Liberica Coffee – Origin & Biological Characteristics – Helena., JSC: More than 120 species of coffee have been identified in the genus Coffea. Producers, traders, roasters, baristas, and consumers will be primarily familiar with two of these: Arabica and Robusta

However, there is a third species after these two that are mainly grown in Southeast Asia: Coffea Liberica. Today, it is the main species of the genus Coffea grown in Malaysia and the Philippines. So where did Liberica come from? How does it taste? And could it become more popular in the future?

Liberica coffee is grown in Sarawak, Malaysia | Source: perfectdailygrind

Liberica coffee is also known as Excelsa (or Coffea excelsa ), in Vietnam it is called Jackfruit coffee and is known as Kape Barako (or Baraco ) in the Philippines – where it is commonly grown.

Coffea Liberica originated in Liberia, West Africa. Today, however, it is mainly grown and consumed in Southeast Asia – namely the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. In the Philippines alone, Liberica accounts for more than 70% of all coffee grown. “It probably started in Liberia, the Liberica coffee tree went to Ethiopia, and from there it may have reached the Middle East and thus spread to Southeast Asia. (At that time, Muslims often came to Malaysia for religious reasons – According to Pacita Juan, member of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Steering Committee on Forestry and Farm Facilities.

It is also possible that the colonists brought the Liberica coffee plant to Southeast Asia when they settled. As much of Southeast Asia was occupied by the French, Dutch, or Spaniards. These European colonists will bring coffee with them, then influence the coffee drinking habits of most Southeast Asian countries, – adds Pacita.

Rapid increase

Although the details of how Liberica arrived in Southeast Asia are controversial, studies indicate that it experienced a large increase in popularity in the late 19th century. This opportunity comes from approx. in 1890, when an epidemic of coffee leaf rust swept through more than 90% of all Arabica crops worldwide. Therefore, resistance to diseases and pests becomes a top priority when selecting coffee varieties.

Liberica Coffee - Origin & Biological Characteristics - Helena., JSC: Liberica coffee seedlings are transported to a farm in Kampung Karu, Padawan, Malaysia| Source: Perfectdailygrind
Liberica Coffee – Origin & Biological Characteristics – Helena., JSC: Liberica coffee seedlings are transported to a farm in Kampung Karu, Padawan, Malaysia| Source: Perfectdailygrind

While many producers switched to Robusta at this time, producers in the Philippines were encouraged to grow Liberica instead. This is because the Liberica plant is much more resistant to coffee leaf rust, and it can also be grown more easily than Arabica with a wider temperature range. Furthermore, it is also more difficult for insects to penetrate the rind of Liberica berries, as they are significantly firmer. The proximity and ease of travel from the Philippines to other Southeast Asian countries have contributed to the rapid spread of this species.

The Philippines is just a boat ride from Malaysia and Indonesia. “Coffee and spices can move from country to country without the need for large ships.” — Pacita Juan, UN.

Biological characteristics of Liberica

Gonzalo Hernandez is the owner and owner of Coffea diva, a “coffee garden” in southern Costa Rica that grows more than 700 different types of coffee. He explains that “ Liberica can be found growing wild throughout tropical Africa. it is a very hardy plant, in the conditions of Coffea diva it grows very well, and even has a few natural mutations here.”

Liberica trees begin to bear fruit 5 years after being planted. They grow very tall, with some trees reaching up to 17 meters tall – this can make picking the fruit difficult. The leaves and fruit of the Liberica coffee plant are also significantly larger than the leaves of the Arabica and Robusta plants. Liberica leaves can grow up to 30 cm wide and the ripe berries of this species can be almost twice the size of the other two varieties.

Liberica Coffee - Origin & Biological Characteristics - Helena., JSC:  Liberica Coffee Leaves | Source: Perfectdailygrind
Liberica Coffee – Origin & Biological Characteristics – Helena., JSC:  Liberica Coffee Leaves | Source: Perfectdailygrind

Not only have the leaves as big as jackfruit leaves, but the Liberica coffee tree also really smells like a jackfruit!

The special thing is that the pulp/kernel ratio for Liberica is around 60:40, compared to the 40:60 ratio for both Arabica and Robusta which not only increases the drying time for Liberica berries but also affects the taste. . “Because Liberica has a lot of fruit pulp and ferments when naturally dried, it has a variety of fruit flavors, including a taste like a jackfruit – a fruit very popular in Southeast Asia, ” explains Pacita. The wild Liberica coffee trees in the Liberica region also carry the typical flavors of jackfruit – rather than citrus fruits like oranges or mandarins.

Naturally processed libica tends to produce subtle jackfruit flavor notes, while wet processing results in more citrus and floral flavors, or even more “traditional” flavors like chocolate. .

In addition, other notable flavor characteristics of Liberica include a long aftertaste and consistent sweetness – Liberica is often described as sweeter than Arabica. This may be because Liberica seeds are more porous, meaning the kernels can be absorbed more sugar from the mucus layer.

Today’s Liberica coffee tree

About 20 years ago, liberica less appear on the global coffee market and was mainly used in the production of coffee melt of goods. Farmers often mix Liberica with Robusta because there are no buyers. Usually, they will sell this blend to instant coffee manufacturers like Nestle or those who normally buy Robusta. However, many efforts in the early 21st century helped popularize the species in the Philippines.

Liberica had her own book about it in 2005, called Barako: The Big Bean ; It explains that Liberica has a higher value than commodity Robusta , aiming to drive interest in the cultivation of this species.

Liberica Coffee - Origin & Biological Characteristics - Helena., JSC: Liberica 's love of low farming altitude is a solution for farmers affected by climate change. | Source: Perfectdailygrind
Liberica Coffee – Origin & Biological Characteristics – Helena., JSC: Liberica ‘s love of low farming altitude is a solution for farmers affected by climate change. | Source: Perfectdailygrind

Today, Liberica has a strong position in the Southeast Asian market – partly because of the demand generated by religion. Malaysia and Indonesia are largely Muslim countries, and therefore after prayer, drinking coffee is often part of the people’s routine. Moreover, the Middle East also has a demand for Liberica – It has a fruity flavor, and is lightly brewed, almost like tea… it is often drunk with dates, as an afternoon tea.

The future of Liberica

Around the world, perceptions of Liberica are beginning to change and improve. There have been symposiums focused on specialty Liberica coffees, and there was even a Liberica roasting contest. It should be noted that, just like Arabica, producing specialty or high-quality Liberica is “The only way to overcome the negative connotations associated with quality is to allow specialty coffee lovers to enjoy the specialty of Liberica ” according to Pacita.

For this to happen, advanced roasters need to incorporate Liberica coffee into their specialty coffee production processes. This may be of particular interest to some third-wave coffee shops and roasters, particularly those interested in rarer, more unorthodox coffee varieties.

Liberica (larger, right) and Arabica beans compared directly after roasting.

For farmers, Liberica can bring many benefits. Besides being resistant to pests and diseases, it grows well among other crops, allowing farmers to diversify crops for added stability; You can even grow Liberica trees among other fruit trees like bananas, papayas, and pineapples, peanuts, etc. These are economic solutions for farmers, instead of being able to harvest coffee only once a year, Liberica allows them to plant crops in between harvests.

Can Liberica become an alternative?

Climate change is shrinking much of the land suitable for growing Arabica coffee, which has strict temperature requirements. For farmers on the Arabica farming “belt,” investing in a stronger crop is the only option. Liberica is more resilient than Robusta in some areas – its root system grows deeper and can adapt to a variety of soils. However, the Liberica plant is not as productive as the Robusta plant, making it a trade-off.

Finally, if we want to work together to promote the coffee industry, the diversity of the species we grow is very important. It’s a step towards broader sustainability for coffee producers and the supply chain at large.

S795 is a hybrid between Kent (a natural mutation of Typica originating from India) and Liberica species, most commonly grown in Indonesia.

Liberica ‘s unique flavor profile, high resilience, and background make it an attractive new option for producers as well as consumers. In an age of many problems and concerns, that can be a rare opportunity. Whether it is considered a solution, however, remains to be seen more.

>>> Java Coffee Varieties – Helena., JSC

Reference source:

  • What Is Coffea Liberica?
  • How The Malaysian State of Sarawak Is Rethinking Liberica Coffee


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here