The coffee cherry is the fruit of the coffee plant, containing the coffee beans within. It is also known as a coffee berry or simply coffee fruit. The coffee cherry is typically small and oval-shaped, and its colour changes as it ripens.
Coffee cherries grow on coffee trees, which belong to the genus Coffea. The two main species used in commercial coffee production are Coffea arabica (Arabica) and Coffea canephora (Robusta). The cherries develop after the coffee tree’s flowers are pollinated.
When the coffee cherries are ripe, they can be harvested for processing. The timing of the harvest is crucial, as it affects the final flavour of the coffee. The cherries are usually picked either by hand or through mechanical methods, depending on the scale of production and the terrain.
The coffee cherry has several layers. The outermost layer is the exocarp, which is thin and often red or yellow when fully ripe. Beneath the exocarp is the mesocarp, or pulp, which is usually sweet and contains a significant amount of water. Inside the mesocarp is the endocarp, also known as the parchment layer, which surrounds the coffee beans.
Within the coffee cherry, there are usually two coffee beans, though occasionally only one bean develops. These beans are surrounded by a slimy layer called the mucilage, which helps protect the beans during growth. After the cherries are harvested, the beans need to be separated from the cherry through a process called coffee processing.
The coffee cherry, as a whole, is not typically used for brewing coffee. Instead, the focus is on extracting the coffee beans from within the cherry, as they are the part that contains the flavours and aromas that make coffee. The coffee cherry pulp and mucilage can sometimes be repurposed as fertilizer or used in other agricultural applications.
In summary, the coffee cherry is the fruit of the coffee plant that contains coffee beans. It undergoes a process of harvesting and processing to extract the beans, which are then roasted and brewed to make coffee. The coffee cherry has several layers, including the exocarp, mesocarp, endocarp, and mucilage, each playing a role in protecting and nurturing the coffee beans as they develop.