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On the Farm

Good coffee begins with healthy soil and careful farming.


What is Coffee?
Coffee is a flowering plant native to central Africa and southeast Asia that was later brought to other equatorial countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean. The plant grows as a shrub or tree, and its seeds are called coffee beans. The two main species of coffee are arabica and robusta. Arabica comprises about 75-80 percent of worldwide coffee production.

Variety Selection
Much like an apple or a grape, there are thousands of different coffee varieties. Each variety has a personality, a desire for a certain climate, and a very distinct taste. There are varieties that produce lots of fruit per tree but their taste is not desirable while other varieties produce little fruit but taste amazing. One of the first and, most important, decisions a farmer makes is the choice around coffee variety.

Soil Health 
Healthy soil produces plentiful harvests of lush coffee cherries and strong plants more resistant to disease. Most global coffee production is non-organic, but there are innovations being made in organic farming that are focused on soil health. By committing to organic practices and seeking to improve quality through organic means, farmers safeguard the health of their land, families and communities.

Just as an underripe fruit tastes tart and an overripe one tastes fermented, coffee fruit is ideally picked at the peak of sweetness. Picking ripe coffee cherry is a crucial step in quality coffee production. Coffee cherries develop at different rates on the tree, so to pick fully ripe cherry farmers must make several passes through their mountainous farms over the course of the harvest season.

Learn more about coffee in the next coffee education section: At the Mills.