Coffea (the scientific name of the plant) are shrubs or small trees that produce edible red or purple fruits when ripe. The fruit, or coffee cherries, typically contain two seeds, which are the coffee beans.
Coffee trees grow best in temperate climates with rich soil, frequent rainfall, and shaded sun. The best quality coffees are typically grown at higher elevations – between 2,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level. Ideal conditions include temperatures ranging between 59- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit and about 60 inches of rainfall per year. Trees grow fruit after 3-5 years and can produce for 50-60 years, although they are generally most productive between ages 7 and 20. The average coffee tree produces around 10 pounds of coffee cherries, which equates to roughly 2 pounds of green, unroasted coffee beans.
The two most common species of Coffea are Arabica, which accounts for 60-80% of the world’s production, and Robusta, which accounts for 20-40% of global production. Most specialty, high-quality coffee is Arabica, which tends to have a more sweet and complex taste. While there are many varieties of Arabica coffee, a few examples are Bourbon, Catuai, Caturra, Typica, Mundo Novo, and Geisha. While Robusta trees are heartier and more resistant to disease and parasites, it often carries a less preferred taste, which is why you mostly find Robusta coffee in instant coffees and used in blends to reduce input costs.