The second in a series of short blogs to help you understand why you love the coffee you love!
Nowadays the terms Arabica and Robusta have become very familiar, Arabica in particular. Even the instant coffee market now boasts that it only sources ‘the finest Arabica beans’ so I guess Arabica means the best quality, right?
The simple answer is no. It’s more complex than that. Speciality is a process from seed to cup (more on this to come) and Arabica is very broad in coffee terminology.
In fact, imagine the words Arabica and apple in the same light (bear with me on this). When you visit a local farm shop to buy apples, or even more so a supermarket, you expect and are usually presented with a choice. Sometimes there is a great variety: Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Cox, Braeburn to name but a few.
“‘A’ is for apple, but in reality there is no such thing as a generic apple“.
Think about each for a second and they are all really different. Colour, size and shape are the visual clues that they differ in some way but the variation in character and flavours is immense. Some are sweet, some are tart, crunchy, soft, juicy, some are almost savoury. We embrace those variations and decide our favourites.
Step up Arabica, we are back to you.
Like ‘apple’, ‘Arabica’ is the umbrella term for a huge selection of different varietals. Although the same genus, they all offer different attributes and, as they are spread across the globe around the equator, geography, climate and altitude all come into play, allowing some to thrive where others would struggle.
A good place to start would probably be the varietal Typica. This is often referred to as the grandfather of coffee and is the oldest known varietal. Many other varieties can be traced back as originating from Typica. Java and Maragogype are the best known Typica varieties, with low yield and high-quality crops with clean and sweet acidity. They are, however, susceptible to pests and coffee leaf rust. Maragoype itself is very recognisable due to its size; it’s huge! It’s sometimes referred to as elephant beans. It is a natural mutation of Typica and is popular due to its high levels of sweetness.
Bourbon is another older variety and is also a natural mutation of Typica. It can be found in Rwanda and Burundi as well as Latin America and offers a very sweet taste. Similar to Typica, it is also prone to pests and disease.
Mundo Novo is up next. It’s a hybrid of both Typica and Bourbon varietals and has been used since its origin in 1940s Brazil. It can be planted very close together. The cherries are very large and round and commonly grown at lower altitudes of 1,000 – 1,200 metres above sea level. Because of this it offers lower acidity and a sweet, heavy mouthfeel. A welcome addition to any cup!
Staying with varietals originating from Brazil, Caturra was discovered in the Minas Gerais region of the country. Again a mutation of bourbon, caturra is a shorter plant but has high yields. Being a shorter plant makes picking much easier. Although indigenous to Brazil it was introduced to Colombia in 1952. It is now responsible for 45% of all trees grown there. Caturra is known to be a coffee with bright acidity and medium body.
In terms of acidity, both high and low can offer some of the biggest variations you will find in a cup. Catuai is a high acidity variety. Widely found throughout central America, it grows very well at higher altitudes. It is a hybrid of Mundo Novo and Carturra.
Ethiopia is widely accepted as the birthplace of coffee (thanks Kaldi, we owe you one!). This is where nearly all Arabica can be traced back to. In fact, research carried out by Kew Gardens claims that 95% of it will have originated from there. In today’s Ethiopia what is often sourced is the Heirloom varietal. This is a tricky one, as there are believed to be up to 10,000 different varieties covered in this varietal alone! They are all closely linked genetically (although not enough research is out there to go into much more detail than that) and will often cross-pollinate. This is what gives us such amazing variation in Ethiopian coffee.
Gesha comes from a village in Ethiopia with the same name. It was seldom used until around 2003 when it became clear it had some really distinctive flavours like jasmine and bergamot, complemented with a tea-like body. Geisha from Panama in particular is highly desirable and is one of the highest-priced varieties on the market.
This is just a small selection of varieties we currently or have recently presented from the roastery. I could list so many more. In a nutshell, there is no such thing as ‘just coffee’.
“‘Many roasters replicate flavours through complex blending but I want to show off the differences unique to origin“.
Our coffee is ethically sourced and traceable to farm, carefully roasted and presented in its most wholesome and simple form. There is so much to explore!
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