Coffee Varieties

Arabica Coffee
The Arabica is descended from the original Ethiopian coffee trees. The coffee made from this variety is mild and aromatic. Arabica accounts for about 75 percent of the world’s coffee production. These coffee trees grow best at higher altitudes, between 2,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level. Mild temperatures (60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) and about 60 inches of rain per year insure Arabicas growths.

Arabica trees produce nearly all of the world’s specialty coffee. Because of the inherently steep terrain at high elevations where Arabica is generally grown, mechanical harvesting is impractical, so Arabica coffee is nearly always picked by hand. If left alone, Arabica trees will grow to 40 feet high, but in most plantations the trees are pruned to less than 8 feet high, for better yield and easier harvest. There are at least a dozen variations, or cultivars, of the Coffea Arabica tree. These include: Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai, Pache Comum, Pache, Catimor, Kent, Mundo Novo, Maragogype, Amarello, and Blue Mountain. Typica is the oldest known Arabica cultivar and is the base from which others developed.

Arabica Varieties
Geisha Geisha coffee plants are known for their elongated fruits, or coffee cherries, and Geisha coffee is distinguished for its light body with honey and citrus flavors that provide an outstanding taste profile and cup character. Geisha coffee exhibits a subdued yet intense floral and jasmine-like aroma, and a distinct though delicate acidity, balanced and bright with shimmers of white wine and notes of berries, mango, papaya, and mandarin oranges. The long aftertaste/finish provides distinct bergamot-like notes. The Geisha varietal was discovered in Abyssinia in southwest Ethiopia in 1931, and was first brought to Panama from Costa Rica in 1963.

Typica This is the base from which many coffee varietals have been developed. Like the other Coffea Arabica varietals that have been developed from it, Typica coffee plants have a conical shape with a main vertical trunk and secondary verticals that grow at a slight slant. The lateral branches form 50-70° angles with the vertical stem. Typica coffee has a very low production, but has an excellent cup quality.

Bourbon Bourbon coffee plants produce 20 – 30% more coffee than Typica, but have a smaller harvest than most coffee varietals. Bourbon has less of a conical shape than Typica coffee plants, but has more secondary branches. The angles between the secondary branches and the main stem are smaller, and the branch points on the main stem are closely spaced. The leaves are broad and wavy on the edges. The fruit is relatively small and dense. The cherries mature quickly and are at risk of falling off during high winds or rains. The best results for Bourbon coffee are obtained between 3,500-6,500 feet. Cup quality is excellent and similar to Typica.

Caturra Caturra is a mutation of Coffee Bourbon, discovered in Brazil. It is a mutation with high production and good quality, but requires extensive care and fertilization. It is short with a thick core and has many secondary branches. It has large leaves with wavy borders similar to Coffee Bourbon. It adapts well to almost any environment, but does best between 1,500-5,500 feet with annual precipitation between 2,500-3,500 mm. At higher altitudes, quality increases but production decreases.

Catuai Catuai is a high-yielding coffee plant resulting from a cross between Mundo Novo and Caturra. The plant is relatively short, and the lateral branches form close angles with the primary branches. The fruit does not fall off the branch easily, so Catuai is preferable for areas with strong winds or rain. Catuai also needs sufficient fertilization and care.

Catimor Catimor is a cross between Timor coffee (resistant to rust) and Caturra coffee. It was created in Portugal in 1959. Maturation is early and production is very high with yeilds equal to or greater than the yeild of other commerical coffee varietals. At low altitudes there is almost no difference in cup quality between Catimor and the other commerical coffee varietals, but at higher elevations greater than 4,000 feet Bourbon, Caturra and Catuai have a better cup quality.

Mundo Novo Mundo Novo is a natural hybrid between Typica and Bourbon coffee. The plant was first discovered in Brazil and is strong & resistant to disease. It has high production, but matures later than other kinds of coffee. It does well between 3,500 – 5,500 feet with annual rainfall of 45 – 70 inches.

Blue Mountain Blue mountain is a famous coffee varietal favored for its resistance to the coffee berry disease and ability to thrive in high altitudes. It was first grown in Jamaica and is now grown in Kona, Hawaii and in Papua New Guinea.

Robusta Coffee
The botanical name for the Robusta coffee tree is Coffea Canephora. Robusta trees represent about 30 percent of the world’s market, while Coffea Canephora and Coffea Arabica are practically the only coffee species used to make coffee.

Robusta coffee trees, like Arabica, can grow to about 40 feet high, but Robusta beans tend to be smaller and more bitter. Robusta trees are “robust”, meaning they are less susceptible to pests and disease, and yield more coffee crop. Because of its ability to resist pests and disease, Coffea Canephora is the dominant coffee species grown at low elevations. A Robusta coffee bean is usually smaller and more round than an Arabica bean.

The plant is hearty and can withstand warmer temperatures, up to 85 F. It can also thrive at lower altitudes than Arabica. Robusta beans produce a bitter-tasting coffee with about 50 percent more caffeine than Arabica. Robusta coffee trees are found in Southeast Asia and Brazil.

Copyright Coffee Research Institute