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Is Coffee A Fruit?

Is Coffee A Fruit? Let’s Clear Up The Confusion

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Coffee is the fuel that kicks off each and every morning. It’s the ritual many of us carry out through half-closed tired red eyes. For many, it’s an integral part of our daily routine, and for others, it’s a way of life.

No matter how much your life revolves around coffee, at some point, you must have stopped and pondered whether coffee is a fruit or a vegetable?

The difference between fruits and vegetables may seem simple enough, and a quick think back to your school days will more than likely jog your memory and help clarify which category certain foods fall into.

That’s all well and good. But when trying to determine if coffee is a fruit, the distinct lines become slightly blurred, and for most people understanding which side of the argument coffee falls can be confusing.

However, to clear any confusion, I can tell you that coffee is a fruitwell, kind of yes.

If you still want answers keep on reading, and I will delve a little deeper into the coffee bean fruit debate. By the time you reach the end, you will have a definitive answer.

A Closer Look At Coffee?

Before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s probably a good idea to take a closer look at coffee.

The cup of brewed coffee you crave every morning starts its life as a roasted seed from the coffee plant. Coffee plants are actually flowering trees with waxy green leaves that bear ripe red or purple cherries.

But unlike regular cherries or berries where the outer flesh or pulp is eaten, with a coffee cherry it’s the opposite, you usually discard the flesh, and it’s the inner pit that is processed and consumed.

Each coffee cherry pit contains two “seeds” with the flat side on the inside and the round side facing out.

what is the fruit of the coffee plant called

At this stage, and after a bit of processing, the seeds are known as green coffee beans.

💡 Did You Know: Around 5 to 10% of coffee cherries have only one bean inside, known as a ‘peaberry.’ These are slightly smaller and more spherical than a regular flat-sided coffee bean.

When the cherries ripen on the coffee tree, they are harvested, and the outer flesh is removed. The green coffee bean seeds are dried using natural processes, and they are then milled and ultimately roasted. The coffee is packaged and makes its way to you, the consumer.

Bean Or Seed

Before I continue, I want to highlight the difference between a “bean” and a “seed” when talking about coffee; it will make following along far easier. 

Although we call coffee a bean, it’s actually a seed/pit. The seed is found inside the flesh of the cherry, which means that the cherry is the fruit, and the bean inside is the seed. In India, they correctly use the term “coffee seeds” rather than “coffee beans.”

Is Coffee A Fruit?

So, is coffee a fruit? I won’t leave you hanging on the edge of your seat any longer.

Yes, coffee cherries are fruit. Although you don’t eat the fruit, they hold the seed, which is processed into a roasted coffee bean.

Coffee bean fruit

The coffee trees produce fruit (cherry), and the coffee beans (seeds) are inside the fruit, which means that the coffee you drink and enjoy is also a fruit.

Another way to look at it. The coffee fruit grows directly from a flower. This is why tomatoes are also classed as fruits and not vegetables.

💡 Did You Know: The flesh or pulp surrounding the coffee cherries can be processed and used to make a herbal tea known as ‘cascara’ tea which has high amounts of caffeine and is packed with antioxidants.

Are Coffee Beans Fruit?

The definition between coffee beans and coffee often becomes intertwined, which could be why there is so much confusion surrounding the coffee fruit debate.

The coffee beans (seeds) themselves are not a fruit. The fleshy part of the fruit has been discarded, and the fruit’s seed is the part consumed. The coffee cherry is a fruit, but the coffee bean (seed) is just a part of the fruit.

It’s like tossing out the fleshy part of an avocado and eating only the pit — but in the case of coffee, the pit is the tasty part of the fruit!

is coffee fruit the same as coffee

But hold on a minute. Here’s where it gets more confusing. Do a quick Google search “is coffee a vegetable” and you might get a surprise.

Is Coffee A Vegetable?

It seems like Google is baffled about the definition of coffee and the answer sitting at the top of the search results is this:

“Beans are vegetables. Therefore coffee must be a vegetable.”

Yes, technically, any part of a plant eaten is considered a vegetable. But many plant-based foods are then further classified based on the type of plant they are.

For example, beans are not vegetables, and they are classed as legumes.

Okay, so coffee beans are legumes? No. Although they are called “beans,” as I have pointed out in this article, they are actually “seeds.”

Wrapping It Up

So there you have it – coffee is a fruit, the mystery is solved. Although the definition between the coffee fruit and the seed can be slightly perplexing, I hope that I have been able to clear up any confusion.

Just remember, the coffee berry/cherry grown on trees are the fruits, and the seeds inside the fruit are the coffee beans you grind and brew for your morning coffee.

Mark Morphew

Mark is the editor and founder of the popular coffee blog Bean Ground. He's been active in the catering and hospitality industry for many years.

When he's not fiddling around with a new coffee gadget, you'll find him busy doing DIY projects around the home and taking his German Shepherd for a walk, who funnily enough is called Kona! Discover more about Mark here.

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