P70928There are certain things that we expect to find in a coffee shoppe. Mainly, we expect to find . . . coffee. Yes, coffee, . . . duh. We can get all sorts of coffee beverages; hot, chilled, steamed, infused with things that have no business going into coffee. They have all sorts of cool sounding but strangely irrelevant Italian names that white people enjoy telling people of Italian descent how to pronounce. Yes, my name is Tony Tomeo; and I don’t want twenty cups of coffee with bread. Well, besides the coffee beverages, there are plenty of coffee beans; all sorts of roasts. I do not know of any coffee shoppe that grows any of the beans that it sells, but there is nice coffee shoppe in Felton, The Mountain Roasting Company, that grows coffee trees.

Yes, that is unique. I noticed a few years ago that besides the typical Ficus benjamina, there are three large coffee trees. They look similar to the Ficus benjamina, but are a bit less refined, and lack the braided trunks. They grow up to the ceiling before getting cut back to stumps to start the process all over again. The Ficus benjamina do not grow that well; but the coffee trees are happy enough to bloom there.

I have not asked how they get pollinated. I really do not know how coffee flowers get pollinated in the wild. Somehow, they make a few fruits, known as coffee cherries, with viable coffee beans inside. The seeds get collected, germinated, and potted for customers who have an appreciation for growing something unique. Small coffee trees can now be found in well outfitted nurseries, but it would be so much cooler to grow one that was grown at a local coffee shoppe.

I am embarrassed to say that I do not know how to grow coffee trees. I think of them as tropical plants, but I really do not know. Just because they are cultivated closer to the tropics does not mean that they originated there. I do believe that they are understory trees, that prefer to live in the partial shade of larger trees. Old text, as well as a few not so old gardening books from the 1960s, describe them as houseplants. There is not much mention of them after that. They only recently started appearing in nurseries. I like when old traditional plants make a comeback, particularly if it happens to be an alternative to a boringly common plant like Ficus benjamina.

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