Although many cultivars of C. arabica exist, C. arabica cultivar Arabica (includes var. typica) and C. arabica var. bourbon (Named from the island of Bourbon where it was first cultivated) are considered to be the first coffee varietals. Other varietals are believed to be a product of these two cultivars. Production and resistance generally governs the type of coffee beans that a farm will choose to plant.
Typica - This is the base from which many coffee varietals have been developed. Like the other Coffee 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. Typica is a tall plant reaching 3.5-4 m in height. 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 less 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 a risk of falling off during high winds or rains. The best results for Bourbon coffee are realized 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, which is favorable with areas with strong winds or rain. Catuai also needs sufficient fertilization and care.
Pache comum - Pache comum is a mutation of Typica coffee first observed on the farm El Brito, Santa Cruz Naranjo, Santa Rosa, Guatemala. Many consider the cup to be smooth or flat. This coffee varietal adapts well between 3,500-5,500 feet.
Pache colis - Pache colis was found in Mataquescuintla, Guatemala in a farm consisting of Caturra and Pache comum. The coffee fruits are very large and the leaves are roughly textured. Pache colis provides some resistance to phoma. It has secondary and tertiary branching, and typically grows to 0.8-1.25 m. It adapts well to altitudes of 3,000-6,000 feet with temperatures between 20-21°C.
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 yields equal to or greater than the yield of other commercial coffee varietals. For this reason the method of fertilization and shade must be monitored very closely. The Catimor T-8667 descendants are relatively small in stature, but have large coffee fruits and seeds. The Catimor line T-5269 is strong and adapts well to lower regions between 2,000-3,000 feet with annual rainfall over 3,000 mm. T-5175 is very productive and robust, but can have problems at either very high or very low altitudes. At low altitudes there is almost no difference in cup quality between Catimor and the other commercial coffee varietals, but at elevations greater than 4,000 feet Bourbon, Caturra, and Catuai have a better cup quality.
Kent - Kent is used for its high yield and resistance to coffee rust.
Mundo Novo - Natural hybrid between Typica coffee and Bourbon coffee. The plant was first found in Brazil. The plant is strong and resistant to disease. Mundo Novo has a high production, but matures slightly later than other kinds of coffee. It does well between 3,500-5,500 feet with an annual rainfall of 1,200-1,800 mm.
Maragogype - This coffee varietal is a mutation of Typica coffee and was discovered in Brazil. The Maragogype coffee plant is large and is taller than either Bourbon or Typica. Production is low, but the seeds are very large. Maragogype adapts best between 2,000-2,500 feet. The cup characteristics are highly appreciated in certain coffee markets.
Amarello - This coffee varietal, as its name indicates, produces a yellow fruit. It is not widely planted.
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. Blue mountain coffee, however, cannot adapt to all climates and maintain its high quality flavor profile.
Processing of coffee is the method of converting the raw fruit or cherry of the coffee plant while leaving the final seed or bean prepared for roasting. While which method used is often determined by geography, economics, or cultural traditions; the final flavor profile is affected by the method chosen.
Dry Process - Also known as unwashed or natural coffee is the oldest method of processing coffee. In this method the coffee cherry is harvested and hand sorted (to remove defect an unripened fruit amongst other things picked up while harvesting). The cherries are then spread out in the sun on patios or raised tables to dry. While drying over the next few weeks the cherries are raked or turned by hand to ensure even drying and to prevent mildew. After the cherries have reached their optimal moisture content they sent to a mill were a specialized hulling machine removes the fruit or pulp and leaving the bean for final sorting, grading, and eventual roasting. This method of processing tends to produce a coffee with more body and lower acidity as well as rustic flavor profile.
Wet Process - Also known as washed coffee is a method of processing that involves first removing the fruit or pulp from the seed before drying. This method requires specialized equipment as well as a lot of water. After harvesting the cherries are sorted by immersion in water. Defective and unripened cherries float while good ripe cherries will sink. The ripe cherries are then pressed by a machine in the water through a screen which strips away the skin and some of the fruit or pulp from the bean. The remaining pulp that is still clinging to the bean is removed either by the classic method of fermenting and then washing the beans or newly invented demucilaging machines. The beans are then spread out on patios or on tables and dried in the sun or in mechanical drying machines in the same manner as dry processing. This method of processing often results in a coffee with lighter body and a cleaner brighter flavor profile.
Pulping - Also known as semi-washed or semi-dry process is a hybrid method of processing coffee. In Costa Rica this process is called "Miel". With this method the cherries are sorted and striped of their skins the same as with the wet method. However, in this method instead of fermenting or demucilaging and washing the remaining pulp or mucilage from the bean; the beans are stored for up to a day and following this waiting period the mucilage is then washed off and the parchment coffee is partially dried in the sun before being prepared for sale. This method results in a coffee that has more body and less acidity than their wet processed coffees and a cleaner more uniform quality than dry processed coffees.
Aging - Is an additional processing level that occurs after the bean has been prepared for market by one of the methods above. This process is done to coffees primarily from India and Indonesia. Before the Suez Canal was opened these coffees had to take a long sea voyage around the Cape of Good Hope to their markets in Europe. This long journey and exposure to the sea air changed the coffees flavor. To recreate this historical flavor profiles some coffee producers keep their beans in open sided warehouses from weeks to even years at a time. This constant exposure to drying and moister recreates the historical flavor profile of these coffees. This method results in a pungent coffee with low acidity and deep low notes in the flavor profile especially with espresso drinks. It is an acquired taste but we believe should be tried by history buffs or anyone that is interested in a well rounded coffee drinking experience. These coffees also work well to balance brighter more acidic coffees in a blend.
Grading is the process of categorizing coffee on the basis of size, altitude grown, and how it was prepared and picked. These grades are specific to the country or region of origin and should not be confused with SCAA standardized Q grader ratings and should be looked at from the prospective of an FYI on basic bean characteristics that can affect a roast profile and not on the basis of judging quality.
Size - Most grades refer to the size of the bean.
Supremo - Refers to a bean or screen size that ranges from 18 to 20
Excelso - Refers to a bean or screen size that ranges from 14 to 16
AA - Refers to a bean or screen size that ranges from 18 to 20
A - Refers to a bean or screen size that ranges from 16 to 18
PB - Refers to a bean or screen size that ranges from 8 to 13
A/X - Is used in Papua New Guinea as both a size A and a preparation X meaning specialty
Density - Some grades refer to the density of the Bean. Used mainly in Central and South America
SHB or SHG - Refers to coffees grown at an elevation above 4000 feet coffees grown at a higher elevation and produces a more dense bean. SHB - means Strictly Hard Bean and SHG - means Strictly High Grown.
HB - Refers to beans grown below 4000 feet and are a less dense bean. An exception to this Grade is Brazil where hard and soft are a grade of the flavor not the bean density. In this case a Hard Bean has a harsh astringent mouth feel while a Soft Bean has a mild or fine taste.
Numeric Grades - These grades used in Ethiopia and Indonesia are in essence quality grades but in no was represent SCAA quality grades and are just the grades we get from the producers.
Grade 4 - In our Ethiopian coffees is the highest grade available to dry processed coffee.
Grade 2 - In our Ethiopian coffees is the highest grade given to wet processed coffee.
Grade 1 - In Indonesia allows for the lowest number of defects at 8% and represents the highest cup quality. This grade represent the highest quality grade out of these countries.