The two most common and commercially used types of coffee would be remembered by every barista even when they wake up in the middle of the night, and they might tell you something, even if you don't know your way around the world of coffee. It is Arabica and Coffea Canephora (known as Robusta). However, there are thousands of other different varieties that either occur naturally or are developed and adapted to achieve specific coffee characteristics (such as resistance to various diseases, a different flavor profile, etc.). In our short overview, we will therefore briefly explain some of the procedures we use for the cultivation of our coffee and how the taste of the coffee variety can be influenced and thus also the tasting experience.
Overview of varieties
SL 28 is a coffee variety from Kenya that was created in the 1930s by Scott Laboratories ("SL" derivative). The botanists of this institute conducted a series of experiments with different mutations of the French blend, Mocha and Yemen Typica. Their goal was to find a high-quality, profitable, disease-resistant variety. One result is SL 28, albeit only to a small extent. This variety has copper colored foliage and produces beans the size of beans. The taste profile is blackcurrant, typical in the best Kenyan coffees (this variety is specific in that it absorbs phosphorus from the soil, converts it into phosphoric acid in the coffee seed and thus creates a unique taste). This means that in the final glass you will feel an intense fruity, sweet and balanced taste.
Another product from Scott's laboratory in Kenya in 1930, is SL 34. This mutation of a French variety (Bourbon), grown in both higher and lower altitudes with a good amount of rainfall. It is characterized by a dark bronze color. The farmer grows it in large quantities, it is very delicate and of high quality, but beware, this variety is very sensitive to coffee rust.
Along with the traditional Typica variety, Bourbon is the most widely cultivated sub-variety of C. arabica in the world. The name originally comes from the island of Réunion, which was once called Île Bourbon. Expert Peter Giuliano believes that the original African and Yemeni varieties were originally grown on the island. Whether Bourbon is the result of their spontaneous crossbreeding or just a mutation of one variety remains a question.
Currently, there are only remnants of the original variety under the name Bourbon Point on the island. Harvests from a few private fields are exclusively sold at auctions in Japan.
Bourbon was successfully adapted in Brazil in the 1860s, from where it reached the plantations of other growing countries in Latin America. The coffee plant of this variety is usually pyramidal in shape, usually 2 m tall, resistant to severe drought, producing pointed berries with grains more like rice. It is also characterized by small leaves and thin side branches. Interestingly, the original variety of Bourbon Point is exceptional for its low caffeine content of 0.4-0.8% (for comparison: Robusta 3-3.5%, Arabica Typica 1.2-1.9%) and a very delicate taste with a delicious faint acidity, low bitterness, full body and a charming fruity aftertaste of oranges, tangerines and sometimes even lychee.
Ripe Bourbon cherries tend to be either yellow, red or, in the case of the Hawaiian mutation, orange. Bourbon is popular primarily for its complex and pure acidity, which is complemented by distinct sweet notes of caramel and chocolate.
Arabica typica is a native variety that was discovered in the Kaffa rainforest in Ethiopia centuries ago. Typica was the first variety in the New World, brought there by a French naval officer in the 1700s. In 1720, he sent thousands of seedlings to the French colonies in Martinique. Typica has many mutations, sub-types include Hawaii Kona, Jamaican Blue Mountain, Java typica, Guatemala typica and Jember among others. For example, the Kent mutation is grown in India.. Typica is grown in small quantities, it has an excellent quality with a sweet and strongly acidic aftertaste.
There are over 2,500 indigenous coffee varieties in Ethiopia, usually named after the village where they have been grown for centuries, but their exact origin is unknown. Among the most popular are Gesha, Harrar, Yirgacheffe, Djimma, Lekempti, etc. Within these cultivars we distinguish another 20 variants.
Orienting yourself in such a huge number of varieties is almost impossible. Varieties grown in the southwest of Ethiopia in the regions of Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, Gesha usually have citrus and floral tones with a strong jasmine flavor. In contrast, coffees from eastern regions have intense notes of fruit and chocolate. This difference is due to the different microclimate, but it cannot be overgeneralized in any case.
Probably the most famous and sought-after botanical variety of the coffee plant today. Geisha (correctly Gesha) was discovered in the forests of the Abyssinia region in southwestern Ethiopia in 1931. However, its wonderful flavor character was not revealed until the end of the 20th century. Daniel Peterson from the Panamanian farm Hacienda La Esmeralda, where the variety arrived in a rather mysterious way. Geisha was brought to Panama a few years earlier by the well-known farmer Don Pachi from Costa Rica, but it wasn't until the Peterson family was able to get the most out of it, both qualitatively and financially.
The approximate historical development of this variety can be compiled as follows: Ethiopia (1931), Kenya (1931-32), Tanzania (1936), Costa Rica (Don Pachi 1953-1963), Panama (1990).
Over the past few years, the annual Hacienda La Esmeralda coffee auction has been a highly watched event. In 2007, the auction set a record of $130/lb of green coffee. Esmeralda Especial has won all possible competitions such as Best of Panama (2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004), Coffee of the Year, Rainforest Alliance Cupping for Quality, etc.
Geisha bushes grow to such a height that sometimes a ladder is needed to collect their fruit. In order to achieve the desired flavor profile (high sweetness in the cup, notes of forest fruits, tangerines, papaya with a bergamot aftertaste), it is necessary to grow Geisha at a very high altitude.
After tremendous financial success on international markets, the so-called "geisha boom" swept through Latin America. With the prospect of high profits, most farmers have started to focus on growing this particular variety, even if the conditions on their farms are not quite ideal. In the coming years, we can expect a large influx of Geisha coffees of different quality.
In 1958, the El Salvador Coffee Institute (ISIC) developed a new type of hybrid with the distinctive name Pacamara. The first component is the Pacas variety - a high-yielding hybrid "San Ramón Bourbon", which was bred in 1956 by two prominent scientists in El Salvador (Don Alberto Pacas and Don Francisco De Sola). The second part was the Maragojipe variety (Maragogype), famous for the size of its grains, strong acidity and delicate taste profile.
Pamacara has a very specific taste that has its supporters as well as its detractors. The higher the Pacamara is grown, the better the quality of the coffee beans. The taste is characterized by a strong floral aroma, spicy tones and a medium body.
Catimor is a hybrid between Timor and Caturra species. This variety was created in Portugal in 1959. The ripening of this variety is timely and the production is very high, the fertility is the same or slightly higher than that of other commercial coffees. For this reason, the method of fertilization and shade control must be closely monitored.
The Catimor T-8667 variety is relatively small in stature, but has large coffee fruits and beans.
Catimor line T-5269 is a very strong variety and adapts well in lower areas between 2000-3000 above sea level with an annual average rainfall above 3000 mm.
The Catimor T-5175 is also very productive and robust, but they can have problems at either very high or very low altitudes. At low altitudes there is almost no difference in quality between Catimor and other species and commercial coffee varieties, but at altitudes above 4000 ft Bourbon, Caturra, and Catuai have better quality.
Catuai is a dwarf variety created by a laboratory cross between Mundo Novo and Caturra at the Institute of Agriculture (IAC) in Brazil in 1949.
On farms, the yellow and red variants are used, and the difference in taste is almost indistinguishable. The planting of this hybrid is suitable in places with very strong winds and frequent rains, as it is a resistant and relatively tolerant variety to weather fluctuations.
Maragogype (also called elephant bean) is an Arabica variety that produces extra large beans. He is a mutant that spontaneously appeared in Brazil.
This variety was first discovered near the town of Maragogype, in the northeastern state of Bahia. It was subsequently transported to other places in Latin America, generally adopting the characteristic flavor of the soil in which it was transplanted.
The Maragogype variety has become quite rare, it is very difficult to find coffee. Most of the Maragogype sold in North America is grown in Mexico, Nicaragua or Guatemala. Varieties from Chiapas, Mexico and the Coban district of Guatemala have the best reputation.
Caturra is a natural mutation of the Bourbon variety. It was discovered in 1935 near the city of Caturra in Brazil, after which it also got its name. Caturra is a variety with a very high yield and a good taste profile (clear acidity, light to medium body, less pronounced sweet flavors than Bourbon), but with high requirements for fertilization and maintenance. Its higher yield is due to the mutation of a single gene, which also occurs in other varieties such as Pacas from El Salvador or Villa Sarchi from Costa Rica.
Caturra is very small in stature with a strong body and many secondary branches. It has similar leaves to the Bourbon variety, but smaller in size. It adapts well in diverse climatic conditions, but it thrives best between 500-1500 m above sea level, in places with an average annual rainfall of 2500-3500 mm. If this variety is grown at higher altitudes, the quality of the coffee increases, but at the expense of the yield.
Maracaturra, which we can also call Maracatu, is a hybrid between Maragogype & Caturra. Originally from Brazil, it is known for its large leaves, flowers and fruits. Today it is also cultivated in Central America, mainly in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico.
Maracaturra produces coffee with a clear and complex acid content with a fruity character.