Have you ever come across words like Bourbon , Geisha , Typica or Catuai ?No, there are no weird names in SF novels. They are varieties of coffee plants, the genetic classification that falls under the species. You’ll probably see them on coffee bags or in coffee menus, but most people in the field won’t explain them unless you ask. So, I come up with ideas, and to see them flush it out, it’s really fun. We will discover together these varieties and we will see which are the most common and especially why and where the varietal matters. Let’s dig a little 🙂
How much does a coffee variety matter?Well, I’ll be honest, varieties don’t usually matter much to ordinary coffee lovers. Most varieties of arabica have a very similar taste, but there are some that stand out, such as the Geisha variety, which is usually considered a rare variety. If you see one of these in the menu, try it. It will be at least interesting. However, yes, varieties are extremely important in the global landscape. Some produce excellent yields, others have unique flavors, and others grow better in certain climatic zones. Variety research saved coffee production in South / Central America in the 1980s and 1990s, when The Leaf Rust or “leaf rust” destroyed farms almost entirely. And new research is saving coffee production even in today’s Africa, as droughts become longer and more intense.
Varieties are the key to the survival of coffee as we know it.We often compare coffee varieties with the many grape varieties we encounter for winemaking. Many people are able to differentiate not only between the different origins of wine, but also to appreciate the role that the type of grapes plays in the resulting aroma. From Sauvignon to Riesling to Chardonnay, the variety itself has the power to dramatically change the profile of the wine, whether it’s its sweetness, aroma or body. The same thing happens with coffee, although not so many people know about it! It is widely accepted that the Arabica coffee variety ( Coffea Arabica ) was first discovered in Ethiopia around the 10th century. The variety discovered at that time is now known as “ Typica “, and is responsible for several thousand other varieties, which appeared either by natural mutation or were produced by cross-breeding programs, in the effort to increase genetic diversity.
TypicaIt was the original variety discovered in Ethiopia and spread to other coffee-producing regions when it was first marketed by the Dutch. The leaves are thin and coppery, and the plant produces elongated, oval-shaped berries. The coffees resulting from a Typica plant often have a remarkable sweetness and complexity, being cultivated extensively in Central America.
BourbonThis variety is native to Bourbon Island (now known as Reunion Island) and is a mutation of the early Arabica species in Ethiopia. The leaves are wide and the cherries can ripen in colors such as red, yellow or orange. It is known for its complex acidity and excellent balance.
HeirloomThese varieties are commonly found in Ethiopia and are very similar to the Typica variety, although it is not known exactly how they were produced. There are now over 1,000 different heirloom varieties that grow in the wild forests of Ethiopia and the first steps are being taken to separate them into lots. These varieties are responsible for some of the most coveted cupping profiles in the world – floral, citrus, cocoa, tea, berries.
New WorldThis variety was created in Brazil in the 1940s and is a natural hybrid of Typica and Bourbon. It has a high yield, resistant to disease and can be planted densely. The cherries are large and rounded, and the berries have sweet notes with low acidity. Mundo Novo is successfully cultivated in the lowlands of Brazil, at altitudes between 1000 and 1200 meters above sea level.
CaturraCaturra is a Brazilian variety and is a mutation of Bourbon. The tree will not reach the same height as Bourbon and is often called a semi-dwarf plant, but it makes it much easier to manually pick ripe cherries. It is especially popular in Central America and Colombia, and cherries can be baked with red or yellow pigmentation. The typical characteristics associated with this variety are clear acidity and medium body.
MaragogypeThis is probably one of the most easily recognizable varieties due to the unusually large size of the grains, sometimes called “elephant grains”. It is a mutation of Typica coffee and was discovered near the city of Maragogype, Bahia, Brazil. It has a relatively low yield, but is desirable due to its distinctive size. The cherries usually ripen red and may have an increased sweetness.
PacasAceastă varietate este numită după familia Pacas, care a descoperit-o pentru prima dată la ferma lor din El Salvador în 1949. Este o mutație naturală a Bourbonului și îi este foarte asemănătoare în profilul de cupping însa este adesea un arbore mai scurt, ceea ce face mai ușoară recoltarea.
PacamaraPacamara is a hybrid of the Pacas and Maragogype varieties and is believed to have been developed in El Salvador in 1958. The berries and leaves are very large and fit very well at high altitudes. It is a very complex variety that produces special floral notes, with an excellent balance, although, unfortunately, it has a very low yield and is not very resistant to diseases.
GheishaGeisha gained worldwide fame following a discovery made in 2004 at Hacienda La Esmeralda , a farm in Boquete, Panama. The owners of the farm (the Peterson family) noticed the special features of a group of trees during the daily cupping sessions during the harvest and decided to take part in that year’s “Taste of Panama” coffee competition. Not only did the Geisha lot take first place, but it amazed the judges, getting record prices from buyers during the auctions. For this reason, this variety is associated with Panama, when, in fact, it is believed to have originated from the city of “Gesha” in western Ethiopia. The Geisha variety is incredibly temperamental and has a low yield, but it produces the most amazing cupping profile, with a distinct floral aroma and a remarkable sweetness. The aromas of rose water, orange blossom, jasmine and apricot are often found among Geisha’s notes.
SL28This variety was created in the 1930s by Scott Laboratories, while botanists were looking for various mutations from Bourbon and Typica. It has copper-colored leaves and the grains are large. It is native to Kenya and has a relatively low yield; however the qualities of the cup are highly sought after. Features may include intense citric acidity, pronounced sweetness, balance and complexity.
SL34SL34 was created in the 1930s as a mutation between Bourbon and Typica. It differs from SL28 by its bronze-tipped leaves. This could mean that it is more similar to the Typica variety. SL34 is known to be quite resistant to heavy rainfall at high altitudes and produces high quality coffee with complex citric acidity and a heavy mouthfeel feel.
KentIt is considered to be a mutation of the Typica variety and was named after one of the cultivators in India who worked on a selection program in the 1920s. It was developed in an attempt to resist the disease known as coffee leaf rust that attacks the leaves. to the tree, making photosynthesis impossible.
GrapesThis is a hybrid of Sarchimor and Catuai red and ripens very evenly with an intense red color. Cherries of this variety resemble the shape of a grape, which is why it is called Uva (grape, in Portuguese). It is also a high-yielding variety with good disease resistance.
If we could describe the coffee varieties in a picture, it would look something like this:
These are indeed a small part when it comes to coffee varieties, but they comprise most of the marketed coffee you drink today. Each coffee is also region-specific, but we’ll cover this in a new blog post. Stay tuned! 🙂