It’s not uncommon for people to enjoy the simple things in life and not put a lot of thought into where they came from or how long it takes to grow them. Have you ever asked how long corn takes to grow in the field? What about lettuce or tomatoes? If you haven’t thought about the veggies in your favorite foods, then you most likely haven’t thought about the coffee trees that provide you with your morning cup of coffee.
Most coffee drinkers know that coffee is grown in subtropical areas at higher elevations. That doesn’t tell us how long coffee farmers work with the trees in hopes of having a successful harvest and providing us with tasty beans that make the best cups of coffee. The process takes roughly 3 to 4 years and depends on the variety of coffee being grown. Let’s take a look at the steps taken to get a cup of coffee in your hand so you can better appreciate the years of hard work that goes into the delicious goodness.
Planting a Coffee Seed
Coffee beans aren’t really beans, they’re seeds. When you have a bean from a flowering tree, that isn’t processed, you can plant it. The seeds aren’t taken outside and dumped into the ground. Instead, they are cared for in a nursery-type setting. The seedlings must be watered frequently and kept away from bright rays of sunshine. After a bit of time, when they are strong enough, they can be taken and planted in the soil. This should be done during the wet season, however, so they can be in moist soil while the roots take hold and become established.
If you’re growing Arabica seeds, you must ensure they are planted in the right climate and at the proper altitude. When it comes to Robusta beans, the name says it all. They are robust. This means they can withstand hotter climates, lower altitudes, and other harsher growing environments. This is why they are considered the cheaper coffee beans and in some people’s eyes, lower quality.
Making It to Maturity
The issue with some coffee trees is making it to maturity. Unfortunately, especially when it comes to the Arabica variety, issues can come into play and your plant can struggle to make it. Disease and pests are major issues when it comes to these plants. This is where so many farmers struggle with their trees as it takes constant care and attention to raise Arabica coffee to full maturity.
As we’ve already mentioned, Robusta trees are hardier. They don’t struggle with disease and pests like Arabica trees. You’ll also find that in some cases, these trees may reach maturity quicker thanks to the ease of growing and the conditions they thrive in.
Flowering and Cherries
While your coffee plant grows, it will begin to flower. This doesn’t mean they are ready to produce coffee beans, however. When the 3 to 4 years pass, the fruits will be greenish colored showing that they aren’t ripe. After a bit of time, normally 7 to 11 months, they’ll change color. You’ll see them turn a dark red color.
These cherries are similar in size to grapes. When you see them reach this stage, then they are ready to either be harvested using machines or picked by hand. Inside the cherries is where you’ll find the 2 flat seeds. These are the coffee beans that are processed and roasted to make coffee. If the coffee plant stays free of disease and other issues it can produce yearly for 15 to 25 years.
How Much Coffee Does a Tree Produce?
While 2 harvests a year are possible, in most cases, trees will only provide one. A tree that is mature and healthy can produce upwards of 2000 cherries per year. Inside these cherries are the 2 seeds, or beans, we’ve already mentioned. After a full harvest, one tree has the potential to provide 4000 coffee beans which equals 1 to 2 pounds of coffee. If you think about the amount of coffee you drink yearly, you’ll see why coffee farmers and their harvests are in such demand.
Caring for and nurturing coffee plants is a labor of love. With it taking between 3 to 4 years for a tree to reach maturity it is understandable why coffee farms have rows of trees that are constantly being harvested. The next time you open a can or bag of your favorite coffee, consider how long these farmers have been working to put that great taste in your pot. You’ll earn a new appreciation for those who work hard to keep us caffeinated.
Featured Image Credit: WIROJE PATHI, Shutterstock