Believe it or not, the little brown things we call coffee "beans" are not actually beans. They are the seeds of a cherry that grow on a shrub/tree type plant generally found near the equator. This area, sometimes referred to as the "Bean Belt," lies between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer.
Coffee plants can grow between low elevations of around 900 meters above sea level (2.500 ft) all the way up to 1800 meters ( 5,400 ft) and above. There are many different species of coffee plants, and coffee can be found growing in South and Central America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. There are around 180 different species of coffee plants, each contributing to different aspects of appearance and flavor.
Coffee cherries ripen to deep red to purple color, at which point they are picked and the seeds are removed. This removal of the seeds is done in several different ways, with the most common processing methods being washed processing and natural processing.
Washed processing (also known as wet processing) happens when the seeds are separated from the ripe cherries within 24-48 hours of being picked, after which they are sent to fermentation tanks for a period of time, and finally sent to dry.
Natural processed (also known as dry processed) coffees are picked and then sent to dry before the cherry is separated from the seed, after which they are separated from the cherry and washed clean.
Country of origin, elevation, species of plant, and processing all have a large effect on different aspects of flavor and aroma that can be identified. Before the roasting process, coffee seeds are green in color and very hard. The cherries of the coffee tree are edible, and some people even make tea (called cascara) out of the dried remnants after the seed is harvested.
All that to say, coffee is much more than meets the eye, and there is a whole farming, processing and importing process before it even lands on our doorstep to be roasted. This gives us an even greater appreciation for the wonderful drink that powers our lives.