What Do Coffee Plants Look Like? Describing Coffee Trees!

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A man is harvesting coffee beans from a tree.
Table of Contents
A man is harvesting coffee beans from a tree.

Key Takeaways:

  • Coffee plants have dark green, waxy leaves that cover their branches, giving them a lush and vibrant appearance.
  • The leaves of coffee plants are typically elongated and smooth with a glossy texture.
  • Coffee plants produce beautiful white blossoms that eventually turn into small coffee cherries.
  • Different types of coffee plants, such as Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa, have unique characteristics in terms of leaf shape, size, flower color, and fruit size.

What Do Coffee Plants Look Like? Describing Coffee Trees!

Coffee plants have a distinct appearance with dark green, waxy leaves covering their branches.

Ever wondered how the enticing aroma of your morning coffee begins its journey? It starts from a humble plant native to Africareferred to as a coffee plant. Our comprehensive guide will take you on an immersive tour, helping you visualize what these fascinating plants look like.

Stay tuned, and let’s embark on this botanical adventure together!

Appearance of coffee plants

Coffee plants exhibit a natural elegance that’s often under-appreciated, considering its significant commercial value. The coffee plant, native to Africa, is an evergreen shrub with straight trunks and perfectly arranged horizontal branches.

As it matures, the coffee plant can soar over 30 feet high but tends to be pruned for practical reasons in cultivation conditions. Its waxy leaves are dark green, providing an intriguing backdrop to its bright white blossom – a stunning contrast hard for onlookers to ignore.

Eventually giving way to fruit called coffee cherries, each measuring about 0.6 inches in size and maturing from green to ripe red hues – another striking contrast against its glossy leaf background.

Interestingly enough, these woody evergreens have a long life span; cared for properly; one might witness this beautiful cycle play out for over 50 years!

Leaves of coffee plants

The leaves of coffee plants are one of their defining features. These dark green, waxy leaves cover the branches and give the plant a lush appearance. Coffee plant leaves are typically elongated and have a smooth, glossy texture.

They can range in size from about 6 to 12 inches long, depending on the variety of coffee plant.

The shape and color of coffee plant leaves may vary slightly between different types of coffee plants, but they generally have an oblong or elliptical shape with pointed tips. The vibrant green color of the leaves adds to the overall beauty of the coffee plant.

Coffee plants are evergreen, meaning they retain their foliage year-round. This is important for photosynthesis, as it allows the plants to continuously produce energy and grow even during periods when other trees may lose their leaves.

Besides being aesthetically pleasing, coffee plant leaves serve an important purpose in providing shade to protect the delicate berries that eventually turn into coffee cherries. These broad leaves help shield the fruit from excessive sunlight and regulate temperature levels within the growing environment.

Flowers of coffee plants

The flowers of coffee plants are delicate and beautiful, adding to the allure of these fascinating plants. They typically bloom in clusters, with each flower being small and white in color. The blossoms have a lovely fragrance that attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

These flowers play a crucial role in the reproduction process of the coffee plant, as they eventually give way to the development of coffee cherries. It’s interesting to note that not all flowers on a coffee plant will turn into cherries; only those successfully fertilized will bear fruit.

Different Types of Coffee Plants

Coffee plants come in various types, including Coffea Arabica (Arabica), Coffea Canephora (Robusta), Coffea Liberica (Liberica), and Excelsa. Discover the unique characteristics and flavors of each type to enhance your coffee experience.

Coffea Arabica (Arabica)

Coffea Arabica, commonly known as Arabica coffee, is one of the most popular types of coffee plants in the world. This species is native to the highlands of Ethiopia and has a distinctive appearance.

Arabica coffee plants have smooth leaves that are dark green in color, giving them a glossy appearance. The leaves are oblong in shape and can grow up to six inches long. These plants also produce small white flowers with a fragrant aroma.

Arabica coffee trees can reach heights of 15 to 20 feet when fully grown. They have a compact structure with multiple branches that spread out horizontally from the trunk. When cultivated, these trees are often pruned to maintain their size and shape for easier harvesting.

The fruits they bear, known as coffee cherries, start off green but ripen to a deep red or purple color. Each cherry contains two seeds which eventually become the roasted beans used for making coffee.

Arabica coffee plants require specific growing conditions such as cool temperatures and shade protection from direct sunlight. They thrive best at altitudes between 2,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level.

This type of coffee plant is more susceptible to diseases compared to other varieties but produces beans that are highly sought after for their superior flavor profiles.

Coffea Canephora (Robusta)

Coffea Canephora, commonly known as Robusta coffee, is one of the main species of coffee plants. This variety is highly esteemed for its strong flavor profile and higher caffeine content compared to Arabica coffee.

The appearance of Coffea Canephora plants closely resembles that of other coffee plant species, with dark green leaves and a straight trunk. There are some distinct characteristics that differentiate Robusta from other types.

The leaves of the Robusta coffee plant are larger and broader than those of Arabica plants, typically measuring around 6 to 12 inches in length. They have a glossy texture and an oval shape with pointed tips.

The leaf color can vary between shades of dark green.

When it comes to flowers, Coffea Canephora produces delicate white blossoms that emit a pleasant fragrance when they bloom. These flowers transform into small fruits known as coffee cherries or berries after pollination occurs.

Robusta coffee cherries are smaller in size compared to those produced by Arabica plants, usually measuring about 0.6 inches in diameter. They have a round shape and turn from green to red as they ripen.

Coffea Liberica (Liberica)

Coffea Liberica, also known as Liberica coffee, is one of the four main types of coffee plants. It originated in Liberia and is commonly grown in West Africa and Southeast Asia. Unlike other coffee plants, Coffea Liberica has larger leaves that can reach up to 12 inches long.

These leaves have a distinct shape with a rounded base and pointed tips. The branches of the Coffea Liberica tree are upright, giving it a more robust and towering appearance compared to other coffee plant varieties.

The flowers of the Coffea Liberica plant are white and star-shaped, similar to those of other coffee plants. What sets this variety apart is its impressive size – each flower can measure around 1 inch in diameter! After pollination occurs, these flowers develop into large fruits called coffee cherries that turn deep red or yellow when ripe.

Inside these cherries lie the familiar coffee beans we know and love for their rich aroma and flavor profile.

If you’re considering growing Coffea Liberica at home or on your farm, keep in mind that this variety requires specific climatic conditions to thrive. It prefers lower altitudes with temperatures ranging between 60°F (15°C) and 75°F (25°C).


Excelsa is one of the lesser-known types of coffee plants, but it still plays a significant role in the coffee industry. It is often classified as its own species, Coffea Excelsa, although some consider it to be a variation of Arabica.

Excelsa plants are known for their unique and distinct flavor profile, which offers a balance between fruity and nutty undertones. The leaves of an Excelsa coffee plant are elongated and have a glossy dark green color.

When in bloom, they produce small white flowers that have a delicate fragrance. The fruits that grow on an Excelsa plant are similar to other coffee varieties – they start off green and then turn red when fully ripe.

Growing an Excelsa coffee plant requires attention to specific conditions. They thrive best in high altitudes with well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Like other coffee plants, they prefer consistent moisture but not standing water to avoid root rot.

Proper pruning helps promote healthy growth and ensures optimal fruit production. These factors contribute to growing excellent quality beans from this particular variety of coffee plant.

While not as commonly recognized as Arabica or Robusta, Excelsa holds its ground with its distinctive taste characteristics and unique appearance among different types of coffee plants.

Growing and Caring for Coffee Plants

To ensure healthy growth, coffee plants require adequate sunlight, well-draining soil, and regular watering. Be aware of common diseases that can affect coffee plants and implement proper pruning techniques to maintain their shape and promote optimal fruit production.

Light, soil, and water requirements

Coffee plants require specific growing conditions to thrive, including proper light exposuresuitable soil composition, and adequate water supply. Here are the key factors to consider when caring for coffee plants:

  • Lighting: Coffee plants prefer bright but indirect sunlight. They thrive in areas with filtered light or partial shade. Avoid exposing them directly to intense sunlight as it can scorch their leaves.
  • Soil: Coffee plants require well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH level ranging from 6.0 to 6.5. Use a mixture of peat moss, perlite, and organic matter such as compost for optimal soil conditions.
  • Watering: Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again. Avoid overwatering as it can lead to root rot. During colder months, reduce watering frequency.
  • Humidity: Coffee plants appreciate moderate humidity levels between 60% and 70%. If your environment is dry, you can increase humidity by using a humidifier or placing a tray of water near the plant.
  • Temperature: Coffee plants thrive in temperatures between 60°F and 70°F (15°C – 24°C). Protect them from draughts and sudden temperature fluctuations, which can stunt their growth.
  • Fertilizer: Use a balanced fertilizer specifically formulated for acid-loving plants. Apply it every two to three months during the growing season (spring and summer), following the package instructions.

Pruning tips

To keep your coffee plants healthy and promote optimal growth, regular pruning is essential. Here are some pruning tips to help you care for your coffee plants:

  1. Remove dead or diseased branches: Trim any branches that appear dead or show signs of disease. This will prevent the spread of infections and maintain the overall health of the plant.
  2. Maintain desired height: Coffee plants can grow quite tall, so if you want to control their height or keep them compact, prune the top branches. This will encourage lateral growth and result in a bushier plant.
  3. Shape the plant: Prune any branches that are growing irregularly or crossing over each other. This will help maintain a balanced and aesthetically pleasing shape for your coffee plant.
  4. Thin out crowded areas: If there are densely packed branches, selectively remove some to allow better air circulation and light penetration. This promotes healthier foliage and reduces the risk of fungal diseases.
  5. Harvesting priorities: When pruning, prioritize removing branches that have already yielded coffee cherries to make room for new growth and future harvests.
  6. Timing is key: The best time to prune coffee plants is during their dormant period, typically after harvesting when they enter a resting phase. Avoid heavy pruning during active growth periods as this may slow down fruit production.


Coffee plants have a distinct appearance with their dark green, waxy leaves and straight trunks. They can grow to impressive heights of over 30 feet and produce beautiful white blossoms that eventually turn into small coffee cherries.

With their unique characteristics and visual attributes, coffee plants are truly fascinating to behold. So next time you enjoy your cup of coffee, take a moment to appreciate the natural beauty of the plant that made it possible!


How long does it take for a coffee cherry to ripen?

It takes several months for a coffee cherry to ripen. The cherries start as small, green fruits and gradually turn red as they mature. The timing of the ripening process depends on various factors such as the coffee species and growing conditions.

What is the anatomy of a coffee plant?

The anatomy of a coffee plant consists of the roots, trunk (or stem), branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit. The roots anchor the plant in the soil and absorb water and nutrients. The trunk and branches provide support for the plant, while the leaves help with photosynthesis. The flowers bloom to attract pollinators, and the fruit (coffee cherries) contains the valuable coffee beans.

How are coffee cherries harvested?

Coffee cherries are carefully picked by hand when they are ripe. Harvesters determine the ripeness by the color of the cherries. They only pick the cherries that are fully red. The cherries grow in pairs on the branches of the coffee tree and are individually plucked, ensuring that only the ripe ones are harvested.

What happens to coffee cherries after they are harvested?

After the coffee cherries are harvested, the outer layer called the exocarp is carefully removed to reveal the parchment-like layer underneath. This layer protects the coffee beans inside. The parchment-like layer is then processed further to obtain the dried coffee beans, which are eventually roasted to produce the familiar coffee we drink.

Can coffee plants survive in cold climates or do they require specific conditions?

Coffee plants require specific growing conditions to thrive. They are native to tropical regions and prefer temperatures between 60°F and 70°F (15°C and 24°C). They also require a certain amount of rainfall and shade. However, some coffee varieties have been cultivated to withstand colder climates and can be grown successfully in certain regions with milder winters.

How long do coffee plants live?

Coffee plants can live for several decades if provided with proper care. With the right growing conditions and adequate maintenance, a coffee plant can produce coffee cherries for many years.

Are all coffee plants the same?

No, there are different species and varieties of coffee plants. The most common coffee species include Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta. These species have different characteristics, such as taste profiles, caffeine content, and growing requirements. The type of coffee plant used can affect the flavor and quality of the resulting coffee.

What is cold brew coffee?

Cold brew coffee is a method of brewing coffee that involves steeping coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period, usually 12 to 24 hours. This slow extraction process results in a smoother and less acidic coffee flavor compared to traditional hot brewing methods.

About the Author:
Sophia Lewis, a travel blogger with a focus on global coffee cultures, explores coffee traditions from Colombia to Turkey. Her expertise lies in understanding the cultivation, brewing, and enjoyment of coffee in different cultures. Through articles, travel vlogs, and tastings, Sophia brings a global perspective to coffee, emphasizing ethical and sustainable practices, and invites readers to join her community of global coffee enthusiasts.