Paignton Zoo Head Gardener Catherine Mortimer is so crazy about coffee that she has grown her own mugful!

A coffee plant at the Zoo has produced cherries – and Catherine has decided to make them into her very own cup of coffee.

“It’s fairly unusual for a coffee plant to produce fruit in the UK,” she says. “I have collected 20 coffee cherries and dried them on the window-ledge in my office. My aim now is to make a cup of coffee from the beans!”

To do this she will need to shell them, roast them and grind them – she is hoping a friendly local coffee shop will come to her aid.

“The Zoo has a coffee plant in its Reptile Tropics exhibit but it has not produced fruit. The cherries have come from a plant in an off-show greenhouse that we keep for educational use.”

Coffee originated in East Africa and Arabia. It first developed as a hot drink in the Middle East sometime around A.D. 1000. As Islam spread, so did coffee. Soon, plants were growing in India and Indonesia. It crossed the Atlantic in the 18th century.

Caffeine gives coffee its kick - trimethylxanthine (C8H10N4O2). It's an addictive stimulant that works on the brain in the same way as amphetamines, cocaine and heroin - although caffeine is rather more mild!. An average cup of coffee contains 100mg of caffeine. A can of soft drink contains about 50mg of caffeine.

A coffee tree can be producing continuously, with flowers, immature beans and mature cherries on the same plant. Each tree can produce enough beans to make between 1 and 1.5 pounds (0.45 and 0.68 kg) of roasted coffee every season.

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