We all strive to eat a balanced diet and for most of us, it’s pretty simple to understand what that means.
While meats and veggies are straightforward enough to classify with ease, some might not realize that not all foods fit so readily into easily identifiable categories.
One of them that’s probably the most confusing of all is our daily cup of joe in our trusty coffee mug.
If you’re anything like me, the day hasn’t even started until that first sip passes your lips.
But if you’ve ever wondered what food group coffee is in, you’re not alone. In fact, most people do not know that their beloved morning cup is quite special in this regard.
Coffee is not in any of the major food groups as defined by the USDA, which includes dairy, vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins or fats/oils but in a special group known as “calories for other uses”.
The USDA has placed coffee, along with some other non nutrient-dense foods, into this special category to give people a calorie allotment for consuming them as part of an overall healthy diet.
With that brief explanation out of the way, sit back and grab that cup of joe because there’s a lot more to that heavenly flavor than meets the eye.
Table of Contents
Is Coffee a Food or a Drink?
Coffee is considered a drink or a beverage. It is one of the world’s three most popular beverages alongside water and tea.
Is Coffee a Vegetable?
No, coffee is not a vegetable.
The reason many people think that this is the case is because the product of the coffee cherry fruits are referred to as “beans” when they are actually seeds.
Is Coffee a Nut?
No, coffee is not a nut. This can be a bit confusing since both nuts and coffee are fruits. The difference being that nuts have an inedible shell with an edible seed inside whereas coffee, or more specifically, coffee cherries have softer husks and a fleshy interior.
Last, while we consume the interior of nuts, which are their seeds, we rarely eat the interior of coffee cherries, even though they are also seeds.
Is Coffee a Bean?
No, coffee is not a bean. The “beans” are actually seeds and the byproduct of the processing of the coffee cherry.
Are Coffee Beans Seeds?
Yes, coffee beans are the seeds contained with the coffee cherry which is the fruit produced by coffee trees. The seeds are the harvestable portion of the coffee cherry and is what we use around the world to produce caffeine-containing beverages, including coffee!
The seeds are protected by the pulp of the coffee cherry fruit, which must be removed at the time of harvest.
Removal of the husk is done using one of two methods: wet or dry.
The drying method involves the spreading of coffee cherries on mats and exposing them to sunlight. They are raked on a continual basis in order to dry the husks and pulp until they are brittle enough to remove by hand.
The wet method involves submerging coffee cherries in vats of water. As they become pliable, they are then processed by specialized equipment which removes the husk.
Even though the wet method is faster, the dry method is considered superior and is the most commonly used method.
Is Coffee a Legume?
No, coffee is not a legume.
Legumes are members of a flowering plant family known as Fabaceae (or Leguminosae).
Legumes can be a part of the protein food group as is the case for soybeans whereas other types of legumes are considered a part of the vegetable group and include things like lima beans and green beans.
What differentiates legumes is that they produce their seeds or fruits inside of a pod whereas the coffee plant produces its fruit, known as coffee cherries, on bushes/shrubs.
Is Coffee a Grain?
Coffee is not a grain. The plant which produces coffee grows on shrubs and bushes as opposed to grains which is a seed that is sometimes attached to hull and sometimes not. Grains you are probably familiar with include corn, oats, wheat and rice.
Is Coffee a Fruit?
No, coffee is not a fruit if you’re speaking about coffee seeds (or coffee beans as they’re often termed). However, the seeds themselves are indeed the product of the coffee cherry which is a fruit.
What Are Coffee Cherries?
Coffee cherries are the fruit produced by the Coffea flowering plant genus. Plants in this genus are members of the Rubiaceae family. Most think that the seeds (beans) are the source of caffeine but the fruit also contains a measurable amount of caffeine.
Coffee cherry bushes (trees) typically take about five years to reach maturity, at which time they produce harvestable fruit. They produce white blossoms with a fragrance similar to jasmine before transitioning into cherries with a green skin.
Once it has fully matured, the cherries change color once more, turning pink or red. Mature bushes will yield about a pound of coffee cherries which are harvested annually.
Coffee cherries can be harvested by hand or by mechanical means. However, coffee cherries are best harvested when they are not overly ripe and the best way to identify this is by a hand picking method. For this reason, hand harvesting, though extremely labor intensive, is the preferred method for harvesting by most growers.
This hand harvesting is a big factor in the cost of coffee. Not including roasting or packaging into bags or cans, this alone makes it a very expensive crop to produce.
What Do Coffee Cherries Taste Like?
Coffee cherries are mildly sweet but not sweet like other types of cherries you might be familiar with. The skin is bitter and tough while the flesh inside the cherry is flavorful. Many liken the flavor to a blend of mild berries and dried fruit. Coffee cherries may have notes of raspberry, cherry, cranberry and even raisin.
Despite the lightly sweet taste, the texture of the coffee cherry’s flesh is pretty slimy, so it’s not likely you’ll be sitting down to bowlful of them anytime soon.