Wednesdays are for education!
We'll be taking Wednesdays to focus on education in coffee terminology. Accessibility in coffee can be as simple as understanding the jargon of coffee. Hopefully you'll find this useful and find that it helps you expand your understanding of coffee a bit more!
This week: VARIETIES/CULTIVARS
Let's talk about coffee as a plant species and the many varieties and cultivars within the species. First off, for our purposes here, we'll stick to Coffea arabica - or just Arabica. While Coffea canephora (robusta) is still coffee and drinkable as such, it yields low-quality cups and thus is almost never found in the specialty world.
Now, in referring to coffee varieties, we mean naturally occurring subspecies and when referring to coffee cultivars, we mean cultivated subspecies. Many, if not most, of the subspecies found in the specialty world are actually cultivars, bred for performance - yield, cup quality, disease resistance, pest resistance, and so on. These factors are then what farmers use in selecting which subspecies to plant. Much of the coffee breeding in recent decades has centered around resistance to Coffee Leaf Rust (or CLR), which is a devastating leaf fungus that can eliminate entire crops. Worldwide, 15-80% reduction in yields can be attributed to this intense mycelium, so it's no wonder coffee subspecies are bred to be resistant!
The three main varieties of Arabica being planted across the world are Geisha, Typica, and Bourbon. There are also quite a few significant Typica hybrids, crossbred with traits from other main species for one reason or another. Red-ripening and yellow-ripening types exist for many varieties as well. You'll often see farms plant multiple varieties for biodiversity, longer harvest windows, and specific microclimates within a farm favoring certain types of others. This is why many of our bags of coffee have multiple varieties listed.
Continued in the comments below! - 3 days ago