There are more than 125 species of coffee known in the world today, though only two of them are commercially viable: Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora. In specialty coffee, we primarily focus on Arabica coffee, the species that is grown at higher elevations, contains about half the caffeine, and is generally more nuanced, floral, and sweet than Canephora (Robusta). Within the species Arabica there are countless varieties and cultivars, creating a vast coffee family tree that represents a variety of coffee plant appearances, crop performance, and cup characteristics.
Of the many variables that impact the ultimate taste and quality of a coffee, the plant’s botanical lineage and genetic heritage play a significant—but not solo—part. In addition to the pedigree of the coffee itself, things like terroir, ripe picking, post-harvest processing, and even roasting and brewing will have considerable influence over how a coffee tastes. However, knowing a bit about varieties and cultivars can help us predict how a particular coffee might cup out.
Many different scientific studies are happening around the coffee world to catalog, qualify, develop, test, and unlock coffee’s myriad varieties, and we at Cafe Imports are interested in pursuing our own knowledge of how isolating individual types of coffee might impact flavor, as well as impact farmers (and consumers). We are happy to share that knowledge with you here and to update it as we learn and grow in our understanding.