The coffee plant is a shrub that can live up to fifty years. The first flowers appear in the axils of the leaves when the plant is about five years old. They grow in clusters, they are white and intensely fragrant.
The market is dominated by two varieties: Coffea Arabica – accounting for 70% of the world’s production – and Coffea Canephora, of which Robusta is the most well-known variety.
The Arabica variety grows at high altitudes and ripens slowly – this is an essential condition to obtain a full, complex bouquet in the cup. It is a delicate variety that requires care and particular climate conditions. It prefers the shade typical of rain forests. It is an easy prey for fungus and rust, and each plant offers a moderate harvest of drupes. Arabica coffee beans provide pleasant sweetness and a superior aroma in the cup.
The most widely cultivated Arabica varieties are Bourbon and Typica: they are selfpollinating which allows them to remain genetically stable.
The Canephora variety is known as Robusta. It was discovered in Congo in 1898 and selected to replace Arabica coffee, which was hit by rust deasease, which some decades earlier had wiped out plantations in Indonesia’s Dutch colonies. Its name derives from its high resistance to diseases and its ability to stand adverse weather conditions and grow at low altitudes.
Each plant of Robusta provides significant harvests and each coffee bean contains twice the amount of caffeine than the Arabica bean. Robusta is essential in the espresso blend: it provides a round body, offering distinctive intensity to pressure brewed coffee.
Over a period of six to eleven months, the flowers turn into drupes: the so-called coffee cherries. Inside, there are two beans leaning together by their flat sides, enclosed beneath the skin in a thin layer of yellow flesh, the precious pulp, that ferments and is essential during the first stage of transformation of the fruit into green gold. The flowers wither in a few hours, but many others bloom for a long period: each plant produces up to 30,000 a year. For this reason, the same plant has open flowers, withered flowers, green, yellow or red coffee cherries, according to their stage of ripeness.