GREEN COFFEE BEANS - Coffee shrubs (Coffea arabica), which belong to the madder (Rubiaceae) family, are shrubs with evergreen, leathery leaves, white flowers and spherical, reddish purple stone fruits, known as coffee cherries. Originally native to East Africa, coffee was cultivated for the first time in Brazil in 1740. The coffee shrub thrives in a tropical climate in shady locations with high rainfall in both mountainous areas (Coffea arabica, see below) and lowlying areas (Coffea liberica, Coffea robusta).
Since the coffee shrub blossoms throughout the year, each shrub carries fruits at all the various stages of development.
Green coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee shrub, which are disengaged completely from the husk and to a considerable extent from the seed coat (silver skin). In general, each coffee cherry contains two coffee beans, which lie with their flat sides together and exhibit longitudinal furrows in the middle of these sides.
Coffee beans contain the alkaloid caffeine (0.8 - 2.5%), which has a stimulating effect on the human nervous system, for which reason coffee is counted as a semiluxury item.
There are three varieties of coffee shrub which are of economic significance:
1. Coffea arabica, the Arabian shrub.
Plantations are generally at heights of over 1000 m, which make it a "highland coffee". The average length of coffee beans of this variety is approx. 9 mm and their color is greenish to blue-green.
The coffee beans of this variety are more expensive, the higher the plantations, as the fruits ripen more slowly at greater heights, becoming horny and hard and containing only little moisture. They consequently have a strong, full flavor. They have a caffeine content of approx. 1.2%. This variety accounts for 75 - 80% of the world's coffee harvest.
2. Coffea robusta, the robusta coffee shrub.
This is a "lowland" coffee, as its plantations are as a rule below 1000 m. The beans of this coffee variety are small, roundish and generally brownish to yellowy green. The coffee cherries ripen more quickly and their beans have a higher water content than highland coffee and generally have a less powerful flavor. They have a caffeine content of approx. 2.3%.
3. Coffea liberica, the Liberian coffee shrub.
A lowland coffee, whose beans, though larger than those of Coffea arabica, are less highly regarded because of their sharp flavor.
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