Arabica Coffee Beans

Written by Sarah Provost
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Arabica coffee beans account for about 70 percent of the world's coffee. Arabica was the earliest species of coffee tree to be cultivated, first in Ethiopia and then in Arabia. Arabica coffee beans are unanimously considered to be superior to all other commercially sold beans, such as Robusta.

The evergreen Arabica tree can grow to 20 feet, but on the plantations it is kept pruned to a height of six to eight feet. The small, star-shaped white blossoms are so fragrant that a plantation in bloom can be detected two or three miles out to sea! Six to seven months later, oval red (or sometimes yellow) berries, two to three inches long, cover the tree. A mature tree produces up to 12 pounds of coffee a year.

These berries, or "cherries" as they are commonly called, usually contain two seeds, or beans, which grow with their flat sides together. Occasionally a cherry will contain only one round seed. These are separated out and sold as premium "peaberry" coffee.

Varietal Arabica Coffee Beans

Just as different varieties of grapes produce distinctively different wines, there is a wide range of varietal Arabica coffee beans, each resulting in an individual cup. Furthermore, the characteristic flavor of any variety seems to be hugely influenced by growing conditions. The Kona coffees of Hawaii, for instance, were planted on other Hawaiian islands. The coffee that resulted was markedly inferior, even though it was from the same beans.

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