The Coffee Tree

There are about 25 different varieties of coffee trees. Some are short, and others can reach the height of ten or more meters tall.

Most coffee plants reach a height of anywhere between 1.5 and 2 meters, so workers can easily harvest their fruit. The trees have dark green leaves, and exquisite flowers that look like snowy-white Jasmine trees. The flowers bud on the stem in white branched clusters, turning yellow, and then, when the flower is fully mature, they turn red, looking very much like red cherries. This is the source of the name “Nakhly” original coffee, sold in its signature red packages.

The coffee tree is a tropical plant that grows between the latitudes of 25º North and 25º South, but requires very specific environmental conditions, which include temperature, rainfall, sunlight, wind, and soil type.

All of these conditions affect the coffee tree. The ideal average temperature for raising coffee ranges from 15º to 24º Celsius for the best varieties, and from 24º and 30º for others. These trees are very sensitive to cold weather, because they can’t tolerate lower temperatures that would damage the harvest. Frost can devastate the coffee harvest of an entire country, a situation that occurred in Brazil a number of years ago. Usually, a coffee tree will require from 1,500 to 3,000 milliliters of annually. The timing of the rainfall and precipitation gaps are critical for the proper ripening and flowering of the plant, and in how the soil and roots receive their moisture.

High-quality coffee plants grow at an altitude of 600 meters and above. A plant growing at an altitude ranging from 600 to 800 meters is considered to produce average-quality coffee, while a tree at an altitude of 800 to 1,200 meters is considered very high quality coffee, and one at 1,200 meters and above is considered top-rate quality.

The height of the plant has a considerable effect on the taste of the coffee: the higher the tree, the better the coffee.

Many imported coffee brands grow at an altitude of over 1,200 meters, resulting in better flavors. Coffee grown at an altitude of 1,200 meters and on very steep slopes can make the process of harvesting coffee berries very arduous. In these conditions, no machinery can reach the berries, so they are picked by hand and transferred via livestock to coffee collection hubs.

Soil type

Soil can greatly affect the taste of coffee varieties. Volcanic soil is rich in nutrients, giving the coffee superior flavor.

A most remarkable phenomenon occurs in areas with active volcanoes. The volcanoes release nutrient-rich soil into the air, and when it rains, this soil adheres to the water droplets and becomes a natural, ultimate fertilizer, which gives the coffee berries a very unique nutrient-rich flavor. This improves the taste considerably, thanks to the nutrients in the soil that are absorbed by the coffee shrub.

Tree type

The type of coffee plant affects the taste and appears of the coffee berries. The berries produced by some tree species may be large and beautiful, but their flavor is inferior. Other trees produce unattractive berries with an excellent flavor.

Many coffee tree varieties have been developed. Resistance to disease and increased yield are important factors in this process, but the trees don’t necessarily produce berries with a different flavor. To understand this better, let’s compare the berries to olives. There are many olive tree varieties, such as the Souri, the Nabali, the Manzanilla, and so forth. Each olive species has its unique appearance and taste, and these can vary even within the same tree, or between different regions.