Is Coffee A Legume – What is A Coffee Bean Exactly?

A coffee bean. That’s what we call it and that’s why we have this confusion. Let’s get rid of it.

Is coffee a legume? No, Coffee is not a legume. Though we call them coffee beans, they are not legumes. We actually get coffee from a red cherry fruit which definitely makes it not a legume. Coffee beans are neither nuts nor fruits but are seeds of the cherry fruit from a coffee tree.

Is A Coffee Bean A Legume?

Let’s answer this question in more detail.

To give a better answer, we need you to understand the question better.

What’s a legume?

A legume is a plant that belongs to the family Fabaceae

The dry grains from a legume plant are called pulses. Usually, they’re cultivated as food for humans and livestock.

The fruit or seed of the plant is usually found inside a pod. This is the characteristic feature of a legume and some famous legumes that look this way are

  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Soy Beans
  • Peanuts
  • Tamarind
  • Clover
  • Lupins
  • Cowpea

and more.

A coffee bean is nothing like this. It doesn’t grow inside a pod but rather is found as a seed inside a fruit. The coffee bean also grows in a tree which might be a rude shock to many new coffee drinkers out there.

The confusion comes from the fact that we call it the coffee bean. But it is not a bean like the Adzuki bean or kidney bean. 

There are two popular coffee beans namely the Arabica bean and the Robusta bean. Both these bean types grow on a coffee tree of their kind and do not even closely resemble a legume in any way.

Simply put, all beans are seeds but not all seeds are beans.

What Exactly is a Coffee Bean Then?

There are some other possibilities too. It a coffee bean a nut, a berry, or a fruit? 

Let’s discuss them as it compliments this topic nicely.

Is Coffee Bean a Nut?

A nut can be described as something with a hard shell with a seed inside. 

We usually break the hard outer shell and take out the seed that we call the nut. Unlike legumes, nuts do not crack open once they have ripened. You will have to use force (or a nutcracker) to break open the outer hard shell.

Some famous nuts are acorns, pecans, and hazelnuts.

Fun Fact: Did you know that almonds and walnuts are not nuts? 

Does this sound anything like coffee to you?

No? Because it is not a nut.

Coffee beans come from a coffee cherry that is soft and doesn’t have to be forced to crack open.

Let’s move on to the next one.

Is Coffee Bean a Fruit?

Coffee comes with the fruits of a coffee plant/tree. 

But that doesn’t make a coffee bean a fruit.

We can find coffee beans inside the fruits. Coffee beans are just the seeds of the fruit and nothing more.

Even though the fruits are edible, we usually throw the fruits after extracting the seeds as the coffee beans are the most prized possession in this scenario.

The coffee fruit, the one that contains the seeds, turns red when it is ripe. Some varieties even turn yellow or purple depending on various factors. 

There is not much fruit left in this fruit as most of the fruit is consumed by the coffee bean. The coffee bean to fruit ratio is quite high, so even if you want to eat a coffee fruit, you’re not going to be left with much.

Is Coffee A vegetable?

To make things more confusing, here is the question of whether a coffee bean is a vegetable.

This question comes from the base that we call coffee seeds beans, and since beans like lima bean and green bean belong to the vegetable group, coffee beans should also be a vegetable, right?

Well, the answer is no and this is the easiest no we can say without much explanation.

The coffee bean simply isn’t a vegetable. It is a seed of a fruit, and that’s it.

Is Coffee Bean a Berry?

No, the coffee bean is not a berry.

A berry is a fleshy fruit that is produced without a pit at its center. 

Eggplants, cucumbers, and bananas are excellent examples of berries. If you want easier to remember examples, then grapes and tomatoes come to mind.

Fun Fact: Strawberries and Raspberries are not berries

The coffee fruit comes with a pit in the center so it is not a berry. 

The confusion that coffee could be a berry comes from the fact that small cherry-like fruits are often called colloquially as berries. The reality, however, is different.

Coffee Bean – What is it?

While one may have many assumptions that a coffee bean is a legume, a nut, a fruit, a berry, or even a vegetable, the reality is not even close.

A coffee bean is a seed of a fruit.

That’s it.

There are two species of coffee plants namely Coffea canephora and Coffea Arabica. The former gives us the Robusta beans while the latter delivers the Arabica beans.

Originating in Ethiopia, the coffee plantation has moved to various other places all over the world. The Coffee Belt post discusses this in far more detail.

The coffee shrubs or trees can grow up to 5m in height. Each coffee berry comes with 2 pits. The occurrence of a single pit is very rare and happens 5% to 10% of the time. They are called peaberries.

Arabica berries can take up to 6 to 8 months to ripen while Robusta berries can take around 9 to 11 months to ripen. 

What Food Group is Coffee Beans in?

Let’s wrap this up in this section.

So what food group does coffee beans belong to?

As we have mentioned above, a coffee bean is not a legume, nut, fruit, vegetable, or berry.

The coffee fruit is a drupe berry, and the coffee bean is a seed of this drupe berry. 

If you’re looking to classify the coffee bean, then you might not find the right food group any time soon.

To answer the mother question that started it all, is a coffee bean considered a legume? No, it is not. It is just a seed of a drupe berry called coffee berry that is found in coffee trees.

Do let us know if you have any other questions.

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