Coffee tree requires specific, temperate climate, with no low temperatures and lots of sunny days. Coffee trees grow at up to 2000 metres above sea level on various types of soil and under different microclimate conditions. Coffee cultivation areas are not concentrated in one part of the world but situated in wide equatorial zones of America, Africa, Arabia and Indonesia with most desirable, mild climate and temperature never dropping below 0°C.
Coffee was originally cultivated in Ethiopia and on the Arabian Peninsula but it spread to other parts of the world thanks to travelling merchants. Coffee plant grows in bunches, on a tree that in natural environment may reach up to 6 metres but for the purpose of easier harvesting coffee trees on plantations are cut back and maintained at a height of maximum 3 metres. Coffee tree initially produces very fragrant but short-lasting flowers that release a delicate odour resembling the combination of jasmine and orange blossom. The flowers are followed by cherry-like fruits and it takes three to five years for the coffee trees to produce their first harvest. An average coffee tree produces 1 to 3 kg of coffee per harvest season. Humidity, climate, altitude, soil as well as the surrounding plants are all factors that influence the aroma and the quality of the coffee tree’s fruit.
Coffee usually thrives in tropical zones with fine humus soil in areas with an average temperature of 20°C and with no risk of frost. Particularly good conditions for cultivation of coffee are on cleared land as it is the case in Brazil. This country is by far the largest and most famous producer and exporter of coffee. Due to uneven ripening, so characteristic of coffee, the harvest season in Brazil lasts from May to August.
Coffee grows worldwide on an area of approximately 1,070,000 ha. An average yield of 552 kg/ha produces about 5,700,000 tons of raw coffee per year.
According to quantity of produced coffee, the biggest exporters are: Brazil, Columbia, Vietnam, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, Kenya, India, Uganda, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Ecuador, the Philippines, Honduras, El Salvador and Peru and the leading importer of coffee from Columbia, Mexico and Brazil is the USA.
Different species and varieties of coffee, method of cultivation and market preparation vary from region to region and from country to country.
Aroma and flavour are very important characteristics of coffee but cannot be determined by raw coffee. They are not expressed fully until after roasting. Raw coffee has pungent and sharp taste.