About The Coffee Tree

About The Coffee Tree

A coffee plant, if not propagated from a cutting, begins life as a sprout issuing from a "parchment" bean which has been plated in shallow, sandy soil. As the sprout takes root, it pushes the bean out of the soil. In a few day's time the first two leaves emerge from the bean, now at the top of the tiny sprout. The old bean husk, hollow, soon falls to the ground. Next, the tiny seedling is transferred to its individual container in a nursery.

For about a year, it is tended carefully and introduced to open weather as the nursery "roof" of logs or other protective covering, is gradually removed; at most, a few hours per day of direct sun is all the rather temperamental coffee will ever want. The small plant will then be set out in the field, possibly under the protection of a banana tree's broad leaves, particularly if the plantation is located on flat terrain nearer the Equator, where the sun's rays are more direct. If the tree is planted on a mountain slope, it may need not protection, as mountain-sides receive direct sun for only part of a day, and coffee trees on high plateau often enjoy the humidity and sun-screen resulting from high altitude cloud-cover.

For several years the tree will not produce any fruit, although it may require irrigation, pruning, weeding, spraying, fertilization and mulching. The latter two help if the soil is not the best for coffee, which thrives in the rich loam formed from volcanic ash, full of nitrogen, potash and phosphoric acid. Finally, when the tree is four to five years old, it bears its first crop. It quickly reaches its productive peak within a couple of years, but will yield fruit for a total of about twenty to twenty-five years, during which time it must be constantly tended.

All coffee trees are capable of bearing blossom, green fruit and ripe fruit simultaneously on the same branch, thus almost certainly necessitating harvesting by hand. There are one or two main harvest, and possibly several secondary harvests, as the growing seasons vary depending on the species and the location. A coffee plantation, therefore, is seldom without some blossoms. The flowers, which develop in clusters, are creamy-white and produce a fragrance reminiscent of jasmine. The flowers last only a few days; they are soon replaced by clusters of small green berries, which take several months to become ripe red cherries, ready for picking.

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