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the web of life in southern Africa

Coffea arabica (Arabian coffee, Arabica coffee)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Asterids > Euasterid I > Order: Gentianales > Family: Rubiaceae > Genus: Coffea

Coffee plants in Zambia. [photos by S van Noort, Iziko ]

A shrub or small tree with clusters of two-seeded fruit (the seeds being the 'coffee beans') that are red or purple when ripe. Native to Ethiopia but the commercialisation of coffee as a drink has its origins in Arabia (Yemen), which had a monopoly over the market from about 1400 to 1700 AD. Coffee is now produced worldwide in tropical regions but most of the production is from Brazil and Colombia. Coffee is drunk mainly because of the stimulating effects of caffeine - a typical cup of coffee has about 150 mg of this addictive substance. However, many people simply like its taste and smell, hence the popularity of decaffeinated coffee.

See also Cichorium intybus (Chicory), which is used as a coffee substitute or addititive.

Ecological relationships

Acetobacter diazotrophicus


Acid-producing, nitrogen-fixing bacteria that are found in roots, rhizospheres and stems of coffee plants.







  • van Wyk, B.-E. 2005. Food Plants of the World - Identification, Culinary Uses and Nutritional Value. Briza, Pretoria.