The bean & the farmer

Watch part 2 of
the documentary

Where does coffee come from?

Coffee grows primarily in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. It thrives in the warm and humid climate of the “coffee belt”, roughly the area between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn where the soils are rich and the temperatures are stable.

coffee map

The “coffee belt”, where conditions are optimal for cultivating coffee plants.

A Rubiaceae specimen.

Key coffee-growing regions in Ethiopia.

There are many thousands of species of Rubiaceae, the botanical family to which coffee belongs, but two basic varieties of coffee plant are farmed specifically for coffee. Arabica, which originated in Ethiopia, and Robusta, its lower quality but hardier cousin.

Arabica represents the majority of the world’s coffee production. The trees grow at relatively high altitudes, typically between 1,500m and 3,000m above sea level, and with its floral tones and notes of citrus fruit, Arabica is the bean used in specialty coffees.

Robusta, with its less interesting taste and higher caffeine content, grows at lower altitudes and is frequently used in instant coffees or mixed with Arabica for supermarket blends. Brazil, the world’s biggest coffee producer, is a major exporter of Robusta.

Most of Ethiopia’s coffee is grown in two regions of the country — Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR).

On the tree

picking cherries picking cherries

Freshly-picked, ripe coffee cherries.

Coffee is a self-pollinating plant. The coffee beans begin as berries on coffee trees and turn red when ripe. The fruit is known as a coffee cherry.

The coffee bean is really the seed inside the cherry. The bean is protected by a layer of “parchment” and further covered in a layer of sticky mucilage and sickly sweet pulp, although the outside skin of the coffee cherry itself has a bitter taste.

In order to extract the coffee bean, the skin, pulp, and mucilage must all be removed. So once the coffee cherry is harvested, it needs to be processed.

coffee tree

A coffee tree.

Only the ripe red cherries are fit for harvesting — unripe or overripe cherries will affect the taste when the coffee is processed and bring down the quality of the whole batch. Mistakes in the production and processing of coffee affect its quality. You can tell when you drink it.

The Farmers

In Ethiopia, about 15 million people either directly or indirectly depend on coffee for their living, according to the US Global Agricultural Information Network. That means about 20% of the country’s population is dependent on coffee incomes.

Very little of Ethiopia’s coffee – only about 5% – is grown on plantations; most is grown on smallholder plots, much of it in the backyards of villagers’ houses.

The typical agricultural holding of an Ethiopian farmer is less than two hectares.

Water Wise Coffee's nonprofit partner TechnoServe has been working with coffee cooperatives and thousands of smallholder farmers to improve the quality, quantity and sustainability of their coffee harvests.

Rohan Marley & Marley Coffee

Marley Coffee® was founded by Rohan Marley, son of the legendary and beloved musician, Bob Marley [Robert Nesta Marley O.M.].

Bob Marley always said he would return to farming one day. With Marley Coffee, Bob’s son Rohan fulfills the dream. Rohan remembers his grandmother drying their wild coffee berries in the sun, then hulling and roasting them for her own cup of coffee each morning. Marley Coffee is determined to deliver that same intoxicating aroma and rich smooth flavor into every cup.

Music was Bob Marley’s calling. Coffee is his son, Rohan’s. Both are incredibly powerful means towards incredibly powerful ends. One cup at a time. One sip at a time. One love.

Marley Coffee is committed to giving back and does so through its support of Water Wise CoffeeTM. Starting in Ethiopia, we’re improving lives where coffee comes from, one drop at a time.

visit marleycoffee.com for more