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Arabica

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Coffea arabica is a species of coffee tree that produces arabica coffee, accounting for the majority of the coffee consumed in the world. This species of tree is the oldest known tree to be cultivated for coffee production. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was virtually the only type of tree from which coffee was harvested commercially.

Coffea-arabica
Drawing of Coffea arabica
ScottWAdded by ScottW

HistoryEdit

Coffea arabica is native to central Ethiopia. The name arabica was given to this species of coffee by the botanist Carolus Linnaeus who incorrectly believed that it originated on the Arabian peninsula in modern-day Yemen. There is still debate over whether it was first cultivated in East Africa or on the Arabian peninsula[1].

CharacteristicsEdit

Fully grown, coffea arabica is between fourteen to fifteen feet tall and bushy (however, it should be noted that a properly pruned tree generally will not reach this height). It has dark-green, lance-shaped leaves, approximately three to six inches long. The underside of the leaves are substantially lighter than the top side[2].

The white and fragrant flowers of the coffea arabica tree grow in clusters in the axils of the leaves. Even on a single tree, the number of petals on a flower vary from blossom to blossom. In hot and dry conditions, the flowers are generally smaller and more numerous. However, if the conditions are too dry, the flowers will not bear as much of the fruit that will develop into the coffee harvest[3].

Coffeecherry
Ripe and unripe coffee cherries on a limb.
ScottWAdded by ScottW

The cherries of the arabica coffee tree contain an elliptical pit which typically consists of two coffee beans. In rare cases, the pit may actually be made from three beans, however, a more common mutation occurs when there is only one coffee bean in a cherry. These beans are referred to as peaberry[4].

The number of times coffee may be harvested from an arabica tree varies widely and is dependent on factors such as the variety of the tree and the growing climate. A single tree typically produce from one to twelve pounds of coffee annually (although in rare instances, significantly more)[5].

Growing conditionsEdit

The Arabica trees are generally considered more delicate than other species of coffee trees, especially Coffea canephora. They grow best at altitudes between 3000 to 6000 feet in a climate that does not experience freezing temperatures, yet does not reach extremes of heat)[6]. At lower elevations, these trees require shade from other trees to thrive, but this shelter is less necessary at higher elevations or in cooler climates[7].

The ideal temperature range for an Arabica tree is from 60 to 74 degrees fahrenheit (15 to 24° celcius). Above this range, the trees will not grow as well. Additionally, these trees are susceptible to frost, potentially losing both the leaves and the coffee cherries if the temperature is too cool. The growing climate should also have an average annual rainfall between 47 and 98 inches (1200 to 2500 millimeters). Soil for the coffee trees should be slightly acidic with good drainage[8].

Arabica trees are generally more susceptible to disease, particularly coffee rust. In the late 1800s, a large percentage of the arabica coffee trees were wiped out from coffee rust, to be replaced by hardier, but less palatable, species[9].

After three or four years, a coffee tree will begin to produce a harvestable crop, but they do not reach full production until six to eight years later. The tree's lifespan can exceed one-hundred years[10].

ReproductionEdit

Arabica trees reproduce by either seed or cutting. For both artificial and natural means, the most common method of reproduction is by seed. Natural propagation is mostly a result of birds consuming the coffee cherries and then spreading them once they pass through the bird's digestive tract. Eight week old seeds have a superior germination rate than do fresh seeds, succeeding in germinating 95% of the time within a thirty-two day period. Seeds stored more than 21 weeks at room temperature[11].

CultivarsEdit

VarietiesEdit

  • Arabica
  • Blue Mountain
  • Bourbon
  • Catuai Amarelo
  • Catuai Vermelho
  • Columnaris
  • Erecta
  • Mokka
  • Maragopipe
  • Mundo Novo
  • Purpurascens
  • San Ramon
  • Typica

ReferencesEdit

  1. Kenneth Davids (2003). Home Coffee Roasting: Romance & Revival, Rev. updated ed., 15. ISBN 0312312199.
  2. William H. Ukers (1922). “The Botany of the Coffee Plant”, All about Coffee, 133. ISBN 0810340925.
  3. William H. Ukers (1922). “The Botany of the Coffee Plant”, All about Coffee, 133-135. ISBN 0810340925.
  4. William H. Ukers (1922). “The Botany of the Coffee Plant”, All about Coffee, 136. ISBN 0810340925.
  5. William H. Ukers (1922). “The Botany of the Coffee Plant”, All about Coffee, 136-138. ISBN 0810340925.
  6. Mark Pendergrast (1999). “The Coffee Kingdoms”, Uncommon Grounds: The history of coffee and how it transformed our world, 26. ISBN 0465054676.
  7. William H. Ukers (1922). “The Botany of the Coffee Plant”, All about Coffee, 133. ISBN 0810340925.
  8. John K. Francis, United States Forest Service - Coffea Arabica
  9. Mark Pendergrast (1999). “The Coffee Kingdoms”, Uncommon Grounds: The history of coffee and how it transformed our world, 43-44. ISBN 0465054676.
  10. John K. Francis, United States Forest Service - Coffea Arabica
  11. John K. Francis, United States Forest Service - Coffea Arabica
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