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Interesting facts about coffee cultivation

Our new blog entry is about the botany of coffee, or more precisely, about growing coffee - from its origins to its harvest, another blog entry that will soon be available on our website. Let's start with some useful information about the coffee plant.

The coffee plant, in this case the genus Coffea, belongs to the plant family known as Rubiacea, also known as the Rubiaceae. According to botanical classification, this plant family includes around 500 genera with over 6,000 species. The genus Coffea includes numerous perennial shrubs and trees that can grow up to 15 meters tall and live for over 50 years. Not all of them store caffeine in their seeds and some only bear a very distant resemblance to the coffee plants we know. However, only two types of coffee are of economic importance: Coffea Arabica with around 61 percent of world coffee production and Coffea Canephora with 39 percent, which also includes Robusta. There are also two other varieties, Coffea Liberica and Coffea Excelsa, but both are of relatively minor importance.

Interesting facts about coffee cultivation - The differences between the two species

The cultivation of coffee in the two species also brings with it differences. Coffea Arabica thrives at altitudes of 400 to 2,100 meters at temperatures between 18° and 25° Celsius and a humidity of around 75 percent. The Coffea Canephora is completely different; it grows at altitudes of zero to 900 meters , between 24° and 28° Celsius and a humidity of up to almost 100 percent.

Coffee harvest coffee cherry coffee cultivation wild coffee Coffee cultivation - reproduction & the origin of the coffee plant

All Coffea species, except Coffea Arabica, depend on cross-pollination by insects or wind for reproduction. Coffea Arabica is the only one of its kind that can pollinate itself. Up to 40,000 flowers can grow on a fully grown Arabica plant and the first coffee cherries only develop seven to nine months after pollination.

Every coffee plant starts in the so-called "coffee school" where they are grown in small pots and after a few months, depending on the variety, planted at a distance of one to three meters . A coffee tree only bears its first coffee cherries after three to five years, and generally they only live for twenty years , although a wild coffee tree can live up to fifty years.

Actually, each coffee bush can reach a height of up to fifteen meters, but on the plantations they are kept bush-like by constant pruning to around two to three meters. Why? Quite simply, on the one hand it makes harvesting easier and on the other hand the power of the plant is transferred directly to the fruit / coffee cherries, which in turn ensures better yields when growing coffee.

Coffee farm cultivation coffee plant

Coffee cultivation - What exactly does a coffee tree look like?

Coffee cultivation - This is how the coffee plant is structured

We already know that a bush on a plantation is around two and a half meters tall. It is covered with long, rod-shaped branches, and each branch has short-stemmed, evergreen, elongated oval leaves. The leaves are leathery to the touch and are dark green on the upper side and light green on the underside. The five-part coffee flowers are usually found in the leaf axils; they are white in color and their scent, shape and color are a little reminiscent of jasmine.

The flower is only capable of fertilization for a few hours and fades after a relatively short time; after four days the flowers fall off again. The flower only grows in the first dry period after the rains. After successful fertilization of the coffee flowers , two seeds develop, the cherry-like fruits of the coffee tree. The color of the coffee cherries changes during their ripening phase from green, to yellow, to orange, to red. When overripe, they change color to black. Coffee bushes can bear coffee flowers and coffee cherries at the same time.

Coffee cultivation - different cultivation methods

Basically, you can distinguish between two different coffee cultivation methods: monoculture and mixed culture. In a monoculture, only coffee bushes are planted. In a mixed culture, the situation is different: here, the coffee is grown between shade-giving plants such as cassava, lemon, banana and papaya . With their large leaves, they provide enough shade for the bushes, which prefer a balanced climate without extreme temperature fluctuations.

Ideally, they need an annual rainfall of 1,500 to 2,000 millimeters . However, if the rainfall is less than 1,000 millimeters , the plants must be artificially watered. The Caffea Canephora is generally less sensitive than the Arabica plant; it also thrives in rainy regions and areas with very high humidity.

The coffee plant

Coffee cultivation - Natural enemies of the coffee plant

As with any other plant, there are certain pests in coffee cultivation and coffee bushes. We distinguish between two different pests: the "coffee rust" , also known as Hemileia vastatrix. This is a fungus that attacks the plant. This fungus is combated by spraying fungicides and by growing more resistant plants. If plantations are affected, they usually have to be abandoned completely.

Another pest is the coffee cherry beetle , also known as the Broca beetle. The black beetle , which is between 1.2 and 1.9 millimeters in size , originally comes from Africa, but is now widespread throughout the world. It does not cause damage to leaves, branches or trunks, but attacks the coffee cherry directly. It bores into the cherry's flesh and thus attacks the bean from the inside. The female beetles then lay between 31 and 119 eggs . To effectively combat the borer, the endoplasmic fungus Beauveria Bassiana is used - a natural and organic agent that parasitizes the beetle inside and kills it.

Organic Farming Fertilizers Plant Protection

Coffee cultivation - Where is coffee grown?

Basically, coffee grows best in subtropical conditions , which we find between 23° north latitude and 23° south latitude . The so-called coffee belt has balanced climatic conditions all year round. However, coffee cultivation can also extend to 28° north and south latitude. Coffee is currently grown in around 84 countries with more or less economic success.

The most important producing countries are North, Central and South America, followed by Africa, Asia and Oceania . Brazil is the largest producing country in the world, followed by Vietnam and Colombia. The smallest producing countries are the Cook Islands, Gran Canaria and the Cape Verde Islands. For comparison: while the average annual production on the Cook Islands is just 50 60 kg bags, Brazil produces over 41 million 60 kg bags per year, which in turn accounts for 35% of global coffee production. #staywild!