Coffee plays a huge role in our everyday lives, yet how many of us know where coffee comes, let alone what a coffee cherry looks like?
The size of the fruit varies between the different varieties of coffee, but mostly they are the size of a small grape. All coffee cherries start out green and later develop deeper colours as the fruit starts to mature. The skin is usually a deep red colour when ripe, though some trees produce a yellow fruit.
While fruit colour isn't thought to influence yield, yellow-fruiting trees have often been avoided as it is a lot harder to determine when the coffee fruit is ripe.
Red fruit starts green, goes through a yellow stage and then turns red, making it much easier to identify the ripeness of the fruit. Ripeness is tied to the quantity of sugar in the fruit, which is extremely important when growing delicious coffee. Generally speaking, the more sugar in the fruit the better. However, different producers harvest their coffee cherries at different stages of ripeness, as some believe that a mixture of cherries picked at different stages of ripeness can add complexity to a coffee.
The flesh of the coffee fruit is surprisingly delicious and sweet when ripe and offers a pleasing honeydew melon sweetness with a hint of acidity.
The seed, or coffee bean, is made up of several different layers. Most of these layers are removed during processing, leaving behind the delicious bean we grind and brew. The seed has a protective layer, called the parchment, then a thinner layer wrapped around it, called the silverskin.
Most coffee cherries contain two seeds, which face each other inside the berry, becoming flattened along one side as they develop. Occasionally, only one of the two seeds inside a berry will germinate and grow and these are known as peaberries. Peaberries are usually separated from the rest of the crop and some people believe they have desirable qualities or that they roast in a different way to the flattened beans.
(Information provided from: The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffmann)