Care of Coffea (Evergreen) & Hints on Roasting

A small tree with characteristic horizontal branching, usually trimmed to take the form of a small shrub about 2m/6ft tall.

Best grown in rich, well-drained soils in filtered sun or light shade. Keep soil consistently moist, but not soggy.

After fruit is harvested (late January-February), let the plants become slightly drier. Place outside during warm, spring rains as this will mimic the start of the rainy season and trigger flowering.

Plants prefer climates with daytime temperatures of 70-80’F/21-26’C and nighttime temperatures of 60-65’F/15-17’C. Leaf drop may occur when temperatures dip below 55’F/12’C.

Plants may be grown indoors in containers with a fast-draining potting soil. Indoor plants like bright sunny windows, but when taken outdoors appreciate light shade.

Plants first flower when they reach 3-4 years old. Fertilize during the growing season.

Coffea Arabica is a species of Coffea, originally indigenous to the forests of the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia. It is also known as the “coffee shrub of Arabia”, “mountain coffee”, or “arabica coffee”.

Fruits are usually red, but sometimes yellow or purple at maturity. The outer layer is a soft, edible, and sweet-tasting cherry, containing two or sometimes one ‘seed’. In actuality, it is a seed encased in a hard, almost crispy outer layer which together forms a structure known as a pyrene; this outer layer is removed by milling (rubbing). The seed itself is pale fawn or brown (dark brown only after roasting) and has a characteristic groove on its inner surface, which curls round inside the seed.

Arabica coffee is a hybrid species, formed by the hybridization of Coffea eugenioides and Coffea canephora. It is one of the only species in the genus Coffea that is self-fertile (autogamous), a single plant being able to produce fertile seed from its own pollen.

Genus name comes from the Arabic word kahwah meaning beverage. There are several species of Coffea, the finest quality being Arabica, which today represents 59% of the world’s coffee production. It is sensitive to hot and humid conditions, and grows at altitudes of 1.25-1.55 miles. Arabica grown at higher altitudes is associated with the emergence of higher quality characteristics during roasting. Since Coffea grows in tropical and equatorial regions where it is always spring or summer, it’s not a change of climate, but rather the beginning of the rainy season after the dry season, that triggers Arabica plants to flower, fragrant and white. Eight or nine months after flowering comes the fruit.

With rain, the fruit flourishes, and a careful harvesting process begins. Since ripe and unripe fruit can occupy the same plant, harvesting is critical. It takes just one imperfect bean in 50 to taint espresso in the cup. Coffee harvests vary year to year, producing different characteristics even in the same bean.

For Natural Coffee: fruit is dried in the sun for up to 20 days. Once the peels, pulp and seeds are all completely dry, then the beans can be separated for roasting.

Roasting is coffee’s version of high drama: 15 minutes, the critical time when some 800 substances emerge under heat, each contributing to the taste and aroma. Coffee is brought to about 200°C (392°F), at first drying the beans, turning them golden in colour and creating toasted aromas. As roasting continues, the bean’s volume increases by 60 percent, and they begin to turn a light brown. During stage three, beans acquire their familiar rich, brown colour, losing about 18% of their weight and becoming brittle. The process must end at precisely the right time. Over-roasting destroys essential, volatile, aromatic compounds and upsets the ideal balance of acidity and bitterness. Roasting now complete, a critical air-cooling phase goes into effect to literally stop the beans from cooking, keeping aromas intact. Beans experience a steady and necessary carbon dioxide loss for days after roasting.

In the cup, a well-prepared espresso borne of exclusively high-quality Arabica is beautifully fragrant, sweet and round, with a slight and pleasant acidity, often chocolatey, with an aftertaste of caramel and just a mild hint of bitterness. The rich, creamy layer on top, or crema, should have a light reddish brown-hue, unbroken and painted with tiger-like stripes.

Genetically Arabica is the only species with 44 chromosomes of Coffea. Chemically, Arabica’s caffeine content varies from 0.9 to 1.7% of each bean’s volume.

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