Growing and Harvesting : Flowering and Fruiting

In such regions as Brazil, where one or two rainy seasons each year are followed by dry seasons, the hills of the plantations whiten with blossoms all at once. In areas with sporadic rainfall the year around, like Sumatra, blossoms, unripe fruit, and ripe fruit may cohabit the trees simultaneously. Most coffee growing regions fall somewhere between these two extremes, with a broad season of flowering provoked by rain and a longish, relatively dry season of fruiting and harvest.

The scent of an entire coffee plantation in bloom can be so intense that sailors have reported smelling the perfume two or three miles out to sea. Such glory is short-lived, however; three or four days later, the petals are strewn on the ground and the small coffee berries, or cherries as they are called in the trade, begin to form clusters at the base of the leaves.

In six or seven months, the coffee cherries have matured; they are oval, about the size of your little finger. Most varieties turn bright red when ripe; a few varieties ripen to a golden yellow. Inside the skin and pulp are nestled two coffee beans with their flat sides together. Occasionally, there are three seeds in one cherry, but a more common aberration is cherries that contain just one seed, which grows small and round, and is sold in the trade as peaberry coffee. Each tree can produce between one and twelve pounds of coffee per year, depending on soil, climate, and other factors. The plants are propagated either from seed or from cuttings. If propagated from seed, a tree takes about three years to bear and six to mature.