Growing Coffee: From Plant to Cup

Written by: Carina P.



Time to read 6 min

Have you ever thought about how your beloved cup of coffee actually gets into your hands? The coffee that gets you out of bed in the morning and gives you energy for the day has had a long and fascinating journey. In this article we take you into the mysterious world of growing coffee. Immerse yourself in history with us, discover different types of coffee and find out how the right climatic conditions and the soil influence the taste of coffee. Ready for an expedition into the origins of your favorite drink?

The Origins of Coffee: A Historical Journey

The history of coffee begins in the 9th century in Ethiopia . The coffee bush was first discovered there and valued for its stimulating properties. The cultivation of coffee quickly spread throughout the Arab world. The first coffee house was built in Istanbul, then part of the Ottoman Empire, in the 16th century. A little later, coffee conquered Europe and became a global phenomenon. Coffeehouses around the world became important meeting places for social gatherings and intellectual exchange.

Arabica vs. Robusta: Types of coffee in comparison

Coffee is coffee, right? Not quite! There are different types of coffee, of which Arabica and Robusta are the best known. Arabica coffee, also called “Arabian Coffee”, has a mild aroma and is grown at higher altitudes where the temperature is milder.

Robusta coffee, as the name suggests, is more robust and stronger in taste. It thrives at lower altitudes and can tolerate higher temperatures and more rainfall. But there are many other varieties such as Liberica and Maragogipe, each with their own flavor nuances. Each variety has its unique characteristics and is valued by coffee lovers around the world. Which do you like the most?

Climate and soil: The perfect coffee atmosphere

The coffee plant is demanding when it comes to its environment. Climate and soil play a crucial role in growing coffee and influence the quality and taste. Coffee is an evergreen plant and can grow into a bush up to 3 meters high on plantations. The soil should have a certain pH value so that the plants can thrive optimally. Volcanic soils are particularly suitable due to their mineral-rich composition.

Most of the time, coffee plants require a constant temperature between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius and sufficient rainfall, preferably in the form of well-distributed rainfall. Coffee requires between 1500 and 2000 mm of rainfall per year and should not be exposed to more than 5 hours of sunshine per day. The coffee plant is particularly sensitive to frost. Even a short night's frost can ruin an entire harvest.

Coffee therefore grows primarily in the so-called “coffee belt”, which describes the tropics and subtropics around the equator 23° north to 25° south latitude. This area includes, for example, Ethiopia, Colombia , Brazil , India and Indonesia. The climate here is humid and dry, with average annual temperatures between 18 and 25 °C. Each region brings its own unique taste of coffee, shaped by climate, soil and farming methods. Brazilian coffee is often mild and chocolaty, while Ethiopian coffee is known for its floral and fruity notes.

The growing process of coffee

The path from coffee seed to cup of coffee is long. Before the plants even go into the ground, the growing area must be carefully selected. Then it’s time to plant. The choice of planting material, the distance between seedlings and proper care are crucial for a successful harvest. Most coffee plants take around three to five years to bear fruit for the first time. During this time they need to be watered and fertilized regularly.

Caring for coffee plants requires a lot of attention. Irrigation is crucial because plants require different amounts of water depending on the region. Too much or too little water can affect the quality of the crop. Fertilization is also important to ensure that plants receive all the necessary nutrients. Many coffee farmers use organic fertilizers to reduce environmental impact.

Coffee harvesting and processing

The harvest time depends on the coffee variety and the region. In some areas, coffee is harvested all year round, while in some countries there is only one main harvest per year. The way harvesting is carried out can also vary - from selective hand picking to mechanical harvesting. When hand picking, only the ripe coffee cherries are picked, which is time-consuming but ensures the quality of the harvest. With mechanical harvesting, however, all cherries are harvested at once and sorted later.

After coffee has been grown and harvested comes processing. Here the coffee is removed from its shells and pulp. There are various methods that influence the coffee and shape its taste. Dry processing is the oldest method and involves drying the cherries in the sun. Wet processing, on the other hand, involves removing the fruit shell, followed by fermentation and finally drying. There are also special processing methods such as Pulped Natural or Honey-Processing, each of which creates unique flavor profiles.

Sustainable coffee cultivation: More than just a trend

In an increasingly environmentally conscious world, the sustainable cultivation of coffee is an important issue. There are various certifications and standards that ensure that coffee is grown in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible manner. Preserving biodiversity on coffee plantations is a key concern because many animal and plant species live in these ecosystems. Fair working conditions for the coffee farmers are also a focus. By purchasing certified coffee, you can help ensure that farmers are paid fairly and have better living conditions.

Growing coffee in transition: challenges

Coffee cultivation faces several challenges. Climate change impacts growing conditions by affecting temperatures and rainfall. This can lead to crop failures and endanger coffee cultivation. Price volatility is another problem. The prices for green coffee fluctuate greatly, which can lead to uncertain incomes for coffee farmers in developing countries. In addition, many regions are struggling with a labor shortage because work on the plantations is often difficult and not very lucrative.

Trends and developments in coffee cultivation

The future of coffee farming is exciting. There are always new cultivation methods and technologies that improve coffee cultivation and make it more sustainable. An example of this is the increased use of shade trees on coffee plantations to protect the plants from too much sunlight and promote biodiversity. Coffee trends are also constantly changing, and the way we enjoy coffee is evolving. Coffee drinks with special flavors and preparation methods such as cold brew and pour over are on the rise and offer coffee lovers ever new taste experiences. What do you like the most?

Growing Coffee: A Trip Around the World in Every Cup

Growing coffee is a fascinating world full of stories, diversity and challenges. From coffee's origins in the distant lands of the Middle East to modern coffee regions around the globe, coffee cultivation has continued to evolve. Next time you enjoy your cup of coffee, remember how much work and passion goes into each bean. And don't forget to support sustainable coffee so that future generations can also experience this delicious treat. Cheers!

Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Coffee (FAQs)

Which types of coffee plants are most commonly grown?

The two main species are Arabica (Coffea arabica) and Robusta (Coffea canephora). Arabica is more commonly grown due to its mild flavor and more demanding growing requirements, while Robusta is more resilient to harsher conditions and contains more caffeine.

Where is coffee mainly grown?

Coffee is grown in the so-called “coffee belt” regions around the equator in countries such as Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Ethiopia and Indonesia. These areas offer the ideal climate for growing coffee.

How does the climate affect the cultivation of coffee?

Coffee requires a balanced climate with temperatures between 18 and 25 degrees Celsius and sufficient rainfall. Temperatures that are too high or frost can affect the harvest. Therefore, coffee is mainly grown in the tropics and subtropics.

Which soil conditions are important for growing coffee?

The soil should be deep, loose, well aerated and permeable. Coffee requires nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphoric acid. A neutral to slightly acidic pH value is ideal. Volcanic soils are often particularly suitable.

How does climate change affect the cultivation of coffee?

Climate change can affect coffee growing conditions by altering temperatures, rainfall and disease spread. This can lead to crop failure and quality problems.

Are there sustainable practices in coffee cultivation?

Yes, there are various certifications and standards for sustainable coffee cultivation that promote environmental protection and fair working conditions. Purchasing certified coffee supports these practices.