• Gabriela López Gutiérrez

Meeting the Coffee Plant

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

“Wait, coffee is a fruit?” That was my reaction when I was eight years old and my dad showed me a coffee cherry. “Yes,” he answered. I had seen him drink coffee, every morning, for as long as I had memory. I assumed coffee beans were like other grains. Doesn’t that assumption sound natural to you?

“I thought coffee grew like rice and red bean grains.” I said. “Let me show you” he answered, followed by the crackin’ sound of him cutting off the red gleaming fruit.

Smaller than the size of the top phalanx of your thumb, back then bigger than my entire thumb, the fruit had a pomegranate-like outer skin. “The reddish hue”- he said, whilst showing me a branch full of greenish little spheres - “indicates that the coffee cherry is ripe. This means you can eat the cherry and the seeds can be dried and ground.” In my bewildered state, having the tiny cherry laying on my palm, my instant reaction was to try to bite it. In a matter of seconds, as my father deciphered my upcoming action, he burst out, “stop! You have to peel it!”

A tiny fruit, smaller than a grape, had to be peeled…? No wonder why someone tried to get the most out of it and decided to roast its seeds. Yet, this visionary individual discovered the early morning or late evening satisfaction of many around the world – the extract, the cup of coffee.

As I threw away the tiny cascara, he explained that in this progressively sustainable world that they use coffee peels as fertilizers too. So, every part of this petite product of nature returns to us in different ways. What a fruitful resource!

The pulp, with a mucilage texture like grapes, had a bittersweet taste. My dad added that he used to love them at my age. “Every time it was coffee picking season, I was eager to help my brother, not for work but I loved taking one or another whilst working.” It was personally not my favorite flavour, but how my grandma says: “colours to suit every taste!” Hence, I will recommend you try it and who knows, maybe it becomes your favourite fruit?

Continuing with the storyline, after meticulously separating the pulp from the coffee bean, another disregarded detail came into realization! “So, out of every coffee fruit you can only get TWO coffee beans?” You are probably familiar with these ones; they are so small! The question, of course, was rhetorical. Of course every single coffee cherry contained only two coffee beans. Or is there a one in a million mutated cherry that grows with more than two coffee beans? Imagine that coffee picker going like ”today is my lucky day! One extra coffee bean I was not counting on!”

Anyway, in my eight-year-old innocence it seemed to be an exhausting work. Well, I bet it is. Imagine collecting thousands of the coffee cherries and getting two coffee beans per cherry? Now, the price of that weekly bag of coffee my dad used to buy seemed reasonable.

In a nutshell, that evening was full of coffee anecdotes, fun facts and my childhood memory marked by meeting the coffee fruit.

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