The coffee plant belongs to the Rubiacee family, of the genera Coffea. Only two of the innumerable species are extensively cultivated: Arabica is certainly the most widespread and the finest, and grows at altitudes over 900 metres, whereas Robusta grows in lower plains with a tropical climate.
The production areas for coffee are divided into 4 geographic areas: South America (Brazil, Colombia and Peru produce excellent Arabica coffee); Central and Caribbean America (the finest Arabica coffee is produced between Mexico and Panama), Africa (many African countries produce Robusta coffee) and Asia (Vietnam, India and Indonesia mainly produce excellent quality Robusta).
Arabica is recognisable for its elongated bean with a sinuous groove: its caffeine content varies between 0.9% and 1.7% and ensures a very aromatic coffee, with a sweet rounded taste, and a pleasantly acidic touch. Robusta is recognisable for its rounded bean with a straight groove: its caffeine content varies between 1.6% and 2.8% and ensures a coffee which is full bodied with a stronger flavour and less aroma.
The Coffee plant flowers after the plentiful rainfalls which occur at regular times of the year in hot countries. The fruit develops over the course of 8/9 months in the form of a red berry, similar to our cherry, inside which are the seeds from which the green coffee bean is obtained by way of various methods of harvesting and drying. The harvesting is carried out by picking – done by hand, selecting only the mature berries – or by stripping, which is carried out with machinery or by hand, stripping the fruit and leaves from the branch. The process can be dry (unwashed coffee) or through fermentation with water (washed coffee).