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Coffee has become a staple of our everyday lives. The world seems to revolve around the rich, dark liquid and many people would agree that their day doesn’t start until that first invigorating cup. However, the vast majority hasn’t paused to consider, where do coffee beans come from? 

If you’re wondering about the beans in your brew, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together this guide to tell you all there is to know about coffee beans, so keep reading to quench your thirst for coffee knowledge.

Coffee cherries in a bush

Where do coffee beans come from?

Coffee beans come from the coffee plant, a bush-like plant which can get very tall (coffee farmers will usually keep them trimmed to around 5ft to keep them manageable). On these coffee plants, bunches of cherries grow and it’s inside these that you’ll find two coffee beans. 

On average, it takes around one year for the coffee plant to begin to produce fragrant, white flowers, then up to four years later before it begins to bear fruit. However, it’ll be around 10 years for these plants to begin producing coffee beans on a commercial level, which are the ones of the most value to the farmers. The general lifespan of the coffee plant will be between 30 to 40 years but they can live much longer depending on the care given!

Once they’re ripe and ready for picking they’ll turn red in colour, but it takes a keen eye to know when the berries are ready for harvest as picking too early or too late can have a huge impact on the final taste.

Fun fact: Although called a ‘bean’, they’re technically a seed!

Coffee plantation landscape

Where is coffee grown?

Most coffee plants are grown around what’s known as ‘the bean belt’, an area around the equator between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. It’s here that’s home to the coffee capitals of the world such as Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Ethiopia, as these are the locations that coffee’s given the perfect growing conditions to thrive.

Interestingly, the location of where coffee beans are grown can alter the taste. Things such as climate, elevation and even soil type can impact the flavour of the coffee the beans produce.

Do different plants produce different coffee beans?

Yes, there’s over 120 varieties of coffee plants and each produces a different type of coffee bean, however the majority of the coffee we consume comes from just two variants, Robusta (also known as Coffea Robusta or Coffea Canephora) or Arabica (Coffea Arabica) or a blend of the two. The two varieties differ in taste, growing conditions, and price

Arabica green coffee beans

Arabica coffee beans

Arabica coffee beans is one of the most popular types and it’s believed to be one of the first coffee species ever grown with roots dating back to 1,000BC. The beans are generally oval in shape, have a pronounced centre crease and are larger than Robusta beans.

Known for their vibrant and complex flavours, these beans are loved by coffee connoisseurs because they tend to have a sweeter, softer taste, with tones of fruits, florals, chocolate and nuts, although their acidity is higher.

Generally, it is more expensive than Robusta. This is because it is much more delicate and needs more specific cultivation requirements, such as weather and altitude, to grow. Typically, Arabica coffee beans are grown at altitudes between 500m and 2500m and have low caffeine content. Latin America, specifically Brazil, is currently the largest producer of Arabica coffee.

Robusta green coffee beans

Robusta coffee beans

Commonly grown in Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia, Robusta has lower acidity levels than Arabica coffee, meaning it generally tastes much less sweet. Due to its simpler acidity and deeper and stronger flavour compounds, Robusta can produce tones of wood or burnt rubber. It’s a popular choice for espressos due to the rich flavour and layer of crema it gives.

Robustas are grown in altitudes of no more than 1000m, and they produce fruit much more quickly than the Arabicas, which need several years to come to maturity, and they yield more crop per tree. They are less vulnerable to pests and weather conditions and this is the main reason why they are on average cheaper than Arabicas. One other aspect to bear in mind is that Robusta coffee beans have a higher caffeine content. 

Coffee beans from the Robusta species are generally smaller and more circular than Arabica beans, they are also usually paler, and the centre crease is less pronounced.

What about decaf coffee beans?

There’s no such thing as decaf coffee beans as they naturally contain caffeine. The decaffeination process is carried out prior to roasting  which involves swelling them with water or steam, then extracting the caffeine with water, organic solvent or activated carbon. Finally, the decaf coffee beans are dried to return them to their normal moisture.

Despite being referred to as ‘decaffeinated’, decaf coffee beans will always contain some caffeine as it’s not possible to remove it all during the process.

Now you know all about where coffee beans come from, why not find out about the origins of the beverage? Read our guide on the history of coffee, next.

Explore our coffees

We make it clear which type of coffee bean we use in all our coffees. You'll find this information on the product pages of this website. Some coffees will only use Arabica or Robusta coffee beans, while others will use a blend of the two.

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  • Coffee Roasting Process

    There's a lot more to the coffee roasting process than simply heating beans - find out about coffee roasting and the different methods in our guide.

  • The History of Coffee

    Starting in Ethiopia and moving its way across the globe, coffee has an extensive and interesting history that dates back as far as 800 AD.

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