The Anatomy of a Coffee Bean



Have you ever seen coffee cherries in person? If not, it’s likely because the finest coffees in the world grow along the equator – in the coffee belt between the tropics of capricorn and cancer.

Your morning pick-me-up is actually nested in the middle of vibrant red cherries. While there are some exceptions, most coffee cherries contain two beans. Before it gets to be an aromatic, brown coffee bean, it’s many layers are shed. Attention to detail and skill are needed at each step to make the most of every bean.


Bean or seed– The beautiful green coffee bean or seed, while still inside the cherry, matures to become the coffee we all know and love when it is roasted to perfection.

Parchment or endocarp– Thick shell-like layer that surrounds the bean comprised of 3-7 layers.

Mucilage or mesocarp– Flesh of the coffee fruit- during cherry maturation, this layer is rich in sugars.

Outer Skin or Exocarp The outer layer or skin of the cherry. In the beginning of fruit development, the skin is green. As the fruit matures, it turns yellow, then orange and then a ripe red. 

Many factors influence the taste of your coffee before it’s roasted such as farming practices (Who grew your coffee?), origin (Where was it grown?) and processing (How was the outer cherry removed?). At any step, if the quality is compromised, the coffee’s taste will be altered.

The layer of mucilage contribute greatly to the taste of the bean. The quality of coffee is determined by how coffee is grown and processed. The more care and expertise farmers are able to pour into cultivating healthy coffee beans, the better the coffee will be.

Through our Agribusiness Training Program, we are able to work with farmers to improve agricultural practices in an environmentally and socially sustainable way. These partnerships provide opportunities for farmers to fulfill the basic necessities of their families such as education, access to clean water and healthcare. At Westrock, we work as true partners – we walk alongside our farmers to support them in growing their businesses and local communities.

Did you know that the average cup of coffee contains 70-100 roasted coffee beans? This amounts to 35-50 coffee cherries in every cup of coffee. For each cup of coffee, our farmer partners have invested time and expertise into making sure it’s great. 

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Meet Our Farmer Partner, Christine