The Delicate Ecosystem of Coffee Growing

Have you ever stopped to think about everything that has gone in to making your morning cup of coffee? Coffee requires a delicate ecosystem of just the right conditions to yield a high quality coffee bean. Everything from temperature, irrigation, soil, sun exposure, and elevation require precise conditions and even slight variations can ruin the coffee harvest.

Coffee plants require temperatures between 17-23 degrees Celsius. This is especially true for Arabica beans. The soil must be nitrogen and humus rich to balance the vegetative function of the coffee plant. Wind is also not well tolerated by the plants. Rainfall between 1500 and 2000 meters during the eight month growing season is needed unless irrigation systems are available.

Altitude is another important factor in the delicate ecosystem required by coffee plants. Arabica grows the best in high altitudes, and Robusta coffee grows best in the lower level plains. The Robusta plant cannot withstand too much sun, while the Arabica does better with sun exposure. These requirements have an impact on where plantations can be developed. Each coffee growing country will have its own characteristics. In Mexico you will find coffee growing high up in a mountain path. In Brazil, the coffee is traditionally grown over large plantations spread out over the valley.

Coffee is grown in regions near the equator where there is both a wet and dry season. These tropical regions do not have changing seasons with changing temperatures. They have two seasons that are regulated by changes in precipitation and humidity. These seasons usually cycle every few months and this allows for the coffee plant to blossom up to eight times a year. The same coffee bush can have both flowers and berries and be in different stages of maturity. The harvest is done in many different phases for each bush.

The ecosystem required to grow Arabica coffee beans affects the size of the shrubs and where they need to be planted. They do not tolerate sun, so they can usually be found growing under the shade of a larger tree.

The Robusta coffee bean variety, like its name suggests, is a little easier to sustain than the Arabica. It is generally grown in lowland areas and will allow for more sun during the growing period. Only about 20 percent of coffee produced is of the Robusta variety and it is generally considered a lower quality product than the Arabica coffee.

Growing coffee is a fine art that has been perfected over hundreds of years. Areas of the world that grow coffee have learned what is needed to produce the highest quality coffee bean in an ecosystem that allows for very few variations in conditions. From beginning to end it takes a precise system to allow for the greatest yields and the highest quality.