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|Flowering branches of Coffea arabica|
Coffea is a genus of flowering plants whose seeds, called coffee beans, are used to make coffee. It is a member of the Rubiaceae family. They are shrubs or small trees native to tropical and southern Africa and tropical Asia. Coffee ranks as one of the world's most valuable and widely traded commodity crops and is an important export product of several countries.
The trees produce red or purple fruits called "cherries" that look like drupes, but are epigynous berries.[contradictory] The cherries contain two seeds, the so-called "coffee beans", which — despite their name — are not true beans. In about 5-10% of any crop of coffee cherries, only a single bean, rather than the usual two, is found. This is called a peaberry, which is smaller and rounder than a normal coffee bean. It is often removed from the yield and either sold separately (as in New Guinea peaberry), or discarded.
When grown in the tropics, coffee is a vigorous bush or small tree that usually grows to a height of 3–3.5 m (10–12 feet). Most commonly cultivated coffee species grow best at high elevations, but are nevertheless intolerant of freezing temperatures.
The tree of Coffea arabica will grow fruits after three to five years, and will produce for about 50 to 60 years (although up to 100 years is possible). The white flowers are highly scented. The fruit takes about 9 months to ripen.
Coffee is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species, Dalcera abrasa, turnip moth and some members of the genus Endoclita, including E. damor and E. malabaricus.
In 2008 and 2009, researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew named seven species of Coffea from the mountains of northern Madagascar, including C. ambongensis, C. boinensis, C. labatii, C. pterocarpa, C. bissetiae, and C. namorokensis.
In 2008, two new species of coffee plants were discovered in Cameroon: Coffea charrieriana, which is caffeine-free, and Coffea anthonyi. By crossing the new species with other known coffees, two new features might be introduced to cultivated coffee plants: beans without caffeine and self-pollination.
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