A Guide to Coffee Species: Cultivars and Varietals

You may have heard of coffee being described as "Arabica" or "Robusta", but within those species are many sub-species that occurred either through natural selection (where different species blended without human intervention), which are called "varietals", or through the use of deliberate breeding and intentional cultivation techniques in creating new coffee types, which are called "cultivars".

Most of the world drinks coffee from the arabica species, as they tend to be sweeter and easier to drink. In fact, the world would prefer arabica, but they are hugely susceptible to changes in climate such as drought and to certain diseases, so only represent just over 60% of the world's coffee production. Robusta, is known to be high in caffeine, but lacking in the smooth sweetness generally preferred, it is also resistant to disease and changes in climate, being able to withstand drought. In some parts of the world, a natural hybridization between arabica and robusta takes place, resulting in a coffee that has both high caffeine content, as well as the pleasant taste; at other times, a cultivar is created to help delicate arabica withstand harsh conditions.

Below is a graphic depiction of the arabica family tree, followed by a list of current, known, arabica varieties and cultivars:


Name Species Region(s) Comments Ref
Arusha C. arabica Mount Meru in Tanzania, and Papua New Guinea either a Typica variety or a French Mission. [16]
Benguet C. arabica Philippines Typica variety grown in Benguet in the Cordillera highlands of the northern Philippines since 1875. [17][18]
Bergendal, Sidikalang C. arabica Indonesia Both are Typica varieties which survived the leaf rust outbreak of the 1880s; most of the other Typica in Indonesia was destroyed.
Blue Mountain C. arabica Blue Mountains region of Jamaica. Also grown in Kenya, Hawaii, Haiti, Papua New Guinea (where it is known as PNG Gold) and Cameroon (where it is known as Boyo). A unique mutation of Typica, known to have some resistance to coffee berry disease. [6]
Bourbon C. arabica Réunion, Rwanda, Latin America. Around 1708 the French planted coffee on the island of Bourbon (now called Réunion) in the middle of the Indian Ocean, all probably from the same parent stock – the plant the Dutch gave them. Unsurprisingly, it mutated slightly and was planted throughout Brazil in the late 1800s and eventually spread through Latin America. Bourbon produces 20–30% more fruit than Typica varieties. El Salvador is known as the Bourbon Country.
Catuai C. arabica Latin America This is a hybrid of Mundo Novo and Caturra bred in Brazil in the late 1940s.[19]
Catimor Interspecific hybrid Latin America, Indonesia, India, China (Yunnan)[20] This is cross between Timor coffee and Caturra coffee. It was created in Portugal in 1959.[19] In India, this cultivar goes by the name Cauvery.[21]
Caturra C. arabica Latin and Central America Developed from two cultivars that originated by natural mutation of Bourbon Red, originally a tall coffee shrub, found in the Serra do Caparaó.[22] It produces a higher yield than Bourbon, due to the plant being shorter and with less distance between the branches, matures more quickly, and is more disease resistant than older, traditional arabica varieties.[23] Its mutation is not unique; it led to the formation of the Pacas variety in El Salvador (from Bourbon) and the Villa Sarchi in Costa Rica (from Bourbon). Genetically it is very similar to Bourbon although it produces a poorer cup quality, mainly due to the variety yielding more.[19]
Charrier C. charrieriana Cameroon This is a newly found species from Cameroon. It has gained some press recently due to its caffeine-free nature. Not yet grown commercially, but it probably will be.[24]
Colombian C. arabica Colombia Coffee was first introduced to the country of Colombia in the early 1800s. Today Maragogipe, Caturra, Typica and Bourbon cultivars are grown. When Colombian coffee is freshly roasted it has a bright acidity, is heavy in body and is intensely aromatic. Colombia accounts for about 12% of the coffee market (by value) in the world, third in volume after Vietnam and Brazil.
Ethiopian Harar C. arabica Ethiopia From the region of Harar, Ethiopia. Known for its complex, fruity flavor that resembles a dry red wine. All three Ethiopian varieties are trademarked names with the rights owned by Ethiopia.
Ethiopian Sidama C. arabica Ethiopia From the Sidama (now Oromia) region of Ethiopia as well. All three Ethiopian varieties are trademarked names with the rights owned by Ethiopia.
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe C. arabica Ethiopia From the Yirgachefe district in the Gedeo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region of Ethiopia. All three Ethiopian varieties are trademarked names with the rights owned by Ethiopia.[25]
French Mission C. arabica Africa French Mission is actually Bourbon that was planted in East Africa by French Missionaries around 1897.[26]
Geisha / Gesha C. arabica Ethiopia, Tanzania, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru Geisha or Gesha variety, grown in the highlands of Boquete in Chiriquí Province, Panama, highly sought after at auction, achieving high prices. Originally from the village of Gesha, Ethiopia. It was planted in the 1950s as a rust-resistant crop and rediscovered in the early 2000s. The most expensive varietal at coffee auctions, fetching $350.25USD in 2013.[27] Breaking its own record as the most expensive coffee in the world at US$803.00 /lb of Natural (processed) Geisha in the "Best of Panama" auctions in 2018[28].
Guadeloupe Bonifieur C. arabica Guadeloupe [29]
Hawaiian Kona C. arabica Hawaii Grown on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa in the Kona District on the Big Island of Hawaii. Coffee was first introduced to the Islands by Chief Boki, the Governor of Oahu, in 1825.
Java Interspecific hybrid Indonesia From the island of Java, in Indonesia. This coffee was once so widely traded that "java" became a slang term for coffee. Java encompasses a regional style, not a cultivar of coffee.
K7 C. arabica Africa A Kenyan selection of French Mission Bourbon selected at Legelet Estate in Muhoroni, Kenya. Selected based on cupping trials.
Maragogipe C. arabica Latin America Maragogipe ('y') is considered to be a natural mutation from Typica. It was first discovered near Maragogipe, in Brazil's state Bahia. Maragogype is well known for producing big beans.
Maragaturra C. arabica Latin America Maragaturra is a man-made hybrid plant between Caturra and Maragogype.|It was first bred in order to capture the flavor profile of Maragogype with the higher yield and efficiency of the Caturra Varietal.
Mayagüez C. arabica Africa A Bourbon cultivar grown in Rwanda.
Mocha C. arabica Yemen Yemeni coffee traded through the once major port of Mocha. Not to be confused with the preparation style (coffee with cocoa).
Mundo Novo C. arabica Latin America Mundo Novo is a hybrid between Bourbon and Typica, crossed in the 1940s.
Orange, Yellow Bourbon C. arabica Latin America Red Bourbon and Orange Bourbon are types of Bourbon that have been selected from spontaneous mutation.
Pacamara C. arabica Latin America Pacamara is a hybrid between the Bourbon mutation Pacas and Maragogype. It was bred in El Salvadorin 1958 probably to achieve a Typica variety that produces larger beans.
Pacas C. arabica Latin America A natural mutation of the Bourbon variety found in El Salvador in 1949.
Pache Colis C. arabica Latin America Pache Colis is a hybrid between Pache Comum and Caturra. This variety produces distinctly larger fruit and roughly textured foliage.
Pache Comum C. arabica Latin America Is a mutation of Typica first found in Santa Rosa, Guatemala.
Ruiru 11 C. arabica Kenya Ruiru 11 was released in 1985 by the Kenyan Coffee Research Station. While the variety is generally disease resistant, it produces a lower cup quality than K7, SL28 and 34.[30]
S795 C. arabica India, Indonesia Probably the most commonly planted Arabica in India and Southeast Asia,[31] known for its balanced cup and subtle flavour notes of mocca. Released during the 1940s, it is a cross between the Kents and S.288 varieties.[31]
Sagada C. arabica Philippines Typica variety grown in Sagada and Besao, Mountain Province in the Cordillera highlands of the northern Philippines since the 1890s and early 1900s. [32][33]
Santos C. arabica Brazil Brazil Santos is usually used as a grading term for Brazilian coffee rather than a variety of Arabica. The name refers to the port in Brazil where coffee passed through, and was regarded as higher quality than "Brazilian coffee". Brazilian Santos is usually of the Bourbon variety.
Sarchimor Interspecific hybrid Costa Rica, India A hybrid between the Costa Rican Villa Sarchi and the Timor variety. Because of its Timor parent, Sarchimor is quite resistant to leaf rust disease and stem borer. As well as Costa Rica, it is grown in India.
Selection 9 (Sln 9) C. arabica India A hybrid between the Ethiopian Tafarikela and the Timor variety.[21]
SL28 C. arabica Kenya A selection, by Scott Labs in Kenya from the Tanganyika Drought Resistant variety from northern Tanzania in 1931. Excellent flavour, commonly blackcurrant acidity.[26]
SL34 C. arabica Kenya Selected by Scott Labs from the French Mission variety grown in Kenya. Selected for its superior cup quality (although inferior to SL28), but not resistant to CBD, CLR or BBC.
SulawesiToraja Kalossi C. arabica Indonesia Actually the S795 varietal, grown at high altitudes on the island of Sulawesi (formerly Celebes), Indonesia. Kalossi is the small town in central Sulawesi which serves as the collection point for the coffee and Torajais the mountainous area in which the coffee is grown. Sulawesi exhibits a rich, full body, well-balanced acidity and is multi-dimensional in character. Sulawesi itself is not a cultivar of coffee.
SumatraMandheling and SumatraLintong C. arabica Indonesia Mandheling is named after the Mandailing people located in North Sumatra, Indonesia. The name is the result of a misunderstanding by the first foreign purchaser of the variety, and no coffee is actually produced in the "Mandailing region". Lintong on the other hand, is named after the Lintong district, also located in North Sumatra. This is not a specific cultivar, but rather a region with a specific processing style.
Timor, Arabusta Interspecific hybrid Indonesia Timor is not actually a variety of coffea arabica, but a hybrid of two species of coffee; coffea arabica and coffea canephora (also called Robusta). It was found on the island of Timor around the 1940s and it was cultivated because of its resistance to leaf rust (which most arabica coffee is susceptible to). It is called Hybrido de Timor in the Americas and Tim Tim or Bor Bor in Indonesia. Another hybrid between the two species is called Arabusta but generally only found in Africa.
Typica C. arabica Worldwide Typica originated from Yemeni stock, taken first to Malabar, India, and later to Indonesia by the Dutch, and the Philippines by the Spanish. It later made its way to the West Indies to the French colony at Martinique. Typica has genetically evolved to produce new characteristics, often considered new varietals: Criollo (South America), Arabigo (Americas), Kona (Hawaii), Pluma Hidalgo (Mexico), Garundang (Sumatra), Blue Mountain (Jamaica, Papua New Guinea), San Bernardo & San Ramon (Brazil), Kents & Chickumalgu (India) [34][35]
Uganda Interspecific hybrid Although it mostly produces Robusta coffee, there is a quality Arabica bean grown there known as Bugishu around the Sipi Falls area.
Brutte C. arabica Variety of coffee (arabica) Bred in 2014 in the south of India in g.Madras, 1996 Chennai Tamil Nadu. Grown at an altitude of 1500 m above sea level, which in itself is a good indicator. Differ by more quantitative tannin to 14 -15% and trigonelline 1.5 - 1.7%.