Coffee culture

A coffee tree lives for around 70 years. Trees produce 2.5 kg of coffee cherries in each harvest. That means 500 g of green coffee. An income of 0.50 - 4 euro. Growing coffee means farming the plantation, watering, adding fertiliser to soil and combating disease.

Botanical info

What we call a coffee tree, botanists call Coffea, from the Madder (Rubiaceae) family.
73 species exist, with several varieties for each species, organoleptic differences and variable productivity of between 3 and 12 tons per hectare.
Coffea Arabica Linné and Coffea Canephora Pierre are the only species really grown on plantations and sold.
The most famous varieties of Arabica coffee are: Typica, Bourbon, Laurina and Moka. For Canephora, the Robusta and Kouillou varieties are the most popular.
Arabica trees are self-fertilising and produce their own descendents. Two Canephora trees are necessary for reproduction. It is impossible to create a hybrid species from these two types.
According to sensory analysis, Arabica coffee is rather fruity and acid, while Robusta is smoky and fermented. As is the case for wine, we can refer to the different batches and years of coffee. The quality of a batch of coffee depends on the species and botanical variety, as well as the land, temperature, altitude and exposure in terms of light, shade, watering and wind.
 


 

Flowers, leaves and cherries

Coffee trees bloom for the first time after three years and can be harvested for the first time after five years.Their leaves last all year round.
Their flowers are similar to jasmine flowers. In the 17th century, this plant was known as Arabian Jasmine.
This white flower with its gentle scent transforms into a fruit, the coffee cherry. The cherry will be ripe in 6 to 9 months. Coffee plants flower twice annually, but, depending on hygrometry, up to 8 flowering sessions may occur. Fruits of varying degrees of maturity can be found on the same branch. Ripe coffee cherries are red, shiny and firm. Immature cherries are excessively bitter, while overripe cherries are harsh and unpleasant.


 


Harvesting coffee

Four methods can be used, with very different types of precision, cost and results
Stripping: the entire branch is stripped by hand: all flowers and fruit, ripe or otherwise.
Mechanical: tractors harvest cherries, flowers and leaves using a brush. This method is often used in Brazil, and is effective (60 tons per day), but to the detriment of quality. This method makes shading impossible and requires sorting after harvesting, as is also the case with stripping. Sorting is rare, and unripe cherries are destroyed.
Combing: a comb with well spaced flexible teeth is passed along the branch: red cherries fall off the branch while green cherries resist.
Picking: only ripe cherries are picked, one by one, by hand.