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Arabica Varietals

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  • Arabica Varietals

    This is the main text from Alan Frews latest news letter, makes interesting reading.

    Arabica Varietals

    One of the questions Im often asked is "Why do the various
    coffees you sell all taste so different? After all, theyre all
    Arabica beans, arent they?" Well, yes, they are all Arabica, but
    obviously soils, growing conditions, processing methods and
    roasting can all affect the taste. There is more to it than that,
    though, as the varietal type of Arabica is important as well, and
    to understand this a bit of history is needed.

    Once upon a time all the "Arabica" coffee in the world grew in
    Ethiopia. Modern genetics reveals that Arabica has 44
    chromosomes, is self-pollinating and has a somewhat unstable
    genome, making it prone to mutation. There are literally
    thousands of Arabica varietals, some cultivated but most wild,
    still growing in Ethiopia. Some of these varietals were
    cultivated in Arabia, the part that is now called Yemen. This is
    where the name "Arabica" comes from, and the varietal(s) is now
    called Typica.

    Typica cultivation spread to India, then Java, until eventually a
    single plant was shipped to the island in the Indian Ocean now
    called Reunion, where it flourished and mutated. Back then the
    island was called the Ile Bourbon after the Bourbon royalty of
    France. This single plant (and its millions of mutant offspring)
    became the "Bourbon" cultivar. When it was transplanted to
    Brazil, and then to most other Latin-American countries, it also
    became the worlds most prolific Arabica varietal, in terms of
    the tonnage produced from it.

    In very, very general taste terms Typicas tend more towards fruit
    and chocolate flavours and flowery aromas, while Bourbons
    emphasize sweetness and clean acidity with pure "Coffee" aroma.
    Of course there are a zillion combinations and mutations of these
    characteristics, as well as deliberate crosses created by farmers
    and geneticists. Maragogype for instance is a spontaneous Typica
    mutation. The rich blackcurrant flavour of good Kenyan coffee is
    due to a variant of the original Bourbon strain.

    From the point of view of 99% of the worlds coffee farmers, they
    dont care how it tastes. All they want is a varietal with the
    maximum yield and resistance to disease and insects. This is one
    reason that various hybrids that all taste more-or-less the same
    have taken over most Central American coffee farms. They produce
    pleasant if unexciting coffees suitable for mass-market tastes.
    Catui (Central America) and Ruiri (East Africa) are a couple of
    hybrids that come to mind.

    One of my main beefs with the "Fair Trade" system is that it
    subsidizes exactly this sort of thing, emphasising quantity with
    no regard for quality. My opinion is that this is a recipe for
    disaster in the long term, whatever short-term benefits it
    produces. Australia once subsidized wool producers with a
    guaranteed minimum price; we ended up with a mountain of low
    quality wool it took years to sell (at a loss) and the farmers
    went broke anyway.

  • #2
    Re: Arabica Varietals

    This is a great news letter
    Short & explaining the point of interest very well

    Now I am a little wiser as I am every day that I visit this forum



    • #3
      Re: Arabica Varietals

      Lots of reading here too if you havnt seen it before (Huge file but well worth it) published in 1922 but still a great read.

      Nice summary too


      • #4
        Re: Arabica Varietals

        Originally posted by 6C4841414242786C48544A48270 link=1280969968/1#1 date=1280970450
        This is a great news letter
        Short & explaining the point of interest very well

        Now I am a little wiser as I am every day that I visit this forum

        As you say KK, a concise history (very) of Arabica coffee beans, all grist for the mill, or should I say beans for the grinder.