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close this bookTraditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)
close this folderSpecies accounts
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View the documentAcacia drepanolobium Sjöstedt
View the documentAcacia hockii De Wild.
View the documentAcacia nilotica (L.) Del.
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View the documentXimenia americana L
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Coffea arabica L.

Rubiaceae

Borana: bun English: arabian coffee, arabica coffee, coffee Kamba: kaawa Kikuyu: kahua Kipsigis: kawek, kahawek Kisii: ekawa, ekahawa Luhya (Bukusu): ekawa Luhya (Tachoni): kahawa Luo: kawa Meru: kahuwa Mijikenda: kahawa Somali: bun Swahili: kahawa

Description: Shrub or small tree up to 6 m high, but kept below 3 m in cultivation. Leaves elliptic, flowers white and axillary. Fruit a 2-seeded drupe, ellipsoid, to 2 cm, green, turning red to dark red on ripening.

Ecology: Wild populations of coffee are found in southern Ethiopia and in northern Kenya on Mt Marsabit and possibly Mt Kulal in highland forests, 1,300-1,500 m. Coffee is cultivated throughout the tropics and most of Africa. In Kenya it is grown throughout the country at medium altitude (1,300-2,200 m) and rainfall (700-1,200 mm). Does well in deep red clay-loam soils. Zones III-IV.

Uses: This is the well-known coffee plant grown for its seeds which are the source of household coffee, a stimulating beverage. Processing involves separating the fruit pulp from the seeds. In homes this may be done by squeezing the ripe fruits in water. The cream seeds are washed and dried for a few days then pounded in a mortar to remove the seed wall. Seeds are then roasted and pounded or ground. Bulk processing in rural coffee factories involves removing the fruit wall, grading, fermenting, air drying and packing. Roasting is a specialized process done at a central factory. In Ethiopia, coffee drinking is an important social event. Members of a neighbourhood may meet every morning to drink coffee (Guragae area, central Ethiopia). It is served in special pots and cups. Members meet at the house whose owner's turn it is to prepare the coffee.

Management: Easily grown from seeds in nurseries from where it is transplanted to farms.

Other: Pruned branches used as firewood. "Husks" from factories are used as manure.

Cultural/beliefs: Coffee, tobacco and khat are taken as gifts to a girl's home during the first visit of the boy's parents as a sign of a developing friendship between the two families (Boran). Coffee is one of the plant materials offered under fig trees during some cultural ceremonies (Boran).

Remarks: Arabica coffee is native to the Kaffa region (whence the name coffee is derived but now falling under Oromia Federal State) of southern Ethiopia.

Several other species of coffee are cultivated. The best known of these is Coffea canephora (syn: C. robusta), (English: robusta coffee). This is said to have the highest content of caffeine. Others are C. liberica (English: Liberian coffee) and C. stenophylla (English: Sierra Leone coffee, highland coffee), both of West Africa. At least five other species of Coffea are found wild in Kenya but are of no commercial importance. Coffee is an important export crop in Kenya, ranking second after tea in foreign currency earnings.


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