April 17, 2020 5 min read

Coffee Trees

When you start your day,  do you ever think about the coffee tree itself? Is it with a coffee ritual that fulfills you, that makes you settle into a quiet moment before the day begins? Pulling out the coffee bag or opening up the airtight storage container and suddenly the aromatic coffee beans are exposed and the kitchen air fills with a wonderful scent of warmth and love. The grinder starts, or if it is pre-ground coffee, ultimately you measure out the amount of coffee needed to prepare your coffee and the coffee brewing process begins. 

Four hundred million people in the United States start their morning with coffee. Coffee is the glue that keeps the country, companies, and families together. I once worked for a person that no one would speak to until he had at least one full cup of coffee. Whether we brew it at home, go to our local coffee shops, or are fortunate enough to work in an office that has a full kitchen serving Weaver's Coffee & Tea, we drink coffee. We know what the coffee bean looks like, how it smells, how to grind it, how it tastes when it's brewed. 

What is Coffea?

Coffee is made from the seeds of the berries of the Coffea species. Native to tropical and southern Africa as well as tropical Asia, Coffea is a genus of flowering plants in the family Rubiaceae. "Coffee trees start to flower an average of three to four years after planting, with the flowering phase lasting for approximately two to three months. Each flowering bud can develop up to four flowers, which grow in clusters along the axis (stem) of the leaves; when they bloom, they have a rich jasmine-like scent. Depending upon how they are tended, the coffee tree is usually grown as a shrub or a small tree by coffee farmers. However, in the wild a coffee tree can reach over thirty feet in height!"



Drawing of the COFFEA Tree 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The coffee tree can live up to 100 years and produces beautiful but highly scented white flowers along with a deep red fruit that is now referred to as the coffee cherry. The coffee cherry is surrounded by a protected layer called the endocarp, often contains two coffee beans. In very rare, but natural circumstances, the coffee cherry will only produce a single, small coffee bean that is known as a peaberry coffee. For more information on peaberry coffee cherry please click on this blog about peaberry coffee.  


Photo Courtesy of Perfect Daily Grind

Flowering Coffee Trees

How Many Species of Coffea?

There are over 100 species of Coffea, the two most common being Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora. The seeds of these species are where we get our coffee beans. The cherries of the coffee tree are picked, processed, dried, then hulled (a process of removing an outside layer of the bean, the endocarp) before being sent to a coffee exporter and then ultimately a coffee roaster.


Coffee Cherries and Kenyan Women Coffee Farmers picking through the coffee cherries

Photo Courtesy of Kamweti wa Mutu

Sorting coffee cherries

Wikimedia Commons / Women Coffee Farmers in Kenyan 

The caffeine in coffee beans is important for two reasons. Besides keeping us alive and our eyes open, the caffeine attracts honeybees which help keep the plant pollinated as well as serving as a natural deterrent for insects. However, not all Coffea species are caffeinated. Scientists theorize that caffeine in plants (like cocoa and tea, which are far-distant relatives) is an adapted trait unique to the specific species. One example is Charrier coffee, a recent discovery. Native to Cameroon in central Africa, Charrier coffee is naturally caffeine free.

Arabica vs. Canephora (Robusta)

The two most common species of Coffea are arabica and canephora, also known as robusta coffee.

Weaver’s Coffee & Tea only uses 100% Arabica coffee.

Arabicais an evergreen native to Africa that has fragrant white blooms that flower from May to June about two years into maturity. While native to Africa, it resulted as a cross of C. Canephora (robusta) and C. Eugenioides. This coffee makes up about 60% of coffee exports, and is the dominant cultivar of the plant. The remaining 40% of exports is robusta coffee.

Robusta also has origins in Africa. It has a larger crop yield than arabica coffee, and is less prone to disease. While it seems like this is the superior coffee tree to grow, the coffee beans that are produced are cheaper, have higher amounts of caffeine and are extremely bitter. Robusta coffee is usually mixed with Arabica coffee in low-grade and cheaper coffees. Arabica coffee, which is more expensive, hand picked and tends to be smoother, and hence preferred by master roasters such as John Weaver.

Both types of coffee will produce very different flavor profiles and we encourage you to find out which type of coffee you prefer.  John Weaver has 43 years of experience as a master coffee roaster, and John and his apprentice coffee roasters, only use 100% Arabica coffee for both our single-origin coffees and our coffee blends. This allows them to hand-roast beautiful coffees and create remarkable depth and body, with an incredible flavor profile and that is balanced and smooth.

How to Grow Coffee Trees  

Soil - Fairly acidic, well-draining soil. The soil should be peat based, as the plant will not do well in limey soils. 

Light Conditions - Despite what you might think, these plants do not need full sunlight. Dappled sunlight is best, and the plant only needs a few hours of sunshine a day to thrive. Direct, prolonged sunshine can damage and burn a young plant.

Watering - During growing, water regularly to keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Water when the top inch of soil is dry, and never let the plant dry out completely. Do not let the plant sit in water or else the roots will rot.

Fertilizing - Fertilize with a weak fertilizer in the growing season regularly. Fertilize only once a month during the winter.

Common Pests -Like most houseplants, the coffee plant is most prone to pests like mealy bugs, aphids, and spider mites. Check the plant often for any site of these bugs and refer to your local gardening center for how to naturally cure your plant if you develop problems.

Humidity -¬†Keep the plants at an average of 60 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit (16 ‚Äď 23 Celsius). These plants thrive in high humidity. Group them with other tropical plants and keep humid with a humidifier or by spraying with a water bottle to mimic ideal conditions.¬†

Toxicity -Toxic to humans and animals. The only non-toxic part of the plant is the mature fruit.

While you wait for your coffee tree to grow, here are a few coffee drink recipes you can make at home!

Cold Brew Coffee Recipes 

8 Delicious Coffee Mocktail Recipes