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December 2015

Did you know that according to legend, human cultivation of coffee began after goats in Ethiopia?

Coffea - Coffee Tree ( Coffea arabica). Flowers and fruits

Coffea - Coffee Tree - Coffea arabica

Coffea is a genus of flowering plants whose seeds, called coffee beans, are used to make coffee. It is a member of the family Rubiaceae. They are shrubs or small trees native to tropical and southern Africa and tropical Asia. Coffee ranks as one of the world's most valuable and widely traded commodity crops and is an important export product of several countries, including those in Central and South America, the Caribbean and Africa.

In total, there are 125 coffee species, which occur naturally in Africa, the Indian Ocean Islands, (Madagascar, Comoros, and the Mascarenes), southern Asia, south east Asia and Australia. Several species of Coffea may be grown for the seeds. Arabica and Robusta coffee are the main beverage species, with a small percentage of Liberica coffee (Coffea liberica) grown for commercial purposes. Coffea arabica accounts for 75-80 percent of the world's coffee production, while Coffea canephora accounts for about 20 percent. Other species in East Africa and Madagascar are sometimes used locally to make coffee on a very small scale.

Coffea arabica is native to northeast Tropical Africa (Southern Ethiopia, South Sudan (Boma Plateau), the mountainous regions of Yemen; and possibly East Tropical Africa (Kenya, Mt Marsabit). It is sometimes naturalised in tropical areas. Arabica coffee grows at 950 m to 1,950 m above sea level. It is also known as the "coffee shrub of Arabia", "mountain coffee", or "arabica coffee". C. arabica is believed to be the first species of coffee to be cultivated.

Wild plants grow between 9 and 12 m (29 and 39 ft) tall, and have an open branching system. Én plantations they are usually pruned to take the form of a small shrub ( 2 to 8 m tall). The leaves are opposite, simple elliptic-ovate to oblong, 6–12 cm (2.4–4.8 in) long and 4–8 cm (1.6–3.2 in) broad, glossy dark green. The flowers are white, 10–15 mm in diameter and grow in axillary clusters. They are hermaphroditic and sweet-scented, the corolla white, tubular, normally with 5 lobes. The fruits are  drupeó, 10–15 mm in diameter, usually red but sometimes yellow or purple at maturity. The outer layer is soft, edible and sweet-tasting, containing two or sometimes one 'seed' (the coffee seeds) — actually a seed encased in a hard, almost crispy outer layer which together forms a structure known as a pyrene; this outer layer is removed by milling. The seed itself is pale fawn or brown (dark brown only after roasting) and has a characteristic groove on its inner surface, which curls round inside the seed.

C. arabica takes about seven years to mature fully, and does best with 1.0–1.5 meters (about 40–59 inches) of rain, evenly distributed throughout the year. It is usually cultivated between 1,300 and 1,500 m altitude, but plantations grow it as low as sea level and as high as 2,800 m.

The plant can tolerate low temperatures, but not frost, and does best with an average temperature between 15 and 24 °C (59 and 75 °F). Commercial cultivars mostly only grow to about 5 m, and are frequently trimmed as low as 2 m to facilitate harvesting. Unlike Coffea canephora, C. arabica prefers to be grown in light shade.

Two to four years after planting, C. arabica produces small, white, highly fragrant flowers. The sweet fragrance resembles the sweet smell of jasmine flowers. Flowers opening on sunny days result in the greatest numbers of berries. This can be a curse, however, as coffee plants tend to produce too many berries; this can lead to an inferior harvest and even damage yield in the following years, as the plant favours the ripening of berries to the detriment of its own health.

On well-kept plantations, overflowering is prevented by pruning the tree. The flowers only last a few days, leaving behind only the thick, dark-green leaves. The berries then begin to appear. These are as dark green as the foliage, until they begin to ripen, at first to yellow and then light red and finally darkening to a glossy deep red. At this point they are called “cherry” and are ready for picking.

The berries are oblong and about 1 cm long. Inferior coffee results from picking them too early or too late, so many are picked by hand to be able to better select them, as they do not all ripen at the same time. They are sometimes shaken off the tree onto mats, which means ripe and unripe berries are collected together.

Arabica coffee’s first domestication in Ethiopia is obscure, but cultivation in Yemen is well documented by the 12th century. According to legend, human cultivation of coffee began after goats in Ethiopia. Á goatherd noticed that his goats bacame unusually alert and frisky after eating the leaves and fruits of the coffee tree. People sampled the beans and determined that they might be useful for keeping people awake during evening religious ceremonies. In Ethiopia, people in some locales still drink an herbal tea made from the leaves of the coffee tree.

The first written record of coffee made from roasted coffee beans comes from Arab scholars, who wrote that it was useful in prolonging their working hours. The Arab innovation in Yemen of making a brew from roasted beans, spread first among the Egyptians and Turks, and later on found its way around the world. Other scholars believe that the coffee plant was introduced into Yemen from Abyssinia, based on a Yemeni tradition that slips of both coffee and qat were planted at 'Udein ('the two twigs') in Yemen in pre-Islamic times.

Coffee became a popular drink in Europe from the seventeenth century onwards, being imported from plantations established first by the Dutch in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Java, and later from plantations in Brazil and the West Indies established in the eighteenth century. Much of the world’s Arabica coffee is produced in Latin America.

The stimulating effects of coffee are largely due to the alkaloid caffeine contained in the seeds. As well as a beverage, coffee is used for flavouring foods and confectionery. The beans are also a commercial source of caffeine, a by-product of making de-caffeinated coffee. Caffeine is added to soft drinks and medicines as a stimulant and diuretic. Roasted and ground coffee is a constituent of traditional medicines in South-East Asia to alleviate stomach ache and diarrhoea, to increase blood pressure, and as a diuretic. In some countries coffee leaves are used to make a hot drink, like tea.

Coffee wood, from the main trunk, is used locally in construction. David Livingstone, the nineteenth century explorer and missionary, reported seeing coffee trees being used to make huts in his travels in southern Africa. The timber is straight, dense, strong and partially resistant to termites. The wood is also used for furniture and as fuel wood.


Source:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffea
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffea_arabica
http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/
coffea-arabica-arabica-coffee

 

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