here we should add a link to another page with more activities)

And also to


Comics (Anthony)


Puzzles (Scott´s link)


green coffee stays good for years, BUT

roasted coffee looses its flavor after 1 week;

ground coffee after 1 hour of grinding; and,

brewed coffee in minutes.



99% of a cup of coffee is water. If the water doesn’t taste or smell good, don’t make coffee with it!!


Anyone interested in becoming a coffee connoisseur must learn to taste for aroma, inhale, compare….


Don’t boil coffee; it cooks off all the delicate flavoring essence and leaves the bitter chemicals

Don´t percolate or reheat: it has the same effect as boiling

Don´t hold coffee for very long on the heat

Don´t mix old coffee with new






TIPS for those who care about coffee

Buying tips : when buying coffee always ask when it was roasted. Generally coffee is at its best if used a day or two after roasting.

Grinding tips: Never grind more coffee than you will use for immediate brewing

Storage tips:  Never store your coffee in the refrigerator, but in a clean, dry, airtight container, in a cool, dark place









FAQ (frequently asked questions)

What is the difference between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee?

Can coffee affect my sleep?

How harmful can it be for the heart?







There are  instructive videos of all stages of coffee planting and processing available  at


And also assorted pictures at


Don´t miss them!

Enjoy them, tasting coffee and sharing knowledge!






Coffee and health

ü       Caffeine is a mild stimulant

ü       It can improve athletic performance

ü      It improves alertness

ü       It might affect some people´s sleeping habits,  others  drink coffee before they go to bed




Coffee Research Institute :

Coffee Science Source :

Coffee Universe:

The Coffee Science Information Centre :

International Coffee Organization : and our very special thanks to them for authorizing us to use both text and pictures

About Coffee by Kenneth Davids: