23 Oct Is coffee a fruit and can you eat it?
In its ground down powder form it doesn’t look like a fruit but coffee is a fruit because it starts its life as a coffee cherry on a coffee plant.
This is a great trivia question as your first reaction would be, how can brown powder be fruit?
First, we need to fully understand the definition of fruit. The Oxford English dictionary describes a fruit as:
“The sweet and fleshy product of a tree or other plant that contains seed and can be eaten as food”
So if coffee is a fruit, then what part of it can be eaten and what about the seeds?
Can you eat a coffee berry?
Coffee berries are grown and harvested for the seeds inside that get turned into coffee beans but the berry itself is edible.
The seeds inside, whilst very tasty once they get dried and roasted, are not very pleasant when raw so if you get the opportunity to eat a coffee berry then first of all make sure that it’s ripe.
Squeeze the coffee cherry with two fingers and “pop” out the two seeds. There is only a thin layer of skin and pulp before you get to the seeds so if you try to bite straight into the berry then you risk biting into the seeds as well.
The rest can be eaten and therefore it qualifies as a fruit because you can eat it, it comes from a plant and it has seeds.
What does a coffee cherry taste like?
Experts can actually identify the variety of coffee by tasting the coffee cherry but for mere mortals like us, you can expect a sweet taste with fruit like flavours such as Mango.
I was a bit sceptical myself but when given the opportunity to taste a coffee cherry I had set my expectations on it being bitter and nasty and so I was pleasantly surprised to find it sweeter than I thought it would be but pretty bland and whilst certainly not horrible, it’s not something that I would choose to eat on a regular basis.
Where do coffee beans come from?
We will all be familiar with coffee beans but where do they actually come from if coffee starts off as a red berry on a coffee plant?
Coffee beans are the seeds from inside a coffee cherry. Coffee cherries start off as green and as they ripen they turn red (they can be yellow or orange as well but mostly they are red)
Once ripe, they are ready to picked and start the journey that ends up as a cup of coffee for billions of people every day.
If you open up a coffee cherry you will see the first sign of something that you are familiar with when the word “coffee bean” is mentioned.
The two seeds that you will find inside a coffee cherry are what we all know as coffee beans.
Coffee seeds were named coffee beans because they look a lot like green beans from vegetables that we eat on a regular basis and so once the coffee seeds are removed from the coffee fruit and dried they become green coffee beans.
Those green coffee beans are then roasted to turn them into brown coffee beans ready for grinding and brewing into coffee.
Can you eat coffee beans?
Unroasted coffee beans
Once the coffee beans have been removed from the coffee cherry and dried they are then ready to be roasted into the beans that most people buy.
You can also buy green unroasted coffee beans if, for example, you wanted to roast them yourself in order to get super freshly roasted coffee all the time.
Unroasted green coffee beans can be eaten and in moderation they won’t do you any harm but it’s not something we would recommend because they don’t taste very good.
Green coffee beans that haven’t been roasted are much harder than roasted beans so make sure you have your best teeth in if you want to give them a try because they are pretty hard to bite into and just as hard to chew.
There have been suggestions and fads that suggest green coffee bean extract could assist with weight loss but there is no scientific evidence to prove that is the case.
We have tried the suggested method of boiling green coffee beans and drinking the water they are boiled in and it tastes pretty grim. Not recommended.
It seems more likely that anyone that claims to have lost weight this way just didn’t feel like eating after drinking the green coffee bean water.
Roasted coffee beans
If you want to try eating coffee beans then we would recommend ones that have already been roasted as you are getting closer to the coffee flavour you are used to drinking.
When you drink coffee that has been ground down from whole coffee beans only about 30% of the coffee actually ends up in your cup in liquid form and the other 70% gets discarded.
If you choose to eat roasted coffee beans then you will be eating 100% of the bean instead of the 30% that normally gets extracted into your cup.
Roasted beans are much more palatable than unroasted. They can actually be quite tasty and are easier to eat because the roasting process softens them up.
Chocolate covered coffee beans are available to buy in some supermarkets at seasonal times of the year like Christmas and can be a nice touch when you add one to the saucer when you serve up a homemade coffee made using your own coffee machine.
In summary, coffee is definitely a fruit and you can eat the coffee cherry and the beans that are inside before or after they are roasted.
It’s something that you may want to try once if you get the opportunity but there is a reason that coffee cherries are not sold in your local supermarket.
The flesh of the coffee cherry doesn’t taste that great and the beans inside can be eaten but they taste an awful lot better when ground down and turned into a delicious cup of coffee.