Coffee is a beloved beverage enjoyed by millions of people around the world. But where does this delicious drink come from? Coffee is grown in tropical climates, with optimal conditions including cold to warm temperatures, rich soils, and few pests or diseases. The world coffee belt extends along the equator, with crops in North, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The ideal temperature for coffee growth is between 64 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit, with an average temperature range of 15 to 24 °C for Arabica coffee and 24 to 30 °C for Robusta.
Arabica coffee grows best at higher altitudes and is often found in mountainous areas, while Robusta can be grown between sea level and 800 meters. Coffee needs an annual rainfall of 1500 to 3000 mm, and Arabica needs less than other species. Photosynthesis is key to coffee growth, so protection from direct sunlight and heavy rainfall tends to provide good conditions for growing coffee. Coffee is usually grown from seeds, and each tree takes on average 3-5 years to bear fruit.
The fruits, or cherries, are rounded and ripen in 7 to 9 months; they usually contain two flat seeds, coffee beans. Traditional methods such as shade-grown coffee are reappearing as the industry seeks to sustain its future. Coffee crops are not equipped to withstand torrential rains for prolonged periods, nor can they withstand severe drought. This requires the attention of coffee producers, since high-quality coffee is largely due to cherry picking when it is at its peak ripening.
Small Mexican coffee farms are more common than large ones, but with more than 100,000 coffee growers, Mexico is one of the largest coffee producing countries in the world. It is recognized that arabica beans taste better than robustas and are generally the variety used exclusively in finest specialty coffees. Usually, a small farm relies solely on coffee for economic income, and balances this with subsistence farming of a multitude of other crops on the same land. Everything from the variety of the plant, the chemistry of the soil, the climate, the amount of rain and sun, and even the precise altitude at which the coffee grows can affect the taste of the final product.
The world's most famous coffee-producing countries are located in what is known as “The Bean Belt” - an area located between latitudes 25 degrees north and 30 degrees south. Coffee needs just the right amount of sunlight to develop its best flavors - not too much or too little throughout the day. Coffee experts often refer to this area as the “coffee bean belt” and it is home to some of the world's largest coffee producers including Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia.