(NEWSnet/AP) — Your morning cup of coffee might be 600,000 years old.

Researchers used genes from coffee plants throughout the world to build a “family tree” for Coffea arabica, known to coffee consumers as “arabica.”

Scientists hoped to learn more about the plants to protect them from pests and climate change. They found the species emerged 600,000 years ago through natural crossbreeding of two other coffee species. Breeding occurred prior to the arrival of humans, said Victor Albert, a biologist at University at Buffalo and a coordinator of the study.

Those wild coffee plants originated in Ethiopia, but are thought to have been first roasted and brewed primarily in Yemen, starting in the 1400s.

Arabica coffee, prized for its smooth and relatively sweet flavor, comprises 60% to 70% of the global coffee market and is brewed by Starbucks, Tim Horton's and Dunkin'. The remainder is robusta, a stronger and more bitter coffee made from one of arabica's parents, Coffea canephora.

Researchers studied genomes of C. canephora, another parent called Coffea eugenioides and more than 30 arabica plants, including a sample from the 1700s, courtesy of the Natural History Museum in London, that Sweden naturalist Carl Linnaeus used to name the plant.

The study was published Monday in the journal Nature Genetics. Researchers from Nestlé contributed to the study.

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