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Origins of the best: how illy coffee is grown

Back to all articles 22 january 2018

illy coffee, made from the finest 100% Arabica beans, is known all over the world. Before it reaches your cup, your coffee has been on a long journey, starting at a plantation far away. illycaffè uses state-of-the-art technology and its many years of experience to turn green coffee beans into the unique illy blend.


What is coffee made of? Everyone knows that coffee comes from a plant, but when it is harvested from the trees, coffee looks nothing like the coffee beans that you find in the usual packaging. The coffee plant is an evergreen shrub of the genus Coffea and belongs to the botanical family Rubiaceae. The beans we all know grow inside red berries. Each berry contains two beans, covered with a hull and surrounded by a sweetish pulp.




To ensure the top quality of their coffee, illycaffè works directly with coffee producers and does not source products from coffee exchanges. When the raw product is purchased, it undergoes a thorough sorting process and is checked for taste and aroma. Beans that do not meet illy’s standards for appearance or aroma are discarded without exception.

The Asian, African and South American tropics – the area between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn – provide the best land for the cultivation of coffee. Brazil is the world leader in the production of Arabica coffee. Indonesia, Colombia and India are also important coffee-producing nations.

The ideal conditions are a temperature between 17 and 30°C, an altitude of up to 2500 meters above sea level, annual precipitation from 1200 to 2000 mm (for comparison, the average in Italy is around 1000 mm a year), and soil rich in nitrogen, potassium and humus.

The coffee plant starts to bloom at the beginning of the rainy season. Coffee berries take eight to nine months to ripen after flowering. Because of the way they bloom, ripe and unripe berries are often found on the same branch, so harvesting the berries is a complex procedure which requires precision and accuracy.


There are several species of Coffea, of which Arabica is recognized as producing the best quality, making up 59% of all coffee produced around the world today. 

Arabica beans are elongated, with a sinuous groove in the middle. Arabica trees are very sensitive. They do not tolerate changes in temperature, require a lot of moisture, and only grow on elevated land (plantations are situated between 1000 and 2500 meters above sea level). Coffee made from Arabica beans has a rich aroma with floral notes and a relatively sweet, velvety taste with a pleasant sourness and a caramel aftertaste. Arabica has a low caffeine content, between 0.9 and 1.7%, meaning that an espresso made from Arabica beans contains 60-80 milligrams of caffeine.

The second most popular bean after Arabica is Robusta. It is much inferior in taste to Arabica, and also contains a higher concentration of caffeine. Robusta coffee has a distinctly bitter taste, often sharp and astringent, and a barely perceptible aroma. This is due to its lower aromatic oil content compared with Arabica. Robusta is not used in its pure form: it is either used to make instant coffee or added to coffee blends to reduce the cost of the end product. A third species of coffee is called Liberica, which produces very poor quality coffee, and has therefore not been widely cultivated.

The secret of illy coffee’s perfect taste lies in its unique blend of nine 100% Arabica coffees from four continents, carefully selected and artfully combined to create the ideal balance of taste.


Through many years of selection and refinement, illycaffè has identified the best Arabica varieties, grown on four different continents. In 2010, illy released the special Monoarabica series. Now coffee connoisseurs can enjoy the taste of each individual variety from Brazil, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Colombia, Costa Rica, and India. Click here to read more about coffee varieties.

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Origins of the best: how illy coffee is grown