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Plant Guide > Spices > Coffee spice
Coffee is the seed of a small evergreen tree or shrub ranging from fifteen to twenty-five feet in height.
The branches are spreading or even pendant, with opposite shortpetioled leaves, which are ovate, smooth, leathery, and dark green.
The flowers are perfect, fragrant, occurring in groups of from three to seven in the axils of the leaves.
The corolla is white, the calyx green and small.
The ovary is green at first, changing to yellowish, and finally to deep red or purple at maturity. Each ovary has two seeds, the so-called coffee beans.
The plant thrives best in a loamy soil, in an average annual temperature of about 27 degrees C., with considerable moisture and shade. Most plantations are at an elevation of 1,000 feet to 2,500 feet above the sea level. In order to insure larger yields and to make gathering easier the trees of the South American plantations are clipped so as to keep their height at about 6 feet to 6.5 feet.
The yield begins with the third year and continues increasingly up to the twentieth year. The fruit matures at all seasons and is gathered about three times each year.
In Arabia, where the trees are usually not clipped, and, hence, comparatively large, the fruit is knocked off by means of sticks. In the West Indies and South America the red, not fully matured fruit is picked by hand. The outer hard shell (fruit coat, pericarp ) is removed by pressure, rolling, and shaking. The beans are now ready for the market.