The science bit
Shrub up to 7m tall, but usually shorter in cultivation. Bark pale grey. Leaves up to 10cm long, lustrous green. Flowers fragrant and white. Fruits ellipsoid or obovoid, ripening red, yellow or purple. Pollinated by bees.
- Today coffee is a leading commodity in world trade. At the other end of the chain, it’s a different story. Beans are still usually picked by hand, labour is high and income low.
- Arabica coffee dominates the world market and is regarded by most people as producing the highest quality beans.
- The small round fruits contain the beans. They ripen at different times, making coffee production labour-intensive. Using machines increases productivity but reduces the quality of the coffee.
- Often under 10% of the retail price of this valuable product is earned by the exporting countries. Our sustainably grown Eden-brand coffee uses Rainforest Alliance-certified beans, shade-grown under diverse trees, preserving biodiversity and helping reduce the expected effects of climate change (higher temperatures, drought).
Where it grows
Originating in Ethiopia, this plant is cultivated in humid zones and deep, crumbly soil on undulating land in tropical Africa.
The drink produced from coffee has been a driving force in history. Starting life in Ethiopia, coffee travelled to the Yemen, took a pilgrimage to Mecca, wound up the whirling dervishes and gave birth to the coffee house in the Middle East. Exchanging news and views, wheeling and dealing, chin-wagging, and even plotting – these cafés provided the place, and the coffee the stimulation.
By the 1600s coffee and its houses reached Britain and continued to spawn intellect and commerce. Lloyds of London, the Tatler and the Royal Society all started life in coffee houses. Coffee fuelled the industrial age, and is still enjoyed by millions around the world.
Responsibly sourced coffee is on the increase: what you buy can make a difference to the people who produce the stuff!
- Ellipsoid: ellipse-shaped.
- Obovoid: three-dimensionally egg-shaped with widest part at the apex.