Coffee fruit is the fruit produced by the coffee plant, also called the coffee cherry or coffee berry. These fruits are classed as stone fruit and look a bit like a cherry.
It’s the stones inside the fruit that is roasted and ground to make coffee. The flesh portion of the fruit is usually discarded. However, the outer part can be used to make cascara tea, extracts and supplements as it is said to have health benefits.
The fruit of the coffee plant usually contains two stones or sometimes only one. A single stone coffee fruit is what they use to make a more rare type of coffee called Peaberry coffee.
Most people are familiar with the coffee bean, but it’s not well known that the coffee bean is the seed inside the coffee fruit. Interesting right?
The Coffee Plant
Coffee fruit grows on the coffee shrub or tree. These shrubs can grow between 5 and 10 metres tall. The older the shrub the more leaves and fruit it will deliver. Shrubs aren’t harvested in the first three years and are likely to need replanting after 15-20 years. Growing conditions for the coffee plant are quite specific. Arabica beans need a mild climate where Robusta beans can grow in slightly warmer weather. Coffee plants are usually grown at a higher altitude.
The coffee tree needs a lot of water at the start of the season and likes afternoon shade or even cloud cover. That’s one of the reasons coffee grow really well in the Kona district in Hawaii. The combination of sun, rain, cloud cover and volcanic rock is exceptional growing conditions for good coffee.
What Does Coffee Fruit Taste Like?
The flesh of the coffee fruit is slightly sweet, but not very sweet, and tastes quite refreshing. You can pick up the fruitiness. Perhaps with a hint of watermelon or apricot if we have to put a name to it. There isn’t much flesh on the coffee fruit itself, the skin is quite rough and taut. And there’s a slimy layer, similar to that of the Marula fruit found in Africa when you peel the skin off.
The taste of the coffee fruit is quite pleasant. It’s not as good as a strawberry of course, but it’s not as bad as eating raw olives either. If you’ve ever been crazy enough to bite into a freshly picked olive and you live to tell the tale, you’ll definitely survive the taste of coffee fruit as it’s not bitter at all so feel free to give it a taste if you ever get the chance. It’s quite pleasant, but a bit slimy as mentioned.
If you’d like to know what coffee fruit tastes like you can try cascara tea or coffee cherry tea. This tea is a by-product of coffee as it’s made from the husks or peel of the coffee fruit. Cascara tea helps to use the waste generated by coffee-making, so if you’re looking for ways to reduce waste in the world drinking cascara tea is a fun way to help contribute. Once you’ve made your tea you can compost the discarded peels.
Can you Eat the Fruit of Coffee?
Yes, you can eat coffee fruit, although there’s not much to them so it might not be worth the effort, to be honest. They are not as fleshy as cherries for example so you’ll have to eat a lot of them to constitute a snack. The stone inside the fruit is quite hard, so don’t bite down on it as you might just damage your teeth.
Is Coffee Fruit or Bean?
The roasted coffee bean as we know it is neither a fruit nor a bean. It’s seeds or stones found inside the coffee fruit. As coffee fruit is a stone fruit and coffee beans are dried and roasted stones found in the coffee cherry we’re safe to say that coffee beans are in fact seeds. They do look like beans, which is where they get their name from.
Coffee fruit seeds are quite hard, the roasting makes them brittle so that they are easy to grind for coffee extraction. The coffee seeds undergo a bit of processing before they become the beans we know and love.
Processing Coffee Fruit into Coffee Beans
Once the fruits have ripened it’s usually handpicked. There are a few ways the fruits are picked. In some cases, these fruits are picked and eaten by the Asian Palm Civet cat. The cat then excretes the beans – by excretes we mean poop them out from where they are then further processed to make a rare and very expensive coffee called kopi luwak.
The process of making kopi luwak is usually very cruel as producers struggle to keep up with demand and as with any mass farming of animals, it is open to abuse. Not to mention that this process is very gross, so perhaps give it a skip. It will be better on your wallet and the poor animals involved.
Some of these coffees are labelled as wild-sourced, however, even the wild-sourced coffee can be mixed in with coffee from caged animals. If you’d like to know more about the issues with kopi luwak coffee, please read more on the PETA website here. For this reason and the fact that it’s super gross, we don’t promote kopi luwak coffee on this website, no matter what it might taste like.
Once picked the fruit is either wet or dry processed.
Wet or Washed Processing
For wet or washed processing the flesh of the fruits is removed. This is done by separating the seeds from the skin and then letting the seeds ferment by soaking them in water. This will soften the slimy layer so that it can be washed off. Next, the coffee will be dried for 7-8 days, a process that involves turning up to 7 times a day.
With dry processing, the fruits are separated from debris such as sticks and leaves. The fruit is then spread out to dry in the sun on a hard surface such as cement or bricks for roughly 2-3 weeks. Traditionally this processed was followed for lower quality beans. However, dry processing can give the coffee a slightly sweeter taste. Kona coffee from the renowned Kona district in Hawaii is usually made using dry processing.
When dry, the skin and seeds are separated wherefrom the green beans are rested.
Roasting the Beans
Once processed, the beans are sold and roasted. The beans can also be bought as green beans to roast at home. Roasting is done at varying levels, either light, medium or dark roast coffee. The longer the beans are roasted the darker the coffee and the shorter the shelflife of the beans.
There you have it, everything you need to know about coffee fruit and how it’s processed into coffee beans.