With four previous years of Advent Botany I was surprised that none of us have so far covered coffee. OK, it’s not a Christmassy spice, or a festive decoration, but by this time in the year I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling more than my usual need for this botanical pick-me-up. As we reach the shortest day of the year a good cup (or several) of coffee is pretty much all that’s keeping me from attempting to hibernate.
Coffee is in the Rubiaceae, a diverse family including herbaceous plants such as the dye plant madder (Rubia tinctoria) and the quinine-producing Cinchona trees used for flavouring tonic water. The genus Coffea contains over 120 species of shrubs and small trees with opposite pairs of glossy dark green leaves and jasmine-scented flowers. Despite this, there are few species which are used commercially. Coffea arabica accounts for about 60% of world production and C. canephora for the remaining 40% (FAO Statistical Pocketbook Coffee, 2015)
For more on the botany of coffee read Rachel’s full blog here.