Coffea arabica is also known as the Arabian coffee, “coffee shrub of Arabia”, “mountain coffee” or “arabica coffee”. It is a species of Coffea, believed to be the first species to be cultivated. Arabica is the dominant cultivar and represents approximately 60% of worldwide production.
Gourmet coffees are almost exclusively high-quality mild varieties of arabica coffee beans. www.Zenesco.co.nz has arabica coffee beans online from the world best blends – Jamaican Blue Mountain, Colombian Supremo, Tarrazú, Costa Rica, Guatemalan Antigua, and Ethiopian Sidamo.
Arabica coffee was first found in Yemen and is documented as far back as the 12th century. The first written record of coffee made from roasted coffee beans (botanical seeds) comes from Arab scholars, who wrote that it was useful in prolonging their working hours. The Arab innovation in Yemen of making a brew from roasted beans, spread first among the Egyptians and Turks, and later on found its way around the world.
Distribution & Habitat
Arabica coffee production in Indonesia began in 1699 through the spread of Yemen’s trade. Indonesian coffees are known for heavy body and low acidity, ideal for blending with the higher acidity coffees from Central America and East Africa.
Cultivation and use
Coffee arabica takes approximately seven years to mature fully, and it does best with about 40–59 inches of rain, evenly distributed throughout the year. It is usually cultivated between 1,300 and 1,500 m altitude but plantations grow as low as sea level and as high as 2,800 m.
The plant can tolerate low temperatures, but not frost, and it does best with an average temperature between 15 and 24 °C (59 and 75 °F). Commercial cultivars mostly only grow to about 5 m, and are frequently trimmed as low as 2 m to facilitate harvesting. C. arabica prefers to be grown in light shade.
Two to four years after planting, C. arabica produces small, white, highly fragrant flowers. The sweet fragrance resembles the sweet smell of jasmine flowers. Flowers opening on sunny days result in the greatest numbers of berries. This can be problematic and deleterious, however, as coffee plants tend to produce too many berries; this can lead to an inferior harvest and even damage yield in the following years, as the plant will favor the ripening of berries to the detriment of its own health.
On well-kept plantations, overflowering is prevented by pruning the tree. The flowers only last a few days, leaving behind only the thick, dark-green leaves. The berries then begin to appear. These are as dark green as the foliage, until they begin to ripen, at first to yellow and then light red and finally darkening to a glossy, deep red. At this point, they are called “cherries”, which fruit they then resemble, and are ready for picking.
The berries are oblong and about 1 cm long. Inferior coffee results from picking them too early or too late, so many are picked by hand to be able to better select them, as they do not all ripen at the same time. They are sometimes shaken off the tree onto mats, which means ripe and unripe berries are collected together.
The trees are difficult to cultivate and each tree can produce from 0.5 to 5.0 kg of dried beans, depending on the tree’s individual character and the climate that season. The most valuable part of this cash crop are the beans inside. Each berry holds two locules containing the beans. The coffee beans are actually two seeds within the fruit; sometimes, a third seed or one seed, a peaberry, grows in the fruit at tips of the branches. These seeds are covered in two membranes; the outer one is called the “parchment coat” and the inner one is called the “silver skin”.
It is expected that a medium-term depletion of indigenous populations of C. arabica may occur, due to projected global warming, based on IPCC modelling. Climate change—rising temperatures, longer droughts, and excessive rainfall—appears to threaten the sustainability of arabica coffee production, leading to attempts to breed new cultivars for the changing conditions.
Gourmet coffees are almost exclusively high-quality mild varieties of arabica coffee, and among the best known arabica coffee beans in the world are those from Jamaican Blue Mountain, Colombian Supremo, Tarrazú, Costa Rica, Guatemalan Antigua, and Ethiopian Sidamo.