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Most of you must have seen names such as Typica, Geisha, and SL28, especially on restaurant menus or coffee bag labels.

These are coffee plant varieties- the genetic classification of coffee species. The reason most people may not understand the meaning behind these names is that coffee roasters will rarely explain these names unless you enquire further.

As we delve further, you’ll learn more about the coffee varieties, discover the ones that are commonly used, and also know their importance.

The Origin of Coffee Varieties

There are various ways of creating coffee varieties.

Similar to other plants, the original selections were created naturally via olden mutation.

Furthermore, some plants mutated individually to form the new types. Still, other plants in the wild underwent cross-pollination to form hybrids. Interestingly, other plants originate from the lab, where they are nurtured until the correct varieties form.

The types selected from the lab cultivation should meet specific standards for factors such as yield capacity, flavor, and resistance power to diseases.

Regular Varieties

Arabica coffee that most people know, originate from two main and top coffee varieties:

  • Bourbon
  • Typica

Bourbon yields around 20 to 30% extra coffee compared to Typica.

However, during harsh weather, its cherries may frequently fall off the trees.

Contrary, Typica coffee, which tends to yield less, usually contains exceptional flavor.

The above two varieties lead the coffee family tree.

Description of the Coffee Family Tree

The Caturra variety

It originated from Brazil after its discovery in 1937. It mutated naturally from bourbon. Despite its requirement for specialized care, it ultimately offers farmers fantastic yields, incredible flavors, as well as extremely fast-maturing cherries compared to other varieties.

Mundu Novo Variety

It originated from Brazil after its discovery around 1940. It mutated naturally from bourbon and typica. Despite its cherries’ slow maturation, the ultimate yield is high, and the flavors, especially from high altitudes, are of excellent quality.

Catuai Variety

It originated from Brazil after its discovery around 1950, where the scientists chose to breed it from the Caturra and Mundu Novo varieties. Such hybrid plants usually display some of the most exceptional features from the parent selections.

Catuai produce beans with enriched flavors. They are short, durable, and with faster maturation compared to the ordinary varieties.

Significant Modern Coffee Varieties

Kenya’s Scott Labs was too dedicated to aiding farmers through the tough times they envisioned ahead. They tried hard to discover coffee varieties that were resistant to the drought and famine predicted in the days to come. They, hence, came up with three amazing types:


It originated in Indonesia around 1940. Researchers found it to be a fresh crossbreed of the Arabica and Robusta coffee species. It is highly created to stand firm against leaf rust disease.


This plant variety came in accidentally. Even though they are neither durable nor resistant compared to the primary control variety, the quality of its cup drink is far amazing. SL34 is exceedingly resistant to disease and drought, while SL 14 has an exceptionally swift maturation, which favors farmers who require the transitioning of varieties, without losing profits.


This is a very famous variety globally. It originated in a Panama farm in the early 2000s. Later, it was found as a native of Ethiopia’s Gesha forest. Its crispy, floral, and exotic acidity qualities make it favorite for the overall coffee industry.

In the 1950s, coffee researchers in Portugal planned on combining Caturra flavor with the disease-resistant Timor. Hence, the Catimor variety was created through selective breeding.

This particular type usually exhibits some bitter taste, mainly due to its Robusta source. However, when grown close to perfect conditions, it can present predominantly floral coffee.

Additionally, there are numerous unknown coffee varieties in Ethiopia’s natural forests. Being a coffee’s country of origin, Ethiopia contains the most extensive biodiversity of coffee plants.

There are numerous varieties such that whenever a farm trades coffee from an unfamiliar plant, we refer to it as Heirloom variety. This indicates that the coffee family tree is so diverse and can get far complicated.

Does Coffee Varieties Really Mean Much?

Honestly, coffee varieties do not mean much to most people who value the coffee drink.

For instance, almost all the Arabica varieties are closely similar, only a few like the high-dollar geisha varieties, which are exceptional. You may also give yourself occasional special treats by trying out these few extraordinary coffee selections.

However, from the global landscape perspective, these varieties matter. Some will always yield much and grow better in particular environmental conditions. Others also produce distinctive flavors that you can ever desire. Usually, coffee baristas understand these assortments better than others.

In the 1980s/90s, research on the varieties was hugely significant for the coffee yields in South and Central America.

This was when the leaf rust disease destroyed many farms and affected coffee farming significantly. The same research continues to presently save coffee farming in Africa, despite the extensive cases of drought and famine.

Proper research on coffee varieties matters most towards the future of these selections.

Often, confusion arises where different companies will employ different terms. Some use coffee varietal, others cultivar, while some still say variety. So, who is right? Let’s explore further.

Variety- entails the plant categorization, which falls under genus or species. This is how you establish the genetic composition of different plants.

Varietal- entails the way you will establish the product of a variety.

Hence, you cannot use varietal to refer to coffee beans

These words remain confusing to most of us, but once you’re acquainted with them, you can easily distinguish.

For a botanist, variety mostly applies to wild plants, while cultivar applies to crops originating from human creativity, such as breeding.

You, can, therefore, use the word cultivar, when conversing with a botanist.

Most of us like using the word, variety for almost all these references.

However, it’s essential to learn the differences and know how to apply each word in the appropriate setting.

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