The first reference to "coffee" in the English language, in the form chaoua, dates to 1598. In English and other European languages, coffee derives from the Ottoman Turkish kahve, via the Italian caffè. The Turkish word in turn was borrowed from the Arabic: قهوة‎, qahwah. Arab lexicographers maintain that qahwah originally referred to a type of wine, and gave its etymology, in turn, to the verb qahiya, signifying "to have no appetite", since this beverage was thought to dull one's hunger. Several alternative etymologies exist that hold that the Arab form may disguise a loanword from an Ethiopian or African source, suggesting Kaffa, the highland in southwestern Ethiopia as one, since the plant is indigenous to that area. However, the term used in that region for the berry and plant is bunn, the native name in Shoa being būn.


Illustration of a single branch of a plant. Broad, ribbed leaves are accented by small white flowers at the base of the stalk. On the edge of the drawing are cutaway diagrams of parts of the plant.
Illustration of Coffea arabica plant and seeds
Several species of shrub of the genus Coffea produce the berries from which coffee is extracted. The two main species commercially cultivated are Coffea canephora (predominantly a form known as 'robusta') and C. arabica. C. arabica, the most highly regarded species, is native to the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia and the Boma Plateau in southeastern Sudan and possibly Mount Marsabit in northern Kenya.C. canephora is native to western and central subsaharan Africa, from Guinea to the Uganda and southern Sudan. Less popular species are C. liberica, excelsa, stenophylla, mauritiana, and racemosa.
All coffee plants are classified in the large family Rubiaceae. They are evergreen shrubs or small trees that may grow 5 m (15 ft) tall when unpruned. The leaves are dark green and glossy, usually 10–15 cm (4–6 in) long and 6 cm (2.4 in) wide. The flowers are axillary, and clusters of
fragrant white flowers bloom simultaneously and are followed by oval berries of about 1.5 cm (0.6 in). Green when immature, they ripen to yellow, then crimson, before turning black on drying. Each berry usually contains two seeds, but 5–10% of the berries have only one; these are called peaberries. Berries ripen in seven to nine months. Coffea arabica is predominantly self-pollinating, and as a result the seedlings are generally uniform and vary little from their parents. In contrast, Coffea canephora, C. excelsa, and C. liberica are self-incompatible and require outcrossing. This means that useful forms and hybrids must be propagated vegetativelyCuttings, grafting, and budding are the usual methods of vegetative propagation. On the other hand, there is great scope for experimentation in search of potential new strains.


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