Coffee Plant and Varieties
There are two main varieties of Coffee: Arabica mostly known for its quality aroma and flavors; Robusta as a lower commercial alternative
ARABICA is the most widespread specie. The name is associated to the land of Arabia from where the bean was first exported (Mocha harbor of today’s Yemen).
Arabica plant grows 3 to 5 meters high but farmers tend to limit its height to 2-3 meters for ease of harvesting. It grows at an altitude of 900 to 2000+ meters along a temperature of 15-25 degrees Celsius, adapts easily to its natural environment but does not tolerate frost. It has a lower caffeine level (0.7 to 2%) and a higher sugar content than Robusta specie. Its pleasant aroma and flavors make it the favorite variety among Coffee enthusiasts.
The main varieties among the ARABICA Specie are:
TYPICA (or Tipica) is one of the surviving original variety of Arabica. It produces high quality coffee but has a low production yield. It adapts well to its surrounding environment. Today it is found in Jamaica (Blue Mountain), Hawaii (Kona Island) and Indonesia (Northern Sumatra).
BOURBON, similar to Typica, is one of the base Arabica variety from which others evolved. Its name comes from the island of “Bourbon”, (today’s La Reunion) in the Indian Ocean. The variety was developed in the 18th century before heading to Brazil in the late nineteenth century and subsequently across the Americas. Bourbon produces high quality coffee but has a low yield.
CATURRA is a mutation from Bourbon, discovered in Brazil in the mid nineteenth century. It is shorter than its parent with many branches that makes it more productive and easier for picking.
MUNDO NOVO has a high yield and popular across Brazil. It is a crossing between Bourbon and Typica that was introduced in the forties and is known for its high yield.
GEISHA (or Gesha) is a variety that originated from Ethiopian village of Ghesa. It is the most expensive variety given its high sensorial qualities and limited availability, mostly grows in Panama. The farm of Hacienda La Esmeralda run by the Peterson family played a role in reviving the variety to its prominence in the early 2000s, winning competitions and commanding highest auction value. Today, many farmers across Panama grow it.
MARAGOGYPE is a mutation from Typica known for its large bean size. It is grown in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador… It is sometimes referred as Elephant coffee bean.
PACAMARA is a mutation of two Arabica species, Pacas and Maragogype. It is commonly found in El Salvador (1958)
SL28 and SL34 were developed in Kenya by the Scott laboratories. The variety produces quality coffee beans with expensive citrusy notes
TIMOR is a hybrid between an Arabica bean and a Robusta bean on the island of Timor in today’s Indonesia during the forties