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Tropical evergreen shrub of the genus Coffea, in the madder family, or its seeds, called beans; also the beverage made by brewing the roasted and ground beans with water. Two of the 25 or more species, C. arabica and C. canephora, supply almost all the world's coffee. Arabica coffee is considered to brew a more flavourful and aromatic beverage than Robusta, the main variety of C. canephora. Arabicas are grown in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Indonesia, Robustas mainly in Africa. The shrub bears bouquets of small white flowers with a jasminelike fragrance. The fruit, 0.5–0.75 in. (13–19 mm) long and red when mature, is called a cherry. Coffee contains large amounts of caffeine, the effects of which have always been an important element in the drink's popularity. Coffee drinking began in 15th-century Arabia. It reached Europe by the mid 17th century and immediately became hugely popular. Coffee is now consumed by about one-third of the world's population.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on coffee, visit Britannica.com.