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The varieties of coffee

How about we talk about varieties?

Just like apples for cider, grape varieties for wine or hops for beer, coffee beans come from many species and varieties. Only a few varieties have spread around the world, but new varieties are constantly being cultivated.

First there are the species of coffee, the best known of which are C. Arabica, C. canephora (better known as Robusta), C. Liberica and C. Excelsa.

robusta is very popular in Asia, of which Vietnam is a very large producer of this species. This variety will not be treated in detail here , but it often presents taste profiles that are more bitter, less sweet and above all much more caffeinated. It should be noted that there is a market for high quality Robusta.

As for C. Liberica and C. Excelsa, they are not really marketed, but rather consumed locally in certain regions of Africa and Asia in particular.

So there remains the noble C. Arabica, the most prized species, but also the most capricious to maintain and cultivate. Altitude, as discussed in the previous blog post, provides a good example. Arabica is fragile to diseases, insects and will flourish better at altitude, which all add to the complexity of growing it. By comparison, Robusta can grow in low altitudes and high heat, plus its high caffeine content strongly repels insects. So there is a greater yield with Robusta and it will be commonly used in instant coffee for example.

There are a myriad of varieties resulting from multiple natural crosses, hybrids (between Arabica and Robusta), ancestral varieties, or even human crosses. Generally, the more popular the variety, the lower its yield and the higher its price.

The varieties play an important role for the coffee grower because some of them are very resistant and give excellent yields while others are more fragile with little yield, but can turn out to be a real mine of gold for the coffee grower who achieves a good harvest of a prized variety.

I'm going to focus on some of the most common varieties of Arabica:

Bourbon and Typica

Bourbon is the parent, along with Typica, of most modern varieties found around the world and is responsible for the majority of flavors associated with coffee. It is important to know that most crosses come from Bourbon and Typica.

They were imported from Africa to Bourbon Island in the 18th century (now Reunion Island, east of Madagascar). Subsequently, at the end of the 19th century, these varieties arrived in Latin America and most of the derivatives from these regions are in fact simply derived from Bourbon and Typica.

They are not very productive varieties, but they guarantee a reliable and excellent cup of coffee. Indeed, when we choose a Bourbon, we can expect a cup chocolate, sweet reminiscent of caramel and rich in body, whereas when we choose a Typica we can expect a cup more fruity, floral with a finish wonderfully clean.

Several natural mutations exist directly from Bourbon, for example, such as Bourbon yellow, red and Bourbon pink. flavorful notes and they are very trendy among specialty coffee lovers.

Similar to the altitude effect, the ultimate influence of a coffee's aroma and flavor is affected by many variables and variety is just one of many. else. However, serious coffee lovers love to choose their coffee according to variety, there is a very interesting "je ne sais quoi" around it, like getting your hands on something rare, a treasure hunt, and tastes good. sure!


Derived from a natural mutation of Bourbon, Caturra was discovered in Brazil around 1930 and is similar to Bourbon in terms of quality, although the coffee tree is smaller and better adapted to the wind. The Caturra is able to offer a palette of tastes ranging from cherry to lemon and dark chocolate to caramel. It is very popular in Central and South America.

Mundo Novo

Queen in Brazil, this variety would be a natural mutation between the Bourbon and varieties from Sumatra. The Mundo Novo is small, round and adapted to the climate of Brazil at low altitudes with recurring rains. Its taste is similar to that of Bourbon, which is chocolatey, rich and sweet.


It is a hybrid created in Brazil around 1940 between the Mundo Novo and the Caturra, and its quality is substantially the same as the Caturra , but the finish tends to be more grassy as the cup cools. This variety is abundant throughout Latin America and can be found both Red Catuai and Yellow Catuai. It is a solid choice for any coffee grower who wants both a good harvest, good resistance to wind and rain, and good quality in cup.


These are ancestral, even wild, varieties that most often come from the forests of Ethiopia. These are native varieties and are always different, but most often its taste is very tangy, floral and juicy. Among these ancestral varieties, we can find among the most popular Kurume and the Welicho. The Heirloom is a staple and offers spectacular quality, which is where Ethiopia's strong reputation as a coffee producer on the international stage comes from.

SL28 & SL34

Very popular in Kenya, these varieties originated from research by Scott Laboratories (SL), a research organization located in Kenya from the 1930s to 1960s. With several researches on the varieties, their quest was to create a coffee with a sparkling and remarkable acidity, then it was a success with their test number 28 and number 34. The SL-28 will offer a slightly smoother, nutty, creamy cup and floral, while the SL-34 will offer a more citrus, sweet and dark chocolate cup. In any case, these main Kenyan varieties are expensive and are among the most popular in the world, with good reason.


For serious coffee lovers, this variety is simply the pinnacle.A lot of speculation revolves around this variety and we can see exorbitant prices for buying green coffee from the Geisha Mainly, it is not cultivated in mass and only certain place, namely Panama, including cultivate the Geisha. Grown well, its qualities can exhibit aromas divine florals and taste of tropical juice, citrus fruits and even lemon syrup. 'maple. It's a competition cafe!


Derived from a natural mutation of Bourbon, it is very popular in El Salvador. Its tree is generally smaller and better adapted to the high winds of this country. Discovered in 1949 In El Salvador, it easily represents a quarter of the country's production today, and it is also found in Honduras. Its in-cup qualities are similar to Caturra, and offer a coffee incredibly balanced between acidity and sweetness, and gives a silky body.

Maragogipe (and its derivatives Pacamara, Maracaturra, Maracatù)

Maragogipe is a mutation of Typica discovered in Brazil in the 19th century and results in a "super plant", producing mega leaves, mega cherries and of course mega coffee beans. This variety is very popular among serious coffee lovers, as it can give an intensely tart, sparkling and effervescent cup. This variety (and its derivatives) is very widespread in Central America, especially in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Interestingly, these very large, sparse beans are some of the most difficult to roast!

Blue Mountain

This very popular variety is named after the famous Blue Mountain range in Jamaica. These grains are sold in barrels rather than in jute bags and they are very expensive. Although this variety ensures a high quality, resulting in a cup sublimely soft, velvety and with the taste of nuts, its cost is relatively high, in addition to that there are several attempts at copying. Measures have been taken to protect the controlled designation of origin. Tanzania and Hawaii also produce some.

And the many hybrids

Hybrids are crosses between the species C. Arabica and Robusta, resulting in an often lower quality cup, but with an improved yield. That doesn't necessarily make a bad strain, far from it. Among these, we find the Catimor, directly derived from the hybrid of Timor and Caturra, which also takes different names depending on the country :

  • TimTim (Indonesia)
  • Lempira (Honduras)
  • Cuscatleco (El Salvador)
  • Colombia and Castillo (Colombia)
  • Icafé 90 (Costa Rica)
  • Ruiru 11 and Batian (Kenya)
  • Sarchimor (Central America and Caribbean)
  • And more.

I could go on to describe more varieties, but the main ones have been mentioned. Once again, it must be understood that the aroma and final taste is influenced by many factors, especially since several producers, even of single origin and single farm, mix their variety and a blend is done. It therefore becomes difficult to isolate the variety as a unique and final taste, but the exercise is to understand how the variety fits among the different variables. It is also an extremely important variable for coffee growers that directly influences production.

Nevertheless, for purists, some producers only offer one variety and we can taste all its splendor

In fact, the coffee Rwandais – Village Kinini, is a 100% Bourbon, a real ecstasy in the mouth. We can taste the sweet and rich side that this variety offers, to which we add a nice acidity reminiscent of Cantaloupe, even blood orange, which is due to a high altitude as well as a washed process. To get it, it's here.

Now that you know more about the varieties, pay close attention to them when you get your next bag of coffee! There is something to wow the gallery by talking about this subject with friends over a coffee ;-)



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