Coffee beans are actually seeds and come from the Coffea plant, which is native to Ethiopia.
There are thousands of different species of the Coffea plant, however, only two; Arabica and Robusta (Coffea Canephora) are grown commercially in any quantity for consumption of the beans.
The coffee beans grow inside cherries which will normally contain two beans in each.
When the cherry is ripe and ready to be picked it will turn a dark red.
Coffee is harvested one of two ways, either mechanically by machine or by hand. Generally machine-harvested coffee will produce more under and overripe cherries as it will pick every cherry from the tree even if they are not ripe.
Hand picking is much more labour intensive but should result in a higher grade of coffee as only ripe cherries should be picked. This, however, does require multiple pickings as coffee cherries will ripen at different stages even on the same branch.
Where does coffee come from?
Coffee plants grow in the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, in an area that is known commonly as the coffee bean belt. The origin and the plantation where the coffee is grown will have a large impact on the flavour and the characteristics of the coffee. A good way to see this is to try a few coffees from different origins and note the differences.
The top 10 coffee producing countries are:
Guatemala, Mexico, Uganda, India, Honduras, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Colombia, Vietnam and Brazil.
What Happens Next?
There is still a long way to go from our freshly picked beans to the drink you all know and love.