Coffee is an evergreen tree (shrub) native to northern Africa. Coffee trees are self-pollinating and produce fruit called “cherries” that ripen from highly fragrant flowers to green to yellow and then to glossy red when mature.
The coffee plant is actually a tree. However, as the coffee cherries are difficult to harvest at the height of a fully-grown 30-40 foot tall tree, the plants are kept at the level of bushes. A mature coffee plant of 6-9 feet bears around 11-17 pounds of coffee cherries per year, which will yield anywhere between 1-5 pounds of dried beans.
The soil, climate, altitude, and surrounding plants that a coffee tree is exposed to during growth affect the flavor and amount of beans it produces. A tree provides maximum yields after 6 to 8 years.
Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee cherry. While most coffee cherries contain two beans, 5 to 10% of the time, only one bean is produced in the cherry. This is called a "peaberry."
Approximately 25 million acres worldwide are devoted to cultivating coffee with the ideal climate being that of tropical and sub-tropical regions.
Vegetative and seedling propagation are used to produce plantings to establish new plantations or replace damaged or unproductive trees. Most plants begin in nurseries, where they are tended for 6–18 months, then are transplanted to the field, where three to five years pass before the first crop.
Plant management consists of pruning, weed control, and fertilization to ensure best yields. Coffee trees are susceptible to natural destructive forces, such as climatic changes, insect infestation, and plant diseases such as coffee leaf rust and coffee berry disease (CBD).