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Coffee Berries, commonly called Coffee Cherries, are small rounded fruits about the size of grapes that grow in clusters along the branches of the coffee plant. They mature from green to a deep red or sometimes yellowish-red color. The skin of the fruit is smooth, taut and shiny with a bitter flavor, while the flesh is very sweet, tender and juicy, with blended notes of watermelon, hibiscus, cherries, raspberries and cranberries. At the center of the fruit are two blue-green seeds, which are the fresh form of coffee beans. Thanks to natural mutations, a small percent of Coffee Berries will have only one bean inside, referred to as a peaberry and said to produce sweeter, more flavorful coffee.
Coffee Berries are available in the spring and summer months.
Coffee Berries belong to the Rubiaceae family and are in the genus, Coffea. There are many different species of the Coffee Berry plant, but two of the main ones commercially cultivated today are Coffea arabica, known simply as arabica coffee, and Coffea canephora, known as robusta coffee. There are over 100 varieties of arabica coffee, which accounts for the majority of the world's coffee production today. Robusta coffee has higher caffeine content and more bitterness, and is primarily used in blends or instant coffees. There is also a type of coffee known as kopi luwak, alleged to be the most expensive coffee in the world. It is not a unique species, but comes from a special method of harvesting coffee beans from the droppings of the Asian palm civet cat, an animal native to South and Southeast Asia.
Coffee Berries are known for their rich concentration of antioxidants, which have the ability to act as an anti-inflammatory and immune booster, as well as the potential to protect against free radicals. The leaves, flesh, and of course the seeds of the Coffee Berry all offer varying levels of the stimulant, caffeine, which also acts as a natural pesticide to protect the fruit from insects.
Coffee Berries are universally used for their seeds, which are roasted and processed to produce coffee. The flesh of Coffee Berries can be juiced and combined with other fruit juices or water, and can even be made into a drink powder. Roasted seeds can also be ground and used to flavor ice cream, baked goods, and chocolates, and the leaves of the Coffee Berry plant can be dried and steeped to make a slightly caffeinated tea. While the pulp and skin of Coffee Berries is discarded during the coffee production process, it is often repurposed as fertilizer and livestock feed. As Coffee Berries have been more widely recognized as a super-fruit, they are now more commonly found as an ingredient in nutritional supplements, beauty products, essential oils, and other stimulating beverages aside from coffee. Coffee Berries are highly perishable and should be used within a few days of harvesting.
The first documented coffeehouse opened in Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul, in 1554, where the practice of gathering to converse over a cup of coffee quickly became an important part of the social culture, and has since inspired the same social norm all around the world. The first coffeehouse opened in London in the 17th century, followed by many others that became known as "penny universities" because you could buy a cup of coffee for 1 cent and engage in thought-provoking, educational conversation. Today, it is estimated that over 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day worldwide.
The Coffee Berry plant has its origins in ancient Ethiopia. One of the earliest writings to mention Coffee Berries came from a Persian physician and philosopher circa the 10th century who described a beverage prepared with an infusion of a fruit called bunn, the Ethiopian name for a Coffee Berry. By the 15th century, the Coffee Berry plant was being grown in Arabia, and from there it spread to Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. By the 17th century, coffee made its way to Europe and was becoming popular across the continent, and the Dutch founded the first successful European-run coffee plantation away from the Middle East on their colony of Java, Indonesia, later establishing plantations on Sumatra and other areas of Indonesia. Finally, Coffee Berry plants reached the New World circa the early 18th century. Today, Coffee Berry plants are commercially grown in a region of the world nicknamed the “coffee belt” along both sides of the equator in Africa, the Americas, and Asia, with the majority of coffee export coming from Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Ethiopia.
People have spotted Coffee Berries using the Specialty Produce app for iPhone and Android.
Produce Spotting allows you to share your produce discoveries with your neighbors and the world! Is your market carrying green dragon apples? Is a chef doing things with shaved fennel that are out of this world? Pinpoint your location annonymously through the Specialty Produce App and let others know about unique flavors that are around them.