Coffee comes from a flowering bush-like plant that grows cherries.
Coffee trees produce berries, called coffee cherries, that turn bright red when ripe and ready to pick. The skin of a coffee cherry (the exocarp) is thick and bitter. However, the fruit beneath it (the mesocarp) is intensely sweet and has the texture of a grape. Next comes the parenchyma, a slimy, honey-like layer, which helps protect the beans.
The beans themselves are covered by a parchment-like envelope called the endocarp. This protects the two, bluish-green coffee beans, which are covered by yet another membrane, called the spermoderm or silver skin.
Can I eat raw coffee cherries?
Goats did! And coffee was discovered. A very entertaining legend, circa 850 A.D., says goats became crazy energetic after nibbling on the small, red fruit of a bush (the raw coffee cherries!). Noticing their behaviour, the Ethiopian herdsman Kaldi decided to try out the berry himself and take them to an Islamic monk. The monk was not so keen on the fruit and threw them into a fire, producing the delicious smell of roasting coffee. Everyone around helped to save the beans from the flames, then decided to ground them, dissolve them in hot water, and voila! The world’s first cup of coffee was born. Although this is an incredible story, experts warn it’s probably made up. What do you reckon?
Yes, you can eat raw coffee cherries since they are essentially a fruit. Good advice is not eating too many, though.
The outside texture is mostly firm. However, on the inside the slippery and slimy consistency isn't very inviting. Taste like, there are different opinions:
Some say it's like mangos or watermelon, others more berrylike notes or similar to hibiscus.
Fragrances like jasmine, rosewater and tobacco are also reported.
Some even swear they are sweet as honey!
Another curious fact is that early on, people mixed coffee berries with fat to create a coffee energy-rich snack ball. They would also ferment the pulp to make a wine-like drink (yum!?).
Once ripened, the cherries are picked, processed and dried.
Each cherry contains two or three seeds, which anyone would recognize as coffee “beans.” The coffee fruit is also a so-called stone fruit. Even though the coffee beans are not technically beans, they are referred to as such because of their resemblance to regular beans.
A small percentage of cherries contain a single seed, instead of the usual two. This is called a "peaberry" and occurs in only 10% of the crop. They tend to be smaller, denser, and it is a common (yet scientifically unproven) belief that they have more flavour and are sweeter than normal coffee beans.