The kafea or coffea fruit is commonly referred to as the tree’s ‘cherry’, due to its high similarity to the actual cherry’s size and color, especially when the kafea fruit is ripe. Each fruit typically has two kernels (seeds) which are actually the grains or beans of the coffee. The grain is usually divided into two or four parts but it may also stand alone – known as the Pearl Coffee.
From the moment the tree’s flower petals fall, the kafea fruit needs 6 to 7 months to mature. The tree blooms and bears fruits throughout the whole year. As a result, the cropping is nonstop and harvest is daily, ensuring a large production for each year. Most often, one can see a mixing of flowers and fruits on the same tree - ripe (red), unripe (green), and overripe fruits simultaneously. This gives the kafea tree a unique nature and appearance.
The coffee tree lasts for about 25 to 30 years. Each seedling produces an average of 2.5 kg of fruit per year, providing 500 grams of uncooked grains which roughly correspond to 400 grams of roasted coffee. The kafea tree thrives in humid, tropical climates which provide a fertile soil, abundant rainfall, and usually prefers an altitude of approximately 1300-2500 meters. It grows best in areas that belong to the equatorial zone between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. This is why, Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia are the largest coffee producers in the world.
Generally, the cultivation of the kafea tree is challenging and demands a lot of nurturing and care. We have explored previously the fact that the coffee tree prefers growing in the shade. Today, the practice of growing coffee under shade is usually associated with organic farming and is achieved by cultivating coffee under taller trees, frequently called “nannies”. Coffee suffers when winds are strong as well as when torrential rains of the tropical zone burst, obliging farmers to take various protective measures to shield the tree against the weather’s sudden changes. It is planted in sheltered, downhill terrains, which ward off the excessive water, in between other trees that hide the sun.
The soil, the climatic conditions, and the altitude determine the quality and taste of the final coffee product. It has been observed that coffee plants that grow to a height of over 900 meters above sea surface are more aromatic. The kafea fruits are harvested by hand. An experienced collector can gather up to 100 pounds a day. After the harvest, the seeds are processed, dried, and polished in order to be packaged in bags of 60-70 kg and promoted in trade.