What Does a Coffee Plant Look Like: A Quick Guide to Identifying Coffee Plants

If you’re a coffee lover, you’ve probably wondered what the plant that produces your favorite beverage looks like. The coffee plant, also known as Coffea, is a tropical evergreen shrub that belongs to the Rubiaceae family. It is native to Africa, specifically Ethiopia and Sudan, and is now grown in various parts of the world.

The coffee plant has a unique appearance that sets it apart from other plants. It has dark green, glossy leaves that are about 6 inches long and 3 inches wide. The leaves are arranged opposite each other on the stem and have a prominent midrib. When the plant is grown in the shade, the leaves are larger and more elongated, while those grown in direct sunlight are smaller and more rounded. The coffee plant also produces small, fragrant, white flowers that resemble jasmine. These flowers are followed by green berries that turn red as they ripen.

From Seed to Sapling: The Early Stages

If you’re interested in growing your own coffee plant, it’s important to understand the early stages of the plant’s life. The coffee plant begins as a seed, typically planted in a shaded nursery bed. During this initial stage, key characteristics emerge that will help you identify your coffee plant as it grows.

Seed Appearance

Coffee seeds are oval-shaped, with a green or grayish-green hull protecting the inner bean. A single shallow groove runs along the flat side of the seed. When planting your coffee seeds, it’s important to keep them moist and warm to ensure successful germination.


Under ideal conditions, a white sprout emerges from the seed, followed by the first pair of true leaves – oppositely arranged and glossy green with smooth edges. At this stage, the coffee plant is still a sapling, with a thin stem and delicate leaves. It’s important to protect the sapling from direct sunlight and strong winds, as it is still vulnerable to damage.

As your coffee plant grows, it will develop more leaves and a stronger stem. Eventually, it will be ready to be transplanted into a larger pot or into the ground. With proper care and attention, your coffee plant will continue to grow and eventually produce coffee beans that you can harvest and roast yourself.

The Coffee Plant in All Its Glory: Mature Features

As the coffee plant matures, it develops a distinctive structure that can be easily identified by its various components. The plant’s leaves, stem, and root system all play an important role in its growth and development.


The coffee plant’s leaves are dark green, glossy, and oval-shaped with a pointed tip and a waxy coating. They are oppositely arranged on the stem, with each pair at a 90-degree angle to the previous pair. The central vein with prominent lateral veins is visible on the underside of the leaf.


The stem of the coffee plant is woody and sturdy, with a brown or grayish-brown color. Branching typically begins a few feet above the ground.

Root System

The coffee plant has an extensive network of roots, with a taproot that delves deep into the soil for water and nutrient uptake. The taproot can grow up to 6 feet deep, depending on the soil conditions. This deep root system allows the coffee plant to survive periods of drought.

Beyond the Basics: Visual Variations (Optional)

While the core characteristics remain consistent, some variations exist. Arabica coffee plants tend to be taller and bushier than Robusta varieties. Sun exposure can affect leaf size and color intensity.

The Enchanting Bloom: Coffee Flowers

Adding a touch of beauty to the plant’s lifecycle is its flowering stage. Coffee plants produce small, white, and fragrant flowers that appear in clusters at the leaf nodes. These flowers are a true work of art, with intricate details and enchanting colors that make them a delight to behold.

Each flower has five delicate white petals with a star-like appearance and yellow stamens in the center. The petals of coffee plant flowers are quite delicate, and they have a delightful fragrance that attracts pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

Flowering typically occurs once or twice a year, depending on the variety and climate. During the flowering season, the coffee plant is at its most beautiful, with clusters of white flowers covering the plant. The blooms typically last for only a few days, but they are a sight to behold while they last.

If you want to encourage your coffee plant to bloom, there are a few things you can do. Offer 4-6 hours of bright but indirect sunlight daily and provide shade to the plants during summer spells. Additionally, the four basic needs of coffee plants for flowering are warm temperature, feeble watering, humid air, and well-draining, acidic soil. By taking care of these needs, you can help your coffee plant produce beautiful flowers that will enchant you and your guests.

The Fruit of Its Labor: Coffee Cherries

As you may know, coffee beans come from the fruit of the coffee plant. This fruit is called a coffee cherry and it is initially green in color. As it ripens, it turns into a bright red color, resembling a miniature cherry.

The coffee cherry is made up of skin, flesh, and one or two coffee beans, which are actually the seeds of the fruit. The flesh of the coffee cherry is sweet and acidic in taste and surrounds the pit, or coffee bean.

It is interesting to note that typically, one or two coffee beans are housed within each cherry. This can affect the flavor profile of the coffee, as the number of beans can impact the overall taste.

Coffee cherries can be processed in different ways, which can affect the final taste of the coffee. For example, cherries can be dried with the pulp and skin intact, which can produce a fuller-bodied, sweeter coffee. Alternatively, the cherry skin and flesh can be removed, leaving only the coffee bean to be washed, roasted, and brewed.


In conclusion, the coffee plant is an evergreen shrub with glossy, dark-green leaves. It can grow up to 10 feet tall and can range in height from 3 to 10 feet. The growth rate of a coffee plant depends on the variety, climate, soil conditions, and the amount of water and sunlight it receives.

When it comes to growing coffee plants, it is important to use rich, peat-based, slightly acidic potting soil amended with organic matter. Place it in a location near a window but not in direct sunlight, and away from drafts. Maintain a room temperature between 65°F and 80°F. Coffee plants grow best in well-drained, fertile soil with a pH between 6 and 6.5. They need about 60 inches of rain per year, or about 1-2 inches per week.

After three to four years from planting, coffee plants exhibit white, star-shaped bloomings. Once you have picked the fruit, you can break them apart to extract the beans. Each cherry will have two coffee beans. Take a look at the general process for turning the cherries into a fresh, hot cup of joe. Pick the cherries. Extract the beans. Place the beans in water for one to two days.

The coffee plant, with its unique visual characteristics, is a beautiful and important part of our daily lives. By appreciating its beauty, we gain a deeper connection to the origins of our beloved beverage. So, the next time you encounter a coffee plant, take a moment to admire its journey from seed to fruit, a testament to the wonders of nature.

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