The coffee plant prefers the cool, moist, frost-free climate found at higher altitudes in the tropics and subtropics. Optimum growing conditions include: temperature of about 75°F (24°C); well-distributed annual rainfall of about 50 in. (127 cm) with a short dry season; and fertile, deep, well-drained soil, especially of volcanic origin. While coffee can be grown from sea level to c.6,000 ft (1,830 m), and C. robusta is produced at low elevations in West Africa, the better arabica grades are generally produced above 1,500 ft (460 m). Strong winds limit coffee production; coffee is often grown in the shelter of taller trees. A coffee tree yields its maximum sometime between its fifth and tenth year and may bear for about 30 years.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.