Most people live their lives drinking coffee every morning and few stop to think about where their precious beans come from. Most coffee beans come from Coffea arabica, while few come from other species such as Coffea canephora (robusta). The name of Coffea arabica gives a straightforward hint as to it’s origins, the Arabian peninsula, of course. The plant itself looks like a tall shrub but many consider it a tree as it can grow over 30ft tall. Similar to the tea plant, commercial coffee growers often prune down to as low as 6 feet for easier cultivation. Coffea plants can’t survive sub freezing temperatures, so they are best cultivated in tropical or subtropical regions. Those who wish to grow coffee in a greenhouse are in luck, coffee plants in greenhouses thrive, and can even put out beans! What I find interesting about this plant is the fact that as seedlings they grow fast, sturdy, and close together. This allows for braiding of the stems when they are young. When they mature the trunks of five or six plants become intertwined making a very cool braided effect.
Once a coffee plant is a few years old it will begin to flower profusely with many small white flowers coating the branches. Next comes the formation of coffee beans which come from small red berries on the plant which are collected, fermented, dried, and then roasted to create the drink that so many people depend on.
These are my Coffea arabica seedlings; they’re inside my house near a south facing window so they can get some sun, and they are growing quite a bit.
These are my seedlings that I have tied together in attempts at creating braided coffee plants. Be careful if you choose to do this with your plants, think ahead and plant the beans very close together so you don’t have to do any transplanting.
A lone Coffea berry on a Coffee tree. This picture was taken in the Tucson Botanical Garden’s greenhouse.