A question that is frequently asked by coffee lovers is does coffee grow on trees? I have wondered myself if coffee grows on trees or bushes or plants as the term coffee tree, coffee plants and coffee bushes are used interchangeably.
And it causes a little confusion!
In this article I explain why this is so, why coffee is referred to as a growing on a tree, a plant and a bush.
Keep reading to find out if it grown on trees or bushes!
Does Coffee Grow On Trees?
The origin of coffee can be traced to a genus of plants, Coffee. In the Coffea genus there are 500+ genre and over 6000+ species of the trees and shrubs.
It is this, the sheer number of species that leads to a little confusion of coffee being a tree, a plant, bush or a shrub and the ambiguous use of them all to describe the same plant.
There are some 100+ species of coffee plants that are known to be in use, with the majority belonging to the Coffea Arabica genre of coffee plants.
Coffee trees are pruned by coffee farmers to help conserve their energy and help in the harvest of the coffee cherries. The trees can grow to be 30+ feet tall, 9 meters high.
Each coffee tree is covered with waxy leaves that grow in pairs, with the coffee cherries growing along their branches.
Due to the plants growing on a continuous cycle, it is very common to see green fruit, flowers and ripe fruit on the same tree.
It can take almost a full year for a coffee cherry to fully mature after the first flowers appear and 5 whole years of growth for the first fruits to be produced and the first coffee beans to be harvested.
A coffee plant (or coffee tree!) can live for about 100 years but are at their most productive from years 7 to 20. With proper care and attention the production and quality of the beans produced can be maintained. The average coffee tree in a good season can produce 10 pounds of coffee cherry per year, which only yields pounds of green coffee beans.
All coffee plants, no matter their genre, need to grow in a steady climate of 18C to 21C (64F to 70F) with plenty of sunshine and water. Too much rain and too much sunshine is not good. They also need good quality nutrient rich soil.
These requirements limit their cultivation to the tropical zones and at an elevation where the temperature is more stable.
Read: Coffee growing regions
Does Coffee Grow Under Trees?
Coffee plants are frequently grown in a canopy under the shade of a variety of trees. Shade-grown coffee farmers use a variety of different trees to create diverse, ecology and takes advantage of the land that they have by growing various produce in the same area.
Coffee that is not grown in the shade requires a greater use of chemical pesticides to help the trees to survive and prevent disease and pests. Sun-growing coffee farmers and producing coffee in this type of environment allows the farmers to produce their coffee at a greater density which comes at an expense of the environment and unfortunately encourages deforestation.
Where Does Coffee Grow?
Coffee is grown in the tropics at an elevation where the temperature is at 18C to 21C (64F to 70F). Any country where the temperature is within this range and has the necessary elevation and climate to ensure their growth and production of the cherry that contains the coffee beans is where coffee will grow.
All these coffee growing nations are located between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, an area known as the coffee belt is where it will grow, including Asia, Africa, The Middle East, The Caribbean, North, Central And South America.
The trees are pruned regularly to increase their yields. While coffee is grown in the tropics, the trees are not too adapted to prolonged exposure to direct sunlight for long periods of time. Which is why you will often find coffee labeled as shade grown.
Shade grown coffee is very convenient as the trees are pruned to between 5 and 7 feet (1.52M to 2.13M) for easy picking. They are well below the taller trees, even the unpruned 30 foot (9 meters) trees can be well below the canopy and be well shaded.
Only 3 hours of direct sunlight can damage a coffee tree and even kill them. Notably, not all coffee is shade-grown coffee as some rather smart and savvy farmers take action to prevent the exposure of their coffee trees to the sun, like:
- Ensuring that their trees are well-watered.
- Planting their trees on slopes that are east facing where the sun is not as hot and only shines in the mornings.
- Selecting more robust varieties (like the Robusta variety).
- Planting in an area that has 59 to 118 inches of annual rainfall.
- Planting in elevations of 1,800 feet to 6,300 feet (548M to 1920M).
How Many Years Does It Take A Coffee Bean To Become A Tree?
When you first plant the coffee seed it can take from 4 to 8 weeks until it develops into a seedling and then as long as 3 to 4 years before the tree can grow the first cherries and then a further 3 years before your coffee tree is ready with its first fruit that is ready for harvesting.
During this time, it takes a lot of care, attention and ensuring that it is free from pests, disease and kept healthy and in the ideal environment.
It’s a lot of hard work and patience to get that first batch of coffee.
Frequently Asked Questions About Does Coffee Grow On Trees
Does Coffee Beans Grow On The Tree?
Coffee cherries grow on small evergreen trees, or shrubs. A pruned, untamed coffee tree can grow to be up to 30 feet tall (9 Meters). Most coffee farmers prune their coffee tress to between 5 and 7 feet (1.52M to 2.13M), which makes them easier for picking.
With the growing use of machinery to pick the trees, even in less developed nations it remains to be seen if farmers will continue to prune the trees and what the effect will be on the production and quality of coffee produced.
What Does Coffee Look Like On The Tree?
Coffee is covered with waxy leaves that are dark green and grown in pairs. Some coffee trees can produce yellow and purple leaves. The coffee cherries grow alongside the coffee trees branches. After a year newly planted coffee trees cherries will bloom into white blossoms that are fragrant and eye catching.
Is Coffee Fruit Edible?
Coffee cherries are fruits and yes, you can eat them. They have a sweet taste that is said to be nice. A coffee cherry is not a popular fruit and are not grown or optimized to be eaten as a fruit. The cherry is not wasted; farmers keep the fruit and use it as an organic fertilizer for the soil on their plantation.
If you want to try it as a fruit, look for cascara or coffee cascara as it is available as a dried fruit.
Read: Is coffee a fruit?
Are Coffee Tree Leaves Poisonous?
A coffee tree has a compound called saponins in the foliage and bark which is poisonous to some animals, particularly domestic pets like dogs. The saponins can be poisonous to us humans when consumed in large amounts.
The side effects of the coffee tree poisoning are vomiting nausea, contact dermatitis and depression if the saponin gets on your skin.
Can You Grow Your Own Coffee Plant?
Yes, you can grow your own coffee plant indoors or outdoors as long as you have the ideal climate. If you want to grow your coffee plant indoors, keep your coffee plant away from direct sunlight as it has a preference for diffused sunlight.
Are Wild Coffee Berries Poisonous?
No, wild coffee berries are not poisonous for human consumption. The wild coffee fruit contains no caffeine. The berries or cherries as they are often called have a very bland taste. You can try them in the dried version which are known as cascara.
Read: Where do coffee beans come from?
Final Thoughts – Does Coffee Grow On Trees?
The question does coffee grow on trees is clarified and why it is used interchangeably as growing on trees, plants and bushes in this article.
How do you define where coffee grows?
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