Coffea arabica is a pretty shrub or tree with evergreen shiny leaves and sweet jasmine scented white flowers followed by green fruits ripening to red (can also be yellow or purple when mature). The outer layer is edible, soft and sweet/tart tasting. The inner seed is encased in a hard outer layer which needs to be removed by milling. The seed is the well-known and well-loved coffee bean. In its raw state it is generally a fawn colour and only achieves the dark colour once roasted.
Originating in the highlands of Ethiopia and Southern Sudan, it is an understory plant and therefore needs some protection from the full blast of the sun. Similarly it will not survive frost, a -2C frost will probably kill the plant. Ideal temperatures are 15C – 24C, however, that said, the tree will cope with 7C – 30C. Like many plants, it gets tougher as it gets older, be especially careful when the trees are young. It is self fertile.
Trees generally take about three years to flower and fruit. It is rainfall (or irrigation) that prompts the plant to flower and then fruit. General consensus is that flavour is best if berries are picked when at their most red. Plants will survive drought conditions, but will not flower or fruit.
In Melbourne it may be preferable to grow your coffee in a pot and move into a warm sheltered position or inside over winter. It will live very happily in a pot. Use a good quality potting mix, neutral to slightly acidic. If you are in a warm inner urban suburb, and have the right spot – you could try a coffee hedge. Keep in mind that cooler conditions mean the berries take longer to ripen, but a hedge will give you enough coffee beans for that morning cup of coffee.