Coffee grows best in a warm, humid climate with a relatively stable temperature of about 27°C all year round. The world's coffee plantations are therefore found in the so-called coffee-belt that straddles the equator between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
Coffee from the tree goes through a series of processes to end up with the saleable product - the green coffee bean.
1. Picking - Coffee is picked by hand. Coffee cherries are bright red when they are ripe, but unfortunately the cherries do not all ripen at the same time. Picking just the red cherries at harvest time produces better quality coffee, but it is more labour intensive as each tree must be visited several times during the harvest season. Many farmers therefore strip the tree of both ripe and unripe cherries in one pick.
2. Drying and hulling - The cherries each contain two beans which have to be separated from the surrounding layers - the skin, the pulp and 'parchment' - by hulling. The beans also have to be dried, usually in the sun but sometimes by using mechanical dryers.
3. Sorting, grading and packing - Beans are sorted by hand, sieves and machines to remove stones and other foreign matter, to remove damaged or broken beans, and to sort beans into different qualities or 'grades'. Coffee is packed into sacks, usually of 60kg.
4. Bulking - Roasters, like Nestlé, will need to buy large quantities of coffee of a particular grade, so exporters in the country of origin will bulk together numerous small batches of coffee to make up the necessary amount of the required grade.
5. Blending - At the roasters, experts with fine palates and much experience decide which blend of coffees from various origins to use to make the coffee products to meet the taste of their consumers.
6. Roasting - On leaving the plantation, the coffee is pale green - hence the name 'green coffee' for the traded product. Only when it is roasted does it turn brown taking on its characteristic aroma and flavour. It is the roasted beans which are used to make the coffee product.