In wine, the variety of grapes has a profound effect. Everyone probably knows “Merlot” or “Chardonnay”. But people don’t know much about coffee varieties. You may also know “Geisha” coffee, but do you know the difference between “Bourbon” and “Typica”? Or why are these varieties so important?
If you don’t know or aren’t sure about the answers to the above questions, don’t worry, this article takes you through coffee varieties, why they’re important, what the varieties actually represent, and the main varieties you need to know.
Why does coffee variety matter?
The importance of coffee variety depends on your role: coffee farmer, barista, roaster, consumer. If you are a consumer, you may wonder why we need to know this information, this is just another label on the coffee packaging, is the variety really that important compared to the country of origin, region, roasting degree, and processing method?
If it’s that important, why do only some coffee packaging tell you the variety?
Simply put, the variety of coffee affects the flavor, and some varieties like “Bourbon” are known for their sweetness. Others like “Geisha” are known for their tea-like qualities.
But coffee flavor is not only affected by variety, but also by growing conditions, processing methods, and more. The uniqueness of high-quality coffee is also the beauty of a cup of coffee.
The roaster must understand the coffee variety, because the variety not only affects the flavor profile, but also how you roast the bean. Different beans come in different sizes, such as “Maragogype” which is very large and “Djimma” which is very small.
And since roasting beans is a physical change, the complete transfer of heat to the beans is key. You need to understand the physical composition of coffee (especially when it comes to blending).
Variety is very important to coffee farmers. The variety you choose will not only affect the flavor characteristics and the cupping score of the coffee, but also the cold resistance, disease resistance and productivity of the coffee tree, and the altitude of the planting area. , temperature, etc. are related to these.
Another reason to understand the variety is that coffee from coffea arabica has low genetic diversity, which means it is more susceptible to disease and climate change, and may even theoretically become extinct in the future.
The most important key now is to combine or find more genetic varieties.
What do species, varieties, and cultivars stand for?
We know why variety is important, let’s take a step back and see what variety is. The World Coffee Research Institute WSR pointed out that there are more than 100 types of coffee in the world – but the most important ones are Arabica, Robusta and Liberica.
Specialty coffee beans shop rarely sell coffee other than Arabica, eschewing the rougher and more bitter taste of Robusta, even though some are offering “specialty Robusta.” Liberica is usually only circulated in the Philippines, Malaysia, etc.
The classification under “species” is “variety”, and the variety is derived from the variation under “species”. For example, “Caturra” belongs to Arabica and Nganda belongs to Robusta species. “Cultivated seeds” are coffee varieties created by artificial cultivation.
Another thing that people may confuse is the difference between “variety” and “variety”.
Simply put, varieties are nouns, and varieties are adjectives. However, since explaining lexical differences and varieties is complicated, and this article is not about varieties from an academic point of view, for this article we will just treat “variety” and “variety” as word differences.
Types of coffee you should know
There are many varieties of coffee in the world, and we don’t expect to be able to explore them all here, however, here is a quick look at some Arabica varieties worth keeping in mind.
Typica—[longer tree life]
“Typica” coffee is the first and most important coffee variety to be discovered. This variety has been around for centuries and has many varieties. Notable “Typica” varieties include: “Java”, “Maragogype”, and “Timor” Hybrid (this hybrid will be mentioned at the end of the article).
Typica species was originally grown on Martinique Island. At present, this variety is mainly grown in Central America, Jamaica, Kona region of Hawaii, Papua New Guinea and East Timor. The World Coffee Research Institute defines this variety as: low productivity, high quality, easy to suffer Leaf rust and pest-affected coffee. Also often described as a clean coffee with a sweet and sour taste.
The coffee tree of Typica can grow up to 4-5 meters, the branches are mostly horizontal, and the young leaves are bronze. The trees themselves live longer, and there are even coffee trees up to 50 years old.
The aroma and flavor of Typica coffee are soft and slightly sour. On the palate, you can feel its pure and slender mouthfeel and a slightly medium body.
Bourbon—[characterized by a milder taste]
The Bourbon species originated from Ethiopia and is a naturally mutated “Typica” that first appeared on Bourbon Island, and later spread to East Africa and Brazil. “Bourbon” has high-quality, medium-yield, and high-sweet coffee.
However, this variety has low disease resistance to leaf rust, coffee silverfish, and other diseases and pests. Usually grown in Burundi, Rwanda and South America.
Bourbon coffee trees can reach up to 4-5 meters in height. The branches will grow obliquely upward, and their young leaves are green. Usually, farmers will cut the length of the technical leaves of Bourbon species to about 2 meters to facilitate harvesting.
Although this variety is similar to Typica, Bourbon is stronger and more productive than Typica. The coffee brewed with Bourbon has a milder taste, and the ratio of acidity and body is just right.
Why do you need to know about the breed “Bourbon”? It’s the same reason for “Typica”: because it was the first species of coffee tree to be discovered, and the variety “Bourbon” extends to many others.
Ethiopian Heirloom Ethiopian native species – [about 3000 kinds of coffee beans belong to this category]
Although most coffee varieties come from “Typica” or “Bourbon”, coffee originally came from Ethiopia, and the Royal Botanic Gardens also confirmed that 95% of coffee genetics came from Ethiopia.
There are more than 3,000 varieties of coffee beans grown in Ethiopia alone, and people usually choose a few varieties to plant. As for the native coffee trees in Ethiopia, it is difficult to distinguish because of the complexity of the tree shape or the appearance of the leaves.
When you see a coffee bag labeled “Native to Ethiopia,” it means that the coffee may be wild, or come from farmland with little human intervention.
The beans from the Yirgacheffe region have a unique rich aroma and are the highest quality coffee beans native to Ethiopia. The coffee beans native to Ethiopia are of different sizes and aromas depending on the origin, such as Sidamo, Harrar, Jimma, Limu, Teppi and Kaffa.
Timor Hybrid—[Controversial Hybrid]
“Timor” blend is a controversial coffee because it is a natural blend of Arabica and Robusta, and it has a higher proportion of Robusta. This property gives “Timor” cold resistance and resistance to leaf rust. It’s just that its flavor and aroma are poor.
For this reason, this unique coffee is used to graft many cultivars, especially the two varieties “Catimor” and “Sachimore”.
“Catimor” is a hybrid of “Caturra” and “Timor” in taxonomy, and “Sachimore” is a hybrid of “Villasachi” and “Timor”. Examples of these varieties include ‘Casteo’, ‘Columbia’ and ‘Marsha Yesa’.
Buyers of specialty coffee often avoid coffees associated with “Timor” blends, but some producers, especially at lower altitudes where leaf rust is more likely to occur, believe that lowering the chance of disease is better than coffee quality and Price is more important.
Gesha/Geisha—[variety that yields very little]
The variety “Gesha” originated from the Geisha Mountains in Ethiopia, and then spread to Central America via Costa Rica, and is currently cultivated in small quantities in Panama, Malawi, Kenya, and Guatemala. But it wasn’t until 2003 that it made a big splash in Panama, and since then, the Panama-produced Geisha has become the most well-known variety in the coffee industry.
Most of the finalists in the coffee competition use this kind of coffee. Last year, the bidding price of green beans reached US$803 (about 5,549.93 yuan) per pound. “Gesha” has become synonymous with excellence and uniqueness.
Geisha coffee trees are characterized by wide spacing between each branch that grows from the trunk, and the green beans are long beans. “Gesha” has a very unique flavor profile: tea, with aromas of jasmine, orange blossom and bergamot, and delicate floral aromas.
This coffee is suitable for growing at high altitudes (at least 1400 meters above sea level recommended by the World Coffee Research Institute), it has low production capacity and requires careful care, although it will get high prices in the bidding, but as long as the producer is outside Panama If you plant Geisha anywhere, you will see it die from the terrible thing of unsuitable climate and soil.
Yemeni species – [native species belonging to Yemen]
The Yemeni species should be of Ethiopian origin. Because Yemen has cultivated this variety of coffee trees since ancient times, it is called the native species of Yemen. Coffee grown in Yemen has a variety of rich aromas, including fruity sweetness, spiciness, and herbal aromas.
F1 Hybrids “F1 Hybrid” – [New variety with strong disease resistance and high productivity]
The “F1” hybrid is a new coffee variety with high-quality flavor, strong resistance to leaf rust, and high productivity. It is usually only cultivated in high-end nurseries. It is worth noting that the “F1” hybrid contains Centroamericano, which has only recently won the Cup of Excellence in Nicaragua.
The most important thing about the “F1” hybrid is that it is generally more expensive and more difficult to obtain for producers. They will be bred (i.e. replicated) in the laboratory on a tissue culture farm rather than bred from seed because their seed (F2 or second generation) is not of the same quality as the female “F1”, which It means that farmers cannot rely on the performance of coffee trees. For this reason, World Coffee Research recommends that producers only purchase seedlings from reputable farms.
Caturra—[suitable for intensive planting]
The Caturra species was discovered in Brazil in 1935, and is a high-quality mutant of the Bourbon species. The “Caturra” tree species is short, usually only 2m high, with a stubby trunk and many branches and leaves, but with ordinary production capacity, ordinary quality and ordinary bean size, Caturra species can adapt to a variety of planting environments.
In fact, the World Coffee Lab’s description of “Caturra” as “ordinary production capacity” is somewhat inaccurate. It is susceptible to leaf rust and pests and is commonly seen in Brazil and South America, but the Caturra species is extremely productive, about 3 times as much as Typica. Green beans are smaller, with an average mesh size of 16.
CatuaiCatuai—[one of the most widely cultivated varieties in Brazil]
‘Catuai’ is a cross between ‘New World’ and ‘Caturra’, combining many of the characteristics of ‘Caturra’: average yield, average quality, average bean size, susceptibility to leaf rust and pests, and short stature.
The Catuai species emerged in the 1949’s and are extremely productive. This variety is suitable for planting in areas with strong wind and rain, but because the fruit is easy to fall from the branches, it still needs to be applied with sufficient fertilizer. The cupping quality of the Catuai species is not bad, but the overall flavor is still relatively bland.
Maragogype species – [suitable for planting on the plateau]
The Maragogype species was discovered in the Brazilian state of Bahia in 1870 and belongs to the mutant species of the Typica species. The coffee trees of the Maragogype species are taller, even higher than other coffee trees such as the Bourbon species and Typica species.
The seeds of this variety are larger in size, but yields are sparse. Although the coffee beans grown in Maragogype are larger and more valuable, if the planting altitude is not high enough, the brewed coffee does not have a particularly unique aroma.
Kent—[hardy variety resistant to rust]
Kent grows in India and is a mutant of Typica species. This variety was discovered in the 1920s in the Doddengudda estate owned by an Englishman, Robert Kent, in the Mysore region of India.
Due to its resistance to rust, it was quite popular with growers in the 1940s. At present, Kent is mostly grown in Tanzania, and the cupping quality is also very high. The aroma of Kent brewed coffee is fuller and deeper than that of Bourbon.
Pacas—[various in El Salvador]
Pacas is a cultivar discovered in the Pacas estate in El Salvador in 1956 and is a mutant of the Bourbon species. The green beans are smaller in size, with more branches and leaves growing on the trunk and narrowly spaced.
Since the fruit of Pacas is easier to ripen, its yield is also higher. Pacas is suitable for lowland cultivation, and its drought-tolerant characteristics make it suitable for sandy soils.
The higher the land where Pacas is grown, the better the quality. The coffee brewed from this variety has a strong aroma. In addition to El Salvador, Pacas is also grown in parts of Honduras.
Mundo Novo—[variety with a relatively fixed fruit maturity period]
Mundo Novo is a species discovered in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1943, which belongs to the natural cross of Bourbon and Sudaura. Mundo Novo is also one of the most cultivated varieties in Brazil.
This variety has strong growth and is resistant to pests and diseases, resulting in higher yields. The coffee brewed by Mundo Novo has a milder aroma.
Acaia—[variety suitable for mechanical harvesting]
In the Mundo Novo, developed at the Campinas agricultural pilot site in Brazil, the larger seed is Acaia. Acaia is the same as Mundo Novo. The tree is tall and the branches and leaves are short. If you look down from the height, you can find that the diameter of the whole tree is relatively small. Acaia brews coffee with roughly the same aroma as Mundo Novo.
Pacamara—[variety that does not produce much]
Pacamara is an artificial cross between Pacas and Maragogype species. Its leaves are dark green with wavy edges. The production of Pacamara is not large, and only a small amount is grown in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The brewed coffee of this variety is similar to the Typica variety, with a pure aroma and a mild taste, but with a lower body.
SL28—[Mostly grown in Kenya]
SL28 was discovered and bred in 1935 by Scottrade Laboratories, the agency responsible for researching coffee in the Kenyan region at the time.
SL is an acronym for Scott Laboratories, and the numbers in the breed names represent the characteristics of each breed. SL28 is tolerant to early dryness, suitable for planting in plateaus and has a high yield. The SL28 brews coffee with strong acidity and body, and its cupping quality is quite high.
SL34—[Very productive and drought tolerant]
SL34 is a breed bred in 1935 by Scottrade Labs. The coffee brewed by the SL34 has a richer acidity and body, with a variety of different aromas, and its cupping quality is also very high.
The above is just a brief introduction to the many wonderful species in the world, there are still many notable varieties, and new varieties are constantly appearing, and there is no end.
Producers should look at coffee varieties more carefully, and understand the planting needs and risks of each variety through observation. When planting new varieties, think slowly before starting, and plant them on a small scale on the farm first.
For coffee lovers, try as many varieties as possible, pay attention to their differences, and compare different varieties grown in the same region, or the same variety in different regions. Your love for coffee will go deeper when you know how variety affects coffee flavor.