When we talk about coffee varieties or varietals, we are talking about the type of coffee.
We know coffee varieties such as Arabica coffee and Robusta coffee, but when you look a bit closer at these two types of coffees, you will see there are varieties of each species. In fact, there are over 40 variations of arabica coffee, with more being cultivated yearly. Think of coffee like tomatoes. A tomato is a tomato, sure, but you will find gardeners delight, roma, cherry and beef tomatoes to name a few.
There is often some confusion between the words ‘varietal’ and ‘varieties’. Varieties are genetically distinct variations of a single species of coffee. For example, Arabica is the species, and Caturra is a variation of that species. The term ‘Varietal’ is used when referring to a specific instance of a variety. This could be when referring to the coffee production of a single farm. For example, you would say a farm is a Caturra varietal farm.
Now we’ve got that cleared up, let’s talk about some popular coffee varieties and some that we currently have here at Two Chimps Coffee.
Most commonly found in Ethiopia, this variety is very similar to the Typica varietal which we will get onto soon. There are over 1000 different Heirloom varieties with the first steps of separating these into their own lots underway. The Heirloom varietal is responsible for tasting notes such as floral, citrus and other fruity notes.
Thought to be the first variety of coffee, all other variations are mutations of Typica. The fruit it produces is often red and is known for its impressive cup quality. However, it does have a smaller yield compared to other varieties. Grown in many countries around the world, Typica has lots of different names such as ‘Criollo’, ‘Sumatra’ and ‘Arabigo’.
This is a natural mutation of Typica, which occurred on the Island of Reunion (Island of Bourbon at the time). It has a slightly higher yield than Typica but is still relatively low. Many agree that this varietal has a distinct natural sweetness, which makes it very desirable. There are variations in the colour of the fruit it produces with red and yellow being the most common. Orange bourbon is occasionally produced too. This variety used to be grown in many coffee-growing countries around the world. However, in many places, it has been replaced for a varietal with a higher yield. This was at a time when the coffee market was not yet large enough to offer a higher price to compensate for the lower yield.
Discovered in 1937, Caturra is a mutation of Bourbon. It has a higher yield, which can often mean it is susceptible to overbearing. This is where the tree grows more fruit than it can hold, causing it to be cut back. However, proper farm management will stop this from happening. This variety is popular in Colombia and Central America. The higher the altitude, the better the cup quality; however, this change in elevation will affect the yield. Often referred to as dwarf or semi-dwarf, this is a popular variety as it’s much easier to pick by hand.
Created by the Instituto Agronomico do Campinas in Brazil, this is a hybrid of Caturra and Mundo Novo. These varieties were chosen as the dwarf characteristics of Caturra could be brought together with the yield and strength of Mundo Novo. Similar to Caturra, there are red and yellow varieties.
Discovered by the Pacas family in 1949, this variety is a natural mutation of Bourbon. It has red fruits and similar to Caturra, grows low to the ground. As it is a mutation of Bourbon, the cup quality is similar, which makes it quite desirable.
Hopefully, after reading this, you have a bit of a better understanding of what coffee varietals are and how a few of the main varietals differ.
When you have a minute, check out the Nuts & Bolts section of our coffees to see what variety they are.