Pretty much everyone we know loves coffee and kicks off each and every morning with their preferred cup. We love it for its taste. We love the burst of caffeine. We love taking that first sip and thinking, “ahhh … I’m ready to start my day.”
And the more we learn to love it — the more we want to know about it.
You can Google how to make an americano or how to use a French press and get a precise answer with an objective point of view. But if you ask the Google gods if coffee is a vegetable, you’re going to get all sorts of differing opinions.
Some people swear that it is. Others claim that it’s not.
Keep reading for a full explanation, and a definitive answer to the burning question is coffee a vegetable?
Is Coffee A Vegetable?
Google “is coffee a vegetable,” and one of the first results you’ll see is:
“Yes, it is, it’s made from a bean, and a bean is a vegetable.”
So … we’ve found our answer, right?
Not so fast!
Despite this brief and very to the point answer, there is one flaw in this sentence. Technically, beans are not vegetables. Beans are legumes.
To further complicate matters, coffee beans aren’t even technically beans. Despite their name, they are actually seeds.
Coffee grows on shrubs and bushes, and those shrubs produce small red fruits called coffee cherries. The coffee beans are the seeds of those little red fruits.
Coffee is not a vegetable. But since its beans are actually the seeds of fruits, that must make it a fruit, right?
Did You Know: Like many vegetables, brewed coffee is a source of fiber?
Is Coffee a Fruit?
The coffee cherry is a fruit, but the coffee bean itself is just a part of the fruit. The coffee cherry has a hard and bitter skin with juicy and sweet flesh on the inside. Underneath the flesh is an undesirable layer that usually feels a bit slimy but is necessary to protect the precious coffee bean inside.
So does the coffee cherry taste like coffee? It most certainly does not.
Some people equate it to the taste of a mango or a watermelon. Others say it’s fragrant, like rosewater or hibiscus. It is edible, but the pulp's somewhat slimy texture makes it one fruit that most people would never want to simply pick and eat.
The answer to the question is coffee a vegetable is no. Coffee beans are seeds, and the coffee cherries they produce are fruits.
Wondering if you can eat coffee beans? Learn 5 Ways How Plus a Recipe for Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans!
How Does Coffee Grow?
You may know all the ins and outs of how to make coffee, but it's also essential to understand how it grows.
Without getting too deep into the science of plants, here are the primary points about how the coffee plant grows. (And how it yields that delicious little bean.)
The coffee cherry is a small, fleshy fruit that typically turns red when it’s ripe. Sometimes coffee cherries look like little purple fruits, and sometimes they take on a yellowish hue.
They grow on tall shrubs and bushes that look like a berry bush. They have dark green, waxy leaves. It usually takes about one year to start flowering, then at least another year for a newly planted tree to begin bearing fruit.
Pick a coffee cherry, remove the husk, and you’ll find an inner layer of pulp.
Peel apart that pulp and you’ll find one of two things inside: two coffee seeds with flat sides that look like typical coffee beans … or … one single round bean also referred to as a peaberry.
Less than 10% of all coffee cherries contain a peaberry. It is much more common for the fruit to produce two flat beans instead. Regardless of whether there’s one seed or two, each bean gets removed from the fruit, dried out, and roasted. At which point you can grind them and put them into your French press or Moka pot.
Related: The Pros and Cons of the Electric French Press.
How is Coffee Harvested?
Coffee cherries are almost always harvested and picked by hand. The older the coffee tree, the more coffee cherries it can produce, so sometimes they are "strip picked" from the tree limb to gather many cherries at a time.
Once picked, there are two different processes to remove the coffee bean.
The Dry Method
The traditional method is the dry method. With this process, they spread the coffee cherries out in the sun, rotating and turning regularly, allowing them to dry naturally. At that point, coffee roasters use special machinery to mill, hull, and extract the beans from inside.
When you dry coffee cherries in the sun, the husk also dries out. That husk, which is essentially the skin of the fruit, is known as cascara. Some use it to make herbal tea.
If you want to enjoy all the coffee cherry parts without actually eating the fruit, sample a cup of cascara tea. It's caffeine-laden as well as antioxidant-rich to help you fight off diseases.
The Wet Method
The other, more complicated, process is the wet method. This process starts by separating the good coffee cherries from the bad ones. They strip the skin off the good ones, toss the husks aside, and pull out the seeds.
With the wet method, most coffee growers soak and ferment the seeds to remove the remains of the pulp or fruit surrounding the bean. With this method, it’s crucial not to over-ferment or over-soak the seeds. It’s sort of a Goldilocks situation: they need to be handled just right.
Regardless of the method used, all coffee cherries have to go through the process of drying and milling. The last step in the process is the roasting.
Before roasting, the beans are considered "green coffee beans." They only become those delicious brown coffee beans after they've gone through the roasting process.
Interested in learning a new way to prepare your morning coffee? Read our article on How to Brew a Perfect Pour Over Coffee.
Where Does Coffee Grow?
There are three key types of coffee plants, and different varieties grow in various regions worldwide. How and where they're grown affects the taste of the bean, which, in turn, changes the flavor in your cup.
Approximately 60% of all coffee beans produced come from the Coffea Arabica plant. Arabica plants grow all around the world, but most come from Brazil, Ethiopia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Rwanda. Arabica coffee is also grown in Guatemala, parts of India, and Mexico.
What do these countries have in common? Most lie near the equator, where the conditions for growing coffee are ideal.
Coffee plants thrive in mild conditions with high humidity. Most countries that grow Arabica plants are subtropical. These plants thrive best when planted at high elevations in areas that offer lots of shade but do not frost.
But not all Arabica beans are the same. In fact, there are more than 20 varieties of Arabica beans in the world.
One varietal that you may have heard of is Kona coffee, which is grown in Hawaii on the slopes of volcanoes. It’s a perfectly subtropical climate, and the elevation and altitude make Kona one of the best (and most expensive) coffees in the world.
Despite the subtle differences in its varieties, Arabica coffee is the most popular type in the world. It tends to taste slightly sweeter than other varieties and often has hints of fruit, berries, and chocolate.
Robusta coffee beans come specifically from the Coffea canephora plant, and they account for nearly 40% of all the coffee in the world. These are primarily grown in parts of Africa and Indonesia and can grow at much lower altitudes than Arabica beans.
Unlike the sweet Arabica bean, Robusta beans tend to have a stronger, more powerful taste. In fact, they have twice as much caffeine as their more famous counterpart. The Coffea canephora plant yields considerably more coffee cherries per tree than Arabica plants. This makes Robusta a much cheaper alternative.
For this reason, most instant coffees and inexpensive grocery store brands use Robusta beans.
If you want something that's far less produced, Liberica beans account for only about 2% of the world's coffee. Liberica grows mainly in West Africa, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Places where the temperatures usually range between 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit and rarely dip below 32.
Excelsa coffee beans also grow in Southeast Asia. They used to be their own classification of coffee beans, but they are now generally regarded as part of the Liberica family. These beans sometimes grow in subtropical climates, as they need humidity, but they are best grown in areas that consistently fall within the 65-80 degree range.
If you haven’t had Liberica or Excelsa coffee beans, you’re not alone. They’re quite hard to come by!
Do you absolutely love coffee? Enough to consider yourself a connoisseur? Read our comprehensive coffee guide to find out if it’s time to start referring to yourself as an expert.
The Health Benefits of Coffee
Coffee is not a vegetable, but it is good for you! Aside from its delicious taste, coffee offers a wide variety of health benefits.
Coffee Contains Key Nutrients
Coffee beans are packed with nutrients, including riboflavin, manganese, potassium, magnesium, and niacin. These are all B vitamins, which improve proper brain function, promote cell health, and increase cell metabolism.
A single cup of coffee contains 11% of your recommended daily intake of riboflavin. That means you can get almost a quarter of the essential vitamin into your body just by drinking two cups a day.
Coffee Can Give You Energy
We all know that coffee contains loads of caffeine. And when the caffeine hits the brain, it improves both your energy level and mood. Caffeine can also boost your metabolic rate, making it easier to burn fat. If you use that energy to exercise more, you can even say that coffee helps you lose weight!
Coffee is High in Antioxidants
Coffee is full of antioxidants, specifically ferulic acid, which is thought to be a superior antioxidant.
Here’s why it’s important:
Ferulic acid has anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, antibacterial, and antiviral effects.
And despite how many fruits and veggies we try to incorporate into our daily diets, the fact is that most people get more antioxidants from coffee than they do from food.
Coffee May Help Lower Your Risk For Diseases
Some studies show that coffee can help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and certain types of cancer. Coffee drinkers also tend to have healthier livers as well as a lower risk of stroke.
Keep in mind, if you load your coffee with cream and sugar, you’re not doing yourself any favors. But a cup of black coffee can be a delicious and powerful addition to your daily diet.
Straight black coffee has no fat, no sodium, no carbs, and no sugar. By adding milk, flavored creamers, and sweeteners to your cup, you’re also adding all those things.
The bottom line is this: if you want coffee to play a powerful and effective role in your diet, drink it black.
Need some beans? Shop our delicious organic blends and stock up!
Maybe you enjoy an espresso at your favorite coffee shop every morning. Perhaps your daily routine includes making a single origin cup of coffee in the comfort of your kitchen. Either way, coffee is something to savor and enjoy!
If you’re ever in the Sonoma County area, stop by the Taylor Lane Coffee Bar for a freshly-roasted cup.
And while those roasted beans do offer a variety of health benefits, you can’t consider a cup of coffee one of your vegetable servings for the day.
Coffee is delicious and good for you in different ways, but it is absolutely not a vegetable. If anyone tells you it is, set the record straight and let them know that it’s actually a fruit.