Where popular coffee varieties come from? and what makes them unique?

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter
coffee varieties

Where do popular coffee varieties come from? There are more than 125 different kinds of coffee that people know about. Only two of them, Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora are good for business (the scientific name for the Robusta coffee plant).

As for the specialty coffee business, we know that we can only use the flavor potential of Arabica coffee, which is grown at higher altitudes, has about half as much caffeine as Robusta, and often has more nuances and flavors.

But even within the Arabica coffee variety, there are hundreds or even thousands of different types, and each one can have a flavor that is not found in nature.

Origin & Characteristics Of Popular Coffee Varieties - Helena Coffee Vietnam
Origin & Characteristics Of Popular Coffee Varieties

They are making one of the most important decisions a farmer will make on his farm: what kind of coffee to grow. It’s an investment that usually lasts at least 10–15 years. But it’s not easy for anyone, including farmers, to figure out where different kinds of coffee come from and what makes them different (although they are not genetically diverse plants). This article tells you about some of the most popular types of coffee, what makes them unique, and how they relate to each other. This will help anyone who works with coffee quickly find the types involved.

Origin of the world’s coffee varieties

There are many different species of perennial plants in the Rubiaceae family, of which coffee is just one genus. But not all species have seeds that can be roasted and used to make coffee. Some species are very different from the typical coffee plants we see.

The orange lines in the diagram above show the three main types of coffee: (popularly known as jackfruit coffee or Exelsa).

Right now, this breed has almost no official descendants. The Robusta coffee tree is an example of the C.canephora variety, which comes from the ancient C. consensus.

On the middle axis of the family tree, something interesting happened: the C.eugenoides variety of C.anthonyi coffee merged with C.canephora to make the Arabica variety of C.arabica coffee. So, we have every reason to say that Robusta is the parent of the Arabica variety we use today.

There are three main types of coffee: Coffea arabicaCoffea canephora, and Coffea liberica.

  • The scientific name for Arabica coffee is Coffea Arabica. In Vietnam, we still call it both coffee and tea.
  • Coffea canephora is the scientific name for the coffee plant that makes Robusta coffee, which is made from the beans that come from the plant.
  • Most Canephora coffee, though, is made in Brazil, where it is called Conlon.
  • Liberica coffee (or Coffea excelsa) is also called “jackfruit coffee” in Vietnam.
Origin & Characteristics Of Popular Coffee Varieties - Helena Coffee Vietnam
Origin & Characteristics Of Popular Coffee Varieties

Coffee Arabica

Coffea Arabica came from Ethiopia and a few other nearby countries in the Horn of Africa. The first Arabica plants were taken from their home country. To Yemen, which was close by, in the 16th and 17th centuries. Arabica coffee was spread all over the world by ships that left Yemen.

In this mission to distribute Arabica coffee, the most important and traditional genetic resources are:

  • A.Typica, derived from Arabica trees that left Yemen and were brought to Java – Indonesia today, through the voyages of the Dutch empire at that time.
  • Second, Coffee A.Bourbon, derived from coffee plants brought from Yemen to Bourbon Island by the French.

Both these epic journeys involved only a minimal number of coffee trees (or seeds) because the transport of coffee out of Yemen during the 16th-17th centuries was strictly prohibited.

Arabica-coffee
Arabica coffee trees in Ethiopia – The origin of this coffee variety

Varieties Arabica Typica

The A.Typica varieties and their cousin A.Bourbon are two of the most important C.Arabica species in the world, both in terms of culture and genetics. The Typica journey began in 1670, when Baba Budan sent the first seeds from Yemen to India.

They started coffee farms in what was then called Malabar, which is near Mysore. The Dutch didn’t bring Typica seeds from the Malabar coast of India to the colony of Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia) until 1696 and 1699. They grew them on the island of Java.

Origin & Characteristics Of Popular Coffee Varieties
Origin & Characteristics Of Popular Coffee Varieties

Typica coffee has very high-quality potential and has been used as a benchmark against which other coffees taste.

Arabica bourbon variety

An island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar (now called Réunion), is called Bourbon. Tradition and historical research show that in 1708, 1715, and 1718, the French brought coffee from Yemen to Bourbon Island;

Only a few of these seedlings made it through the second and third time. Before the middle of the 1800s, Bourbon coffee never left this island. Depending on which subgroup it comes from, bourbon coffee can be red (Vermelho) or yellow (Azul) (Amarelo).

Bourbon Arabica plants usually have wider leaves, rounder fruits and seeds, and 20–30% more coffee than Typica plants.

boubon
BourBon Hong coffee tree – Colombia

Coffee varieties from Arabica

Typica and Bourbon are not usually talked about as separate types of coffee. This is a group of many sub-types, so it would be more accurate to call it the Arabiaca-Type Group (similar to that with Bourbon). Some of this diversity comes from natural changes, and some come from hybridization and selection by humans.

Natural mutant varieties

  • Caturra is a naturally occurring change in the Bourbon coffee variety that makes the plant shorter than usual (dwarfism). Since it is a direct descendant of the Bourbon coffee tree, which is a type of Arabica coffee, Caturra has all the benefits of yield and quality of coffee beans.
  • Villa Sarchi, also called La Luisa or Villalobos Bourbon, is also a dwarf mutant of the genus C. Bourbon. In the 1950s, this kind was found in Costa Rica.
  • Pacas is another natural “dwarf” mutation of Bourbon. It was found in 1949 on a farm owned by the Pacas family in El Salvador’s Santa Ana region. In 1960, the Salvadoran Institute of Coffee Research (ISIC) started a program for Pacas called “pedigree selection,” which involves choosing individual plants over many generations. About 25% of the coffee that El Salvador makes today comes from Pacas.
coffee
Villa Sarchi coffee tree is the result of Bourbon’s natural dwarf mutation

Varieties formed by crossing

  • Catimor is what you get when you cross the Timor Hybrid with the Caturra. Catimor is also called T8667 in Central America because it doesn’t rust very easily.
  • The SaoPaulo Agricultural Research Institute in Brazil crossed Mundo Novo with dwarf Caturra to make Catuai.
  • Catuai coffee trees make more coffee than Bourbon coffee trees.
    Sarchimor is a cross between the Timor Hybrid and the Villa Sarchi (Coffea Arabica var. Villa Sarchi).
  • The Sarchimor variety is very resistant to rust because it got good traits from Timor.
  • Mundo Novo is a type of coffee grown in Brazil that is a natural cross between Typica and Bourbon. This plant is hardy and can handle a lot of different diseases.
  • Mundo Novo gives a lot of beans, but it takes longer to grow than other varieties.

In addition to the above divisions, there are a number of other Arabica coffee varieties that are hard to classify but are genetically important, such as Javanese Arabica, which came from a native coffee population in Ethiopia called Abysinia. Or the Timor Hydrid found in East Timor, which is the result of Arabica and Robusta crossing.

Coffee Robusta

It is the second most common and important species of coffee. Robusta was originally from the highlands of East Africa, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and western Tanzania. It was brought to Southeast Asia in the 1900s, after rust (Coffee Leaf Rust, or CLR) killed off most of the Arabica varieties in the world.

People usually think that Robusta and Arabica are two different kinds of coffee. However, recent genetic studies have shown that Robusta was once the parent of the Arabica coffee plant. For more information, see Difference between Arabica and Robusta.

Coffee, unlike Arabica, likes to live in the tropics and at a low altitude (under 800m). The plant likes temperatures between 24 and 29°C and more than 1000 mm of rain. The coffee tree needs more sun than the coffee tree, so it doesn’t grow in the shade very often. Robusta coffee beans are smaller than Arabica beans. They also have more caffeine and natural acids, so they taste bitter.

Vietnamese Robusta Coffee

The average yield is more than 500 to 600 kg/1ha for Arabica coffee. Robusta coffee, on the other hand, has much less flavor potential. It tastes spicy and bitter and smells strongly of smoke. In exchange, Robusta gets a great gene source for being resistant to insects. Robusta coffee is popular in Vietnam because it has these qualities. Robusta has made us the second largest coffee exporter in the world (and the leading coffee exporter). Experts agree that Vietnam’s Robusta beans are better than those from other Robusta-producing countries, even though Arabica is more popular and valued around the world.

phoi-ca-phe
Vietnam has developed a robust production system that makes it one of the world’s most efficient Robusta farming systems.

Vietnam is the largest producer of Robusta coffee (40% of all Robusta production) and the second largest producer of coffee overall. It makes up about 10% of the world’s coffee production.

The key to making money is to be very productive. Robusta coffee trees are successful because of a few key things. Vietnam’s Robusta coffee tree is made up of four main parts: its people, its policies, its resources, and the way it is grown. “The development of Vietnam’s Robusta coffee tree” will give you a fuller picture.

Coffee Liberica (or Excelsa)

According to Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergrast, Liberica coffee came from Liberia, which is in Africa. The tree is 2 to 5 meters high. The stems, leaves, and fruits are all much bigger than those of coffee with Voi.

Because its big, dark green leaves look a lot like those of the jackfruit tree, it is also called “jackfruit coffee” in Viet Mam. Liberica coffee can grow in dry conditions and doesn’t need much watering, so it is often grown in large amounts.

But it has never been grown on a large scale because it has a low yield, doesn’t resist rust well, and tastes okay. Here are some pictures of different kinds of jackfruit coffee.

Liberica-Coffee
Liberica Coffee in the Philippines

About 20 years ago, Liberica didn’t have much of a place in the global coffee market. Instead, it was mostly used to make instant coffee that was sold as a commodity. Because they can’t sell their coffee, farmers often mix Liberica with Robusta.

Most of the time, they sell this blend to companies that make instant coffee, like Nestle, or to people who usually buy Robusta. But many things have been done in the early 21st century to make this species more well-known in the Philippines and Malaysia.

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