A deep dive into coffee varieties

Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee plant, which has many different varieties.

The coffee we sell at CROWD ROASTER comes in a variety of varieties, including Geisha , Bourbon , SL28 , Castillo , and Caturra , and the taste of the coffee varies depending on the variety.

So what is this "variety"? On the other hand, there are two types of coffee: Arabica and Robusta.
What kind of relationship does it have with variety?
This time I would like to dig a little deeper into this variety.

coffee tree as a plant

Botanically, the coffee tree belongs to the genus Coffea, in the order Asteraceae, family Rubiaceae.

The Coffea genus grows naturally in Southeast Asia, from the African continent and the coast of the Indian Peninsula to northeastern Australia, and its origin is said to be West Africa. From there, it is said to have spread to Central and Eastern Africa, Madagascar, Asia, and Australia.

There are currently 125 species belonging to the Coffea genus. This is where "Arabica" and "Canephora" finally appear. These two species account for most of the fruit used for drinking purposes, and are said to account for 98-99% of the total production.

There is also the Liberica variety, which is grown in West Africa, the Philippines, Malaysia, etc., but it is only a small amount compared to the total amount of coffee produced.

Arabica growing environment

Arabica has been used for drinking since ancient times, and was the only type of coffee used until Canephora was discovered at the end of the 19th century.

Arabica is native to southwestern Ethiopia. Even today, a variety of wild and semi-wild species grow here.

It prefers a slightly humid to dry environment at an altitude of 1,000 to 2,000 meters. It is clear from the location of coffee farms in various regions that an environment with relatively low temperatures at high altitudes is suitable.

Coffea is a plant that grows in the tropics (sometimes called the coffee belt), but Arabica does not grow anywhere in the tropics, but rather in high-altitude mountainous areas where there are distinct rainy and dry seasons. Otherwise, it will not be possible to grow.

Therefore, it can only be cultivated in very limited areas even in tropical regions.

A unique Arabica species with double the number of chromosomes

The biological characteristic of Arabica is that it has 44 chromosomes, which is double the number of other species. This is the only characteristic of the Coffea genus, and it is also a factor that makes it difficult to hybridize with other species.

Recent research has revealed that 22 of the 44 trees are close to Canephora species, and the remaining 22 are close to Eugenioides species, a species that grows naturally in western Tanzania, indicating that the ancestors of these two species are different species. The result of hybridization is now known as Arabica.

Another great feature of this species is that it is capable of self-pollination. Canephora species are not capable of self-pollination and require pollen to be transferred mainly by the wind.

Arabica species are self-pollinating, allowing pollination to take place within the same flower. Therefore, seeds can be taken from even a single tree, and because of this feature, it is possible to propagate even from a small number of seedlings, which is why historically it has been possible to spread cultivation areas all over the world. there is.

Isn't there a "variety" under Arabica?

Within this Arabica variety, there are said to be "varieties" as mentioned above.

However, in actual botanical classification, there are no varieties or varieties classified under the Arabica species.

Among the Arabica species, there are many varieties with different characteristics, such as those with yellow fruits, giant fruits and seeds, and those with different colored leaves.

It seems that these were once classified as varieties, but when we investigated the wild species of their native Ethiopia, we discovered that they were a miscellaneous group of species with diverse characteristics. Ta.

Therefore, it is not possible to differentiate each species as a variety based on their characteristics.

Coffee varieties are "cultivated varieties"

However, it is true that coffee arabica has been cultivated by humans for a long time, and many strains have been created.

Apart from botanical classification, these are called "cultivated varieties" used for cultivated crops.

Artificial hybridization is actively carried out to increase yield and disease resistance, and dozens of strains have been created, including Bourbon and Typica , which are said to be the two major original strains.

This includes Geisha , which is noted for its exceptional flavor.

We will introduce these cultivars in more detail later.

What varieties of Canephora species?

On the other hand, are there any varieties of Canephora?
This Canephora variety is native to Central Africa and is called Robusta in the coffee industry.

Robusta is disease resistant, can be grown at low altitudes, and has higher yields than Arabica. It was first discovered during the rust epidemic in Southeast Asia at the end of the 19th century, and as a result, it became popular in Indonesia, Vietnam, and India. It is now widely cultivated.

It has almost no acidity and has an earthy Robusta odor, so it is said to have a lower flavor than Arabica, and has been traded at a lower price.

However, in recent years, steam processing has been developed to eliminate Robusta odor, and production has increased, now accounting for 30 to 40% of the world's coffee harvest.

Although there are actually cultivars of Canephora (Robusta), they are not differentiated by cultivar when distributed as coffee, and are all treated as Robusta.

Therefore, it can be said that there are virtually no cultivated varieties.

However, in recent years, there has been a movement to find high-quality varieties of Robusta, add value to them, and distribute them.

In the future, we may even be able to see cultivated varieties of Robusta.

There is still a lot to learn about coffee varieties, and I would like to cover them in more detail in the future.