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  • Emirhan Turan

Elixir of Life from Coffee (Coffea L.) plant

by Emirhan Turan, July 5, 2020

The genus Coffea L. contains three different species which used in the production of coffee: Arabica coffee (C. arabica), Robusta coffee (C. canephora), and Liberian or Liberica coffee, or excelsa coffee (C. liberica). From this three, Arabica coffee (C. arabica) is the most important commercial species that is being used in the market with 70–80% of the world's coffee production.

‘’Coffee grown worldwide can trace its heritage back centuries to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau. There, legend says the goat herder Kaldi first discovered the potential of these beloved beans. Kaldi discovered coffee after he noticed that after eating the berries from a certain tree, his goats became so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night. Kaldi reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery, who made a drink with the berries and found that it kept him alert through the long hours of evening prayer. The abbot shared his discovery with the other monks at the monastery, and knowledge of the energizing berries began to spread.’'

This anonymous painting shows Kaldi the goat herder holding coffee beans.
This anonymous painting shows Kaldi the goat herder holding coffee beans.

Coffee cultivation and trade started in the Arabian Peninsula by the 15th century. Coffee plant was grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia, and followed by the 16th century in Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. By the 17th century, coffee reached Europe and was becoming popular across the continent with its bitter taste.

Nowadays, Brazil is the top coffee producing country all over the world with 40% of coffee supply. Vietnam is in the second place with the production amount nearly by 20%. In regard of consumption rates, Scandinavian countries like Finland, Norway, Sweden placed in the top 5 with high consumption rates.

Chemical composition of Coffee

Traditionally, it was thought that coffee consumption, especially in high amount, is causing liver diseases and its consumption should be low. Nowadays, the phytochemistry research of coffee found about 1,000 described phytochemicals. Accordingly, biological effect of coffee brew on human organism has been widely analyzed and this beverage was found as a functional food.

The most important bioactive compounds of coffee include the following: phenolic compounds (such as chlorogenic acids and derivatives), methylxanthines (caffeine, theophylline and theobromine), diterpenes, (including cafestol and kahweol), nicotinic acid (vitamin B3) and its precursor trigonelline. The bioactive quantities can vary in between different species. Coffee bioactive compounds can be determined using sensitive, precise, and accurate analytical methods to examine the quantity, quality, aroma and properties of green and roasted coffee beans, instant coffees, and coffee brew.

The image shows some important bioactives that can be found in coffee.
The image shows some important bioactives that can be found in coffee.

Quinic and caffeic acid are responsible for the bitterness, astringency, and acidity of coffee. Therefore, the coffee flavors are changing for each variety and processed coffee.

Health Benefits of Coffee

Consumption of coffee—in appropriate amounts—has impact on the cardiovascular system and on the metabolism of carbohydrates and lipids. Opposing to previous beliefs, the various forms of arterial cardiovascular disease, arrhythmia, or heart insufficiency, seem to be unaffected by coffee intake. Coffee reduces the incidence of cancer, diabetes, and liver disease, protects against Parkinson’s disease, and even reduces mortality risk.

Key findings on health issues with the strongest associations to coffee consumption. These include:

  • Cancer

  • Longevity

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Liver health

  • Diabetes

  • Stroke

Differences between Robusta and Arabica

Robusta and Arabica are the most consumed coffee species all around the world. There are few differences between these 2 main species from flavor to optimum production conditions. While Robusta coffee beans are more robust than the Arabica plants, but produces an inferior tasting beverage with a higher caffeine content. The key flavor compounds in Arabica are giving a sweet caramel notes while in Robusta they are giving spicy earthy notes. As a result, Robusta is considered to have more bitter, harsher flavor compared to Arabica, and it is often used in blends. Arabica produces less coffee per hectare than Robusta, and consequently it is more expensive. Arabica is more susceptible to crop diseases. Here are some main differences between two different species:

Info-graphic that shows the differences between 2 main commercial coffee plant species.
Info-graphic that shows the differences between 2 main commercial coffee plant species.

‘’There are naturally low-caffeine species, especially those from Madagascar.’’

“There is still new species of coffee been found, including those directly related to crop plant”.


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  • Access date: 04 July 2020.

  • Access date: 05 July 2020.


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