Navigating the coffee aisle at your local grocer is never easy. A hundred bags sit staring at you with labels sporting words like “naturally processed,” “ fair trade organic,” or “Cultivar”. If you are lucky your local cafe will be able to decode coffee bag language for you before you swipe your card. Frankly, most of us just read the tasting notes and hope we can really experience the list of delicious flavors printed. Or maybe we pick the bag with the boldest packaging. Regardless of the secret behind our purchasing tactic, most of us know there is a lot to learn about coffee. Today we are going to introduce our monthly special featured coffee, a Pink Bourbon Colombian, as an introduction to coffee varieties and why they matter.
When we talk about coffee varieties what we are really describing is the type of coffee plant that produced the beans we will harvest, process, roast and enjoy as a beverage. That’s right, there are hundreds of varieties of coffee. The varieties we see listed on specialty coffee bags are derived from three major coffee species. The subspecies of those parent plants are the varieties and cultivars we are diving into!
The Story of Pink Bourbon Coffee
The Bourbon variety got its start early on in coffee history, traveling from Ethiopia to Yemen along with the Typica variety before being relocated to Bourbon Island (La Réunion) via the French. The subspecies did not take immediately and had to be reintroduced three times before the crop was sustainable. From there Bourbon traveled around the world. This is where we set aside the history and get excited about coffee as a plant not just a hot beverage. Coffee as we know it does not exist without the persistence of farmers. The Typica variety mentioned above did not initially survive in Yemen and was eventually taken to Indonesia which became the epicenter of Typica subspecies. So what’s the point? Coffee, like all life, is fragile. The Bourbon variety is no exception and in fact is more susceptible to affliction than some coffee subspecies. Bourbon coffees generally have small yields, they lack resistance to coffee leaf rust as well as coffee berry disease. The flavor however, is renowned. That is why farmers jump all the hoops to keep producing this variety. Red and Yellow Bourbon naturally mutated and created Pink Bourbon, no farmers needed. However, as a mutation, Pink Bourbon is recessive. Dig out those biology text books! This recessive trait is a nice way of saying the Pink variety often loses out to its Red and Yellow Bourbon counterparts. Consistently cultivating Pink Bourbon has taken special care to isolate the seeds and hand pick at the exact moment of ripeness: a task easier said than done due to the unique pink color.
Pink Bourbon originated in Colombia and we are proud to partner with Cafe Imports and farmers like Angel Ortega who dedicate their lives to continuing the legacy of this unique coffee so we can share it with you. Now when you are sifting through coffee at your local market and see the words Cultivar or Variety, you’ll know why it’s there and what information it represents. Maybe you want to explore subspecies and all the unique tasting components they possess, or dig deep into coffee genealogy. For the rest of you, leave this blog knowing specialty coffee roasters like ourselves are committed to bringing you the coffees that take a little extra work and care from growing to harvest to roast. As environmental factors affect coffee production and cultivars become common solutions to replace susceptible varieties like Pink Bourbon, we may see less and less of these specialty crops.