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Is Coffee a Fruit? The Truth About Coffee Plants

coffee-roast beans pixabay

The difference between fruits and vegetables may seem like kindergarten material, but it is a lot more complicated than you might think. Tomatoes, zucchinis, and peppers are all fruits! And as you enjoy your morning cup of joe, you may wonder: is coffee a fruit?

The answer — surprisingly — is kind of yes. Coffee beans grow inside the fruit, like an edible peach pit. Here’s what you need to know so you can get this coffee trivia question right!

The Short Answer
Coffee is a kind of fruit — and not a vegetable. The coffee plant does produce fruits, usually called coffee cherries. The coffee bean is the seed in the center of the fruit.

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What is Coffee?

The coffee beans you pour into your grinder every morning are the roasted seeds of the coffee plant. Coffee plants are flowering shrubs that produce berries. Though they’re called cherries, these fruits aren’t related to the kind of cherry you might put in a pie. When these cherries ripen, coffee growers pick them and process them, removing the fruit and letting the green coffee beans inside dry out.

Coffee bean cherry inside
The inside of a coffee cherry

Before they get to you, a roaster typically buys those green coffee beans and roasts them. Now they are the aromatic brown bean you recognize!

Fruits vs Vegetables

You probably have a pretty good idea of what fruits and vegetables are — but maybe not an accurate one! It doesn’t come down to savory vs sweet like you might expect.

banana coffee smoothie

Vegetables are the edible part of a plant — like a carrot, parsnip, or onion. Fruits are the reproductive product of a plant, not an actual part of it, which means they have seeds inside them — like an apple or a banana. That definition puts tomatoes and squashes solidly in the fruit category!

Is Coffee a Fruit?

So is coffee a fruit? Coffee cherries are fruits because they’re the seed-containing product of the coffee plant, not an actual part of the plant like the root. Coffee plants produce fruit, and coffee beans grow inside that fruit. So some parts of coffee are fruits — strange, right?

coffee beans
Coffee cherry processing | Image Credit: carllilo3070, Pixabay

And Are Coffee Beans a Fruit?

No, coffee beans themselves aren’t fruit. The fruit part of the plant is long gone by the time you are looking at a roasted coffee bean. It’s sort of like tossing out the fleshy part of the peach and eating only the pit — but in this case, the pit is the only tasty part of the fruit!

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The Truth About Coffee Plants: Wrapping Up

We hope this has told you everything you need to know to show up your know-it-all friends! Is coffee a fruit? Yes, coffee cherries are fruits, and coffee beans are the seeds that grow inside them. Maybe we should change the saying to “a cup of coffee a day keeps the doctor away”?



Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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