What Does The Coffee Plant Look Like

We all know how embarrassing it is to find yourself talking to a botanist on Tinder only to realize you can’t tell a fern from a cycad. But did you know that your daily caffeine fix comes from the fruit of a tree?

Most people probably couldn’t tell you what a coffee tree looks like if they tried with a gun to their head. We’re going to fix that tonight, ladies and gentlemen.

Here’s a quick guide to coffee plants—and what they look like:

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Yes, Coffee Beans Come From a Tree

The coffee plant is actually a woody evergreen that can grow around 30 feet tall in its natural environment, though it’s often much smaller when cultivated. Some people call them coffee bushes, some call them coffee shrubs, and the aforementioned botanist probably won’t throw you out of bed for using either of these terms. Probably.

Still, it’s generally most accurate to call them coffee trees. You can call them “little trees” if you feel weird calling a thing that often looks like a shrub a “tree.”

But let’s not beat around the bush here; you didn’t come here to learn about the taxonomy of coffee plants. You want to know what the damn things actually look like. So let’s get to it:

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What Coffee Trees Look Like:

The Leaves

The coffee plant has dark green, oval-shaped leaves that are usually waxy and leathery. They grow opposite each other on the stem in pairs, and they’re attached to the stem by a short petiole (leaf stalk).

The Flowers

Did you know there are coffee flowers? The flowers are small and white and grow in clusters, and many people describe them as smelling similar to jasmine. About 6 to 8 weeks after pollination, the flowers disappear and are replaced by the coffee fruit .

The Fruit

The fruit, or coffee “beans,” grow inside of a fleshy red berry that we call a coffee “cherry.” (It’s not actually a cherry, but again, nobody’s going to fault you for using the common name.) Despite not being an actual cherry, the coffee fruit is also classified as a “stone fruit.”

The Seeds

As I mentioned, inside the coffee “cherry” are the seeds: those familiar coffee beans, that we roast and grind to make our coffee.

Of course, at this point, the coffee beans don’t look anything like the beans we all know and love. They’re actually more greenish-brown. And they don’t really taste very good to most people. Raw “green” coffee beans are very acidic, grassy-tasting, bitter—and notably, quite hard to chew.

So the irony is, even if you used all of this information in this guide to accurately identify a coffee tree in the wild, you still wouldn’t be able to get your hands on a decent cup of coffee. You need to roast those beans first!

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Coffee, coffee everywhere. But not a drop to drink.

Now you know what a coffee plant looks like. But don’t go showing off your new botanical knowledge to just anyone; save it for that special someone.

The next time you’re on a date and that special person asks you what a coffee tree looks like—you’ll be able to impress them with your knowledge of the biology of Rubiaceae. Just make sure to act like you already knew all of this. You don’t want to look like a nerd.