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Is coffee a fruit?

Yes, coffee is a fruit. The coffee we drink is made from the seed of the coffee cherry — known as a coffee bean. The cherries are picked, then the seeds are extracted, roasted, and crushed into grounds. These coffee grounds are used to brew a cup of coffee.

A bunch of red coffee berries on a leafy branch

What counts as a fruit?

Biologically speaking, a fruit is part of a plant that produces seeds. This is quite a broad definition — it includes things you wouldn’t normally consider fruit, like cucumbers, tomatos, olives, nuts, and even acorns.

Since plants can’t walk, many of them spread their seeds by encasing them in a tasty snack, which is then eaten by animals and deposited elsewhere.

Culinary speaking, we use the word fruit to refer to a sweet fruit, and vegetable or nut to refer to everything else.

Coffee cherries are actually quite sweet, so both biologically and culinarily speaking, they should be referred to as fruit.

Confusingly we refer to coffee seeds as beans. It’s understandable that someone might think coffee is a vegetable — but they’re not beans, they’re seeds — and even if they were beans, guess what… beans are a fruit too!

Two halves of a fresh coffee fruit on the palm of my hand, showing detailed layers of the bean.
Cross section of a coffee bean, where the seeds are clearly visible.

Can you eat coffee cherries?

Yes, you can. Though there’s very little edible flesh on them and it is difficult to remove. People don’t really eat them raw. The outer skin, known as cascara, is a byproduct of the coffee industry and used to make herbal infusions.

What do coffee cherries taste like?

According to James Hoffman in his book The world atlas of coffee — coffee cherries taste like acidic honeydew melons.