Coffee received the first botanically correct classification in the plant system of Carl von Linne (1707-1778). Linne coined the name “Coffea Arabica”- those are the coffee trees which grow in the wild and reach up to 15 metres high. In modern coffee agriculture however, coffee plants are referred to as shrubs and have several trunks with a maximum height of 3 metres. This makes harvesting the coffee beans much easier and allows for a more efficient harvest.
The coffee tree has leathery, dark-green leaves which grow very closely to the branches. Three to four years after cultivation in the seedbed, coffee trees bear their first flowers and fruits. The coffee cherries take eight to ten months to ripen and change their color from green to yellow to dark red as they ripen. Coffea Arabica beans are round to oval, while the Robusta beans (Coffea Canephora) are smaller and round.
The coffee plant grows in tropical climates and is rather demanding in respect to its environmental conditions such as temperature, sunshine, rainfall, wind and soil composition. And of course, Arabica and Robusta have different requirements. The soil quality in the various coffee growing regions varies greatly. Rich, loose soil, preferably of volcanic origin with ground water level under 3.5 metres depth is a good prerequisite for successful coffee cultivation. Coffee thrives extremely well in high altitudes between 600-1200 metres above sea level.
Today, coffee is cultivated in about 80 countries. Because the climatic conditions have to meet exacting requirements, commercial coffee growing is limited to the tropics. The main areas of cultivation are in Central & South America, Africa and Asia.