The coffee plant is an evergreen shrub, classified under the genus Coffea, and part of the botanical family Rubiaceae. There are several species of Coffea, the finest quality being Arabica, which today represents 59% of the world’s coffee production.
Arabica originated in the highlands of Ethiopia. It is sensitive to hot and humid conditions, and grows at altitudes of 1.25-1.55 miles. Arabica grown at higher altitudes is associated with the emergence of higher quality characteristics during roasting.
The coffee bean is actually the seed of the coffee plant, found inside a red fruit often called the cherry. Each cherry contains two seeds (beans) surrounded by a membrane called the parchment, and a layer of sweet pulp. Arabica beans are fairly flat and elongated, with a sinuous groove.
Genetically Arabica is the only species with 44 chromosomes of Coffea. Chemically, Arabica’s caffeine content varies from 0.9 to 1.7% of each bean’s volume.