Where Do Coffee Beans Come From? Growth, Origin and Producing Regions

Curious about where your coffee beans come from? You’re in the right place!

This article tackles all your questions about: how are coffee beans grown, where do coffee beans originate from, and which countries are the main producers of the different types of coffee beans. Even the unusual question “Do coffee beans come from animals?” will be answered!

So grab a cup of coffee and let’s get started!

Where do Coffee Beans Originate from?

Coffee beans originate from Ethiopia, a vibrant country in East Africa. Their tale begins in Kaffa, the region where coffee beans derive their name. From here, local whispers of an interesting folklore tells us how coffee beans were found.

Around 850 A.D., on the Ethiopian plateau, a goat helder named Kaldi observed that one of his goats was eating a berry from an unusual bush. Soon after, Kaldi noticed the goat becoming more enegetic and lively than usual. This marked the start of the coffee bean story, which has since rapidly spread across the entire world.

The journey continued as coffee beans migrated to Southeast Asia, Central, and South America. Yemen holds the record for the first documented consumption of coffee as a beverage in the 15th century. Meanwhile, in Europe, coffee found its gateway through Venice, spreading via Venetian merchants. Pope Clement VIII even baptized the drink in 1600, establishing popularity amongst Europeans.

Now, four types of coffee bean species are commercially cultivated: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica and Excelsa. All these beans originated in Africa.

Arabica beans originated from Ethiopia, much like the story. While the origin of robusta is unclear, it’s believed to have first grown in Congo, Central Africa. In 1800s, Liberica was then found in Liberia in West Africa and a after century later, Excelsa was discovered in Chad, Central Africa.

These beans were selected to be grown and produced at large because they stand out for their advantages in quality, production, growing requirements, and caring, making them well suited to meet global market demands.

How are Coffee Beans Grown?

As you might have gathered, coffee beans come from coffee plants, which bush-like trees that bear fruits called coffee cherries. Within these cherries lie the seeds that we know to be coffee beans. Despite the name ‘bean,’ it’s worth noting that coffee beans are not legumes but rather seeds.

Ironically, the cultivation of coffee plants begins by planting the coffee beans in nutrient-rich soil, allowing it to germinate and give rise to more coffee seedlings.

When a coffee tree reaches maturity, it begins to bear coffee cherries – small, rounded berries that contain caffeine, just like the beans. If you’re wondering, the pulp of coffee cherries is safe to consume, but they are usually discarded during coffee bean processing.

As coffee cherries ripen, their color turns from green to hues of red, yellow or purple, depending on the species. The color transformation signals that coffee beans are ready for harvesting. Precision is crucial during this stage, as picking too early or too late can alter the flavor of the coffee beans.

Often, there are two coffee beans inside the cherry. But 5% of the time, only one beans is present. These are  called peaberries. While some believe that a peaberry has higher quality than coffee beans, there is no apprent evidence to supoort this claim.

Commercial-level production of coffee beans takes a long time. A newborn coffee tree needs about 5 years to bear fruit, but it required an additional decade to yield quality coffee beans in significant quantities. The lengthy period is crucial to ensure the most valuable harvest for coffee farmers.

Coffee Growing Regions

Coffee plants only fluorish under specific climatic conditions. The “Coffee Bean Belt“, a strip of area around the equator between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer (or from 20 degrees North to 30 degrees South in latitude), satifies its strict environmental requirements. It spans across Central and South America, West Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Notably, Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer and exporter for over 150 years and it has been yielding 2.7 billion pounds of beans annually. Following closely, the next largest coffee producers are Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Ethiopia. Kenya, Honduras Peru and India also produce coffee beans.

Each coffee-growing region has a distinct enviroment, tailored to cater specific types of coffee beans. Even in the same type, flavor variations can arise due to nuances in geocrapical biome, which includes soil, sunlight exposure, and altitude.

For example, both Brazil and Colombia provides an ideal environment for Arabica beans. Yet, the Brazilian Arabica beans reveal notes of chocolate and caramel in its brew, while, Colombian Arabica coffee beans offer a fruity and mildly acidic profile.

Not to be overlooked, America also plays are role in coffee cultivation. Specifically, Kona Island in Hawaii stands out for producing high-quality coffee beans called Kona beans.

Do coffee beans come from animals?

You might have heard of people talking about coffee beans coming from animal poop. So, let’s clear the misconception.

Coffee beans do not directly come from animals, but there is a unique natural process that involves an animal. Meaning, some animals, like the asian palm civet and the rhesus monkey eat coffee cherries, digest the pulp, but they leave the seeds or the coffee beans undigested and excrete them by spit or fecal movement. The excreted matter is later processed and put to market.

Kopi Luwak

Kopi Luwak or cat poop coffee is a distinct coffee variety derived from the excretion of the Asian palm civet, otherwise known as luwak. This mammal is native to Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia.

What makes kopi luwak truly unique is the unconventional fermentation process that happens inside the civet’s digestive system. The interaction between the coffee beans and gastric juices, enzymes, and other digestive fluids increase its citric acid level, resulting in a lemony flavor and a characteristic aroma.

However, the production of kopi luwak is notably low, making it the rarest and most expensive coffee bean. Prices reach 100 to 600 US dollar per pound, that’s about 20 times higher than the cost of your average coffee bean.

Monkey Coffee

Monkey coffee is another intruiging variety of coffee beans. Unlike its feline counterpart, these coffee beans do not involve fecal processing. Instead, the rhesus monkey or the Formosan rock macaques naturally spit out the coffee beans after enjoying a coffee cherry. Both of these animals are endemic to Asia.

While monkey coffee is also expensive and hard to find, it’s exceptional quality makes it a sought-after specialty. It’s quality is owed to the clever monkeys that meticulously select the most delictable coffee cherries. This natural occurence adds a touch of rarity and uniqueness in the coffee beans.

The Bottom Line

To summarize, coffee beans come from coffee plants that bear fruits called coffee cherries, within which the coffee beans are found as seeds. After its first discovery around 850 AD at Ethiopia in the African continent, coffee beans then rapidly spread around the world around the 15th century.

 Now, all commercial coffee plants grow on the “coffee bean belt” which provides the best enviroment for cultivation. Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer, followed by Vietnam, Columbia and Indonesia.

Lastly, coffee beans do not directly come from animal. Some animals, like civets and monkeys, are just involved in the processing of these beans before they are harvested by farmers.

Photo of author


Mesphird Yang

I have been brewing and drinking coffee for almost 6 years now. At first, I was just dazzled by how baristas look and that's why I started learning. In the long run, I became obsessed with its charm. I have tried many coffee brewing methods, with different kinds of beans in various roast levels. If I could have more than 4 cups of coffee a day, I definitely would!

Leave a Comment