Coffee plants cannot cope with too much heat or sun, high winds or any frost whatsoever. They need a stable climate with no extremes of temperature and an average of between 18 and 25°C. Coffee plants require 250 to 300 mm of rain per square metre, per year, which means annual rainfall must stand at 1500 to 2000 mm. In areas where the rainfall level is below 1000 mm per year the plants must be watered, if it is under 800 mm per year coffee will not be grown in the first place. Coffee cultivated at high altitudes of over 1200 m above sea level is particularly aromatic and classed as good quality (high-altitude coffee).

Coffee is usually propagated by seeds, i.e. the coffee beans. They reach their maximum germination capacity eight weeks after the fruit matures and the first leaves of the germ bud appear about six weeks after sowing. The seedlings are then replanted into containers and continue to grow in nursery beds. When the young coffee plants are eight months old, they are moved to an outside plantation and planted with a gap of 1 to 4 m between them, depending on the type of coffee in question. Optimum yields are achieved at three to five years and remain at the maximum level for 10 to 20 years, before dropping off.

Harvesting takes place once a year, twice in some regions. In the northern hemisphere harvesting is done from September to December, in the southern from April to August. It can take between 10 and 12 weeks to complete the harvest, since coffee cherries on the same bush will ripen at different speeds. “Selective picking” involves picking the coffee cherries by hand; this ensures that only ripe cherries are harvested and, as such, results in the best quality. The “stripping method” necessitates a lower quality, because all the cherries are stripped, either by hand or by a machine, regardless of their degree of ripeness.

Once harvested, the coffee beans are cleaned, sorted and roasted. The length of time and temperature are both crucial when it comes to roasting. The roasting time affects the caffeic acid present in the beans, which varies according to the type of coffee and its country of origin. Unwanted acids are destroyed during roasting, so slow-roasted, dark espresso beans are usually less acidic than light roasted beans. The heat causes sugar and protein to form aromatic compounds. Longer roasting times cause oils to escape from the beans; these oils add to the aroma and also give the beans a wonderful gloss, as is the case with espresso beans, for example. Coffee tastes best when it has been freshly roasted and will start to lose its aroma quite quickly. Once roasting is complete, the beans must be cooled down rapidly and packed straightaway if possible.

You will find more information about coffee here:
Coffee – Any time is coffee time | Origins and history | Arabica & robusta:
A comparison
| Preparation | Fair trade | Storage

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