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Coffea

Coffea (coffee) is a genus of ten species of flowering plants in the family Rubiaceae. They are shrubs or small trees, native to subtropical Africa and southern Asia. Seeds of this plant are the source of a stimulating beverage called coffee. The seeds are called "beans" in the trade. Coffee beans are widely cultivated in tropical countries in plantations for both local consumption and export to temperate countries. Coffee ranks as one of the world's major commodity crops and is the major export product of some countries. In fact, coffee ranks second only to petroleum in terms of legally-traded products worldwide.

Botany

When grown in the tropics coffee is a vigorous bush or small tree easily grown to a height of 3-3.5 m (10-12 feet). It is capable of withstanding severe pruning. It cannot be grown where there is a winter frost. Bushes grow best at high elevations. To produce a maximum yield of coffee berries (800-1400 kg per hectare), the plants need substantial amounts of water and fertilizer. Calcium carbonate and other lime minerals is sometimes used to reduce acidity in the soil, which can occur due to run off of minerals from the soil in mountainous areas.

There are several species of Coffea that may be grown for the beans, but Coffea arabica is considered to have the best quality. The other species (especially Coffea canephora (robusta)) are grown on land unsuitable for Coffea arabica. The tree produces red or purple fruits (drupes, or "coffee berries"), which contain two seeds (the "coffee beans", although not true beans). In about 5-10% of any crop of coffee cherries, the cherry will contain only a single bean, rather than the two usually found. This is called a 'peaberry' and contains a distinctly different flavor profile to the normal crop, with a higher concentration of the flavors, especially acidity, present due to the smaller sized bean. As such, it is usually removed from the yield and either sold separately (such as in New Guinea Peaberry), or discarded.

The coffee tree will grow fruits after 3-5 years, for about 50-60 years (although up to 100 years is possible). The blossom of the coffee tree is similar to jasmine in color and smell. The fruit takes about nine months to ripen. Worldwide, an estimate of 15 billion coffee trees are growing on 100,000 km of land.

Coffee is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Dalcera abrasa, Turnip Moth and some members of the genus Endoclita including E. damor and E. malabaricus.

Species
Coffea arabica - Arabica coffee
Coffea benghalensis - Bengal coffee
Coffea canephora - Robusta coffee
Coffea congensis - Congo coffee
Coffea excelsa - Liberian coffee
Coffea gallienii
Coffea bonnieri
Coffea mogeneti
Coffea liberica - Liberian coffee
Coffea stenophylla - Sierra Leonian coffee

History

Coffee probably originated in the Kingdom of Kaffa (now part of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region of Ethiopia), though there is controversy about its origins, with Yemen also suggested as an area of origin. One apocryphal tale claims that an Ethiopian goat-herder noticed his goats prancing about energetically, and found they were eating coffee berries, and tried some himself.

The crop first became popular in Arabia around the 13th century, and Islam's prohibition against alcoholic beverages probably enhanced its popularity. Before 1600, coffee production was a jealously guarded secret, and fertile beans were not found outside Arabia. Many consider the German botanist Leonhard Rauwolf to have first described coffee in a book published in 1583. Sometime after 1600, coffee trees were grown in India, possibly due to smuggling of fertile beans. Around 1650, coffee importation into England began and coffeehouses opened in Oxford and London. Coffee planting began in the English colonies, but a disease wiped out the plantations, leading the English to re-plant with tea instead.

By the 18th century, the beverage had become popular in Europe, and European colonists had introduced coffee to tropical countries worldwide as a plantation crop to supply domestic demand. At the end of the 19th century, plantations in Brazil alone were producing over 80% of the world's coffee crop. At the same time, European demand for coffee was so strong that when genuine coffee beans were scarce, people developed similar-tasting substitutes from various roasted vegetable substances, such as chicory root, dandelion root, acorns, or figs. For example, the British used acorns as a coffee substitute during World War II when German U-boats blockaded Britain.

The major coffee-producing countries are Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Mexico, India, and Puerto Rico but coffee is grown in over 70 countries (2003 USDA and ICO data). Major importers are United States, Germany, Japan, France, Italy, and Spain (2002 USDA data), and per-capita consumers of coffee are Finland (11 kg), Denmark (9.7 kg), Norway (9.5 kg), Sweden (8.6 kg), and Austria (7.8 kg). The United States, while the largest importing country, only ranks 16th (4.1 kg) in per-capita consumption (2001 USDA data).

Coffea (coffee) is a genus of ten species of flowering plants in the family Rubiaceae. They are shrubs or small trees, native to subtropical Africa and southern Asia. Seeds of this plant are the source of a stimulating beverage called coffee. The seeds are called "beans" in the trade. Coffee beans are widely cultivated in tropical countries in plantations for both local consumption and export to temperate countries. Coffee ranks as one of the world's major commodity crops and is the major export product of some countries. In fact, coffee ranks second only to petroleum in terms of legally-traded products worldwide.