Coffee Bush

A few years ago, I had the pleasure to tour a central coast rare fruit farm.  I got to see and and sample some of the exotic trees that we don’t usually associate with California gardening.  One of my favorite plants on the tour was a coffee bush.  And technically, the coffee plant (Coffea arabica)is a bush, not a tree, but the size of the coffee plant makes it perfect for containers.
Sure, I’d seen TV commercials with farmers picking coffee, and saw Juan Valdez carting coffee bags off to market, but that did not prepare me for the real coffee plant.  They are thick with gorgeous dark green glossy leaves, and would be beautiful on their own, without the berries.  The fruits, called cherries, are shaped like a very small olive and start out a glossy dark green, and gradually turn to a deep red as they mature.  Once they mature, the cherries can harvested for coffee beans.  The coffee bean is the inner seed portion of the cherry, and there are only two beans per cherry. You’ll have to take care of the plant for a long time to get that whole pot of perked coffee.

 A fresh coffee bean is as hard as a pebble, but has a fresh, fruity, astringent flavor more resembling green tea than the roasted coffee we enjoy.  In order for the beans to resemble the beans we buy at the grocery store, they have to be slowly roasted for hours.

One downside of having a container coffee plant is that it does need lots of water and it does better with humidity.  The plant does not tolerate frost, so you will have to move it or protect it during certain times of the year.  Coffee plantation plants are located under other trees to get partial shade, so if you are growing the coffee plant in a container, you can put it near your home, away from the afternoon sun.  If you are placing it in your community garden plot, plan a row of tall corn or set up some bean poles hung with burlap or planted with hyacinth beans or gourds.

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