Coffee is a plant which grows between the latitudes of 25 degrees North and 25 degrees South, which are the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, also known as the ‘Bean Belt’ but requires specific environmental conditions for commercial cultivation. Temperature, rainfall, sunlight, wind and soils are all important, but requirements vary according to the varieties grown.

Ideal average temperatures range between 59 to 74ºF for Arabica coffee and 74 to 86ºF for Robusta, which can flourish in hotter, drier conditions but does not tolerate temperatures much below 59ºF, as Arabica can for short periods.  Coffee is easily damaged by frost, a danger in southern Brazil at altitudes of 3000+ feet or, closer to the Equator, at altitudes around 2000 feet.

Coffee needs an annual rainfall of 50-100 fl. oz., with Arabica needing less than other species. The pattern of rainy and dry periods is important for growth, budding and flowering. Rainfall requirements depend on the retention properties of the soil, atmospheric humidity and cloud cover, as well as cultivation practices.

Robusta coffee can be grown between sea-level and about 2,600 feet; Arabica does best at higher altitudes and is often grown in hilly areas. As altitude relates to temperature, Arabica can be grown at lower levels further from the Equator, until limited by frost. All coffee needs good soil drainage, but it can grow on soils of different depths, pH and mineral content, given suitable applications of fertilizer.

Wind-breaks are sometimes planted to protect coffee plantations; shade trees, which may be economic crops such as bananas are a common feature and mimic the natural habitat of coffee.