Coffee grows on trees, or shrubs, called Coffea. These trees are evergreens and can grow up to 10 meters tall. However, most coffee trees are pruned to be about 5-7 meters tall, which makes them easier to harvest.
Coffee trees are native to tropical and subtropical climates. They need warm temperatures, between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius, and a lot of rainfall, between 1,500 and 2,500 millimeters per year. Coffee trees also need shade, so they are often planted under other trees.
Did you know that coffee beans are technically a coffee cherry pit? What are coffee cherries? And what can you do with them? Coffee grows in large bushes not much different from all other berries. Interestingly, when it comes to coffee cherries, it is the pit or bean, where we find the popular product from which the wonderful drinks and all its ways of serving come from.
After the cherries are picked they are put through a process to remove the pulp and prepare the beans by washing them and drying them before being roasted. From there, the beans travel all the way to our homes and coffee shops all around the world. But interestingly, the pulp part of the cherry usually stays in the farms and its vicinity. Nothing is wasted in the coffee farms, so here is a list of things coffee farmers use coffee pulp for.
- Organic fertilizer - Coffee pulp is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, making it an effective organic fertilizer for plants. Coffee farms often have other plantations in order to diversify their investments in case of a bad harvest and to sustain themselves. Going grocery shopping in the remote areas where coffee farms are usually located is a complicated matter. Usually growing your own vegetables and potatoes is a must.
- Livestock feed - In some regions, coffee pulp is used as a supplemental feed for livestock, such as cattle and pigs. Coffee farmers pick coffee manually, but sometimes use livestock to carry it all the way to the pulping machine or pulping area if the cherries are to be separated from the bean manually. Feeding livestock can be expensive and the cherries are high in vitamins as most berries are, so this is a simple strategy for distribution of nutrients.
- Composting - Coffee pulp can be added to a compost pile to help break down other organic materials and add nutrients to the soil. By going back to the ground, the cherries ensure the fertility of the farm. It is the perfect cycle. Coffee pulp can be added to soil to improve its structure, water retention, and nutrient content.
- Energy production - Coffee pulp can be used as a biofuel in some rural communities, as it can be burned to generate heat and electricity. I mentioned coffee farms are often located in remote places, right? Therefore, there is a need to find creative ways to generate biofuel and ensure being able to turn the lights on and have some basic energy system functioning.
The pulp of coffee cherries rarely leaves the coffee farms, and if we have as many coffee beans as we do in the world, you can do the math of how much pulp is left behind for the farmers to use. Part of the magic of coffee farms, is that you can find coffee in its original form like in no other place and while coffee beans are shipped out of the farms as dried beans ready to be roasted, the cherry's pulp is left behind and continues to serve the farms.