Coffee Plant 101

While coffee is one of the most common commodities on Earth, few people have actually seen a coffee plant. How much do you know about what happens before roasted beans are bagged and sold? If you're like most, not much. Let's shed some light on this mystery plant, shall we?

The coffee plant is classified as a woody perennial evergreen of the Rubiceae family. While called plants, they're really small trees or shrubs, since they have primary, secondary, and tertiary branches and can grow to be over 30 feet.

Arabica and Robusta are the species most commonly cultivated. Of the two, Coffea Arabica makes up nearly 80% of the world's coffee plants. Arabica is considered the superior to Coffea Canephora, or Robusta, due to its flavor and aroma profile as well as lower caffeine content.

After four years of being planted, both Arabica and Robusta plants will blossom, producing fragrant white flowers. The pollination process begins next. Arabica is self pollinating, while Robusta relies on cross pollination. After 30-35 weeks after pollination, the berries will become fully developed and ripe -- ready for harvest.

The caffeine that makes coffee a morning must-have for most people acts as a natural defense, protecting the plant and berries from most herbivores. Amazingly, the coffee plant has also become a major source of oxygen in some parts of the world, producing as much as 86 pounds of oxygen per hectare (212.5 acres) per day. So, as you're sipping your morning cup of Joe, take a moment to appreciate the plants behind those beans.