Arabica and Maragogype Coffee Species

Coffee Species (Arabica and Maragogype)

Numerous factors affecting coffee cultivation depend very much on the species and vary considerably from country to country.


The oldest-known species of coffee tree, arabica is the high-grown species, cultivated on mountainous plateaux or volcanic slopes at optimum altitudes of 1000-2000 meters where the annual rainfall ranges from 150-200 cm and where mild days alternate with cool nights in a yearly average temperature range of about 15-24oC. Arabica trees flower after a rainy season, and then require up to nine months for the fruit to mature. In one year a typical arabica tree may produce less than 5 kg of fruit, which processes down to about 1 kg of actual coffee beans. Much of the arabica harvest around the world is "washed", or wet-processed, and the beans, which are generally larger, longer and flatter than those of robusta, and which contain less caffeine, produce a more delicate, acidic flavor.

Arabica coffee accounts for about 70 percent of the world's coffee, but it is more difficult to grow, being more susceptible to disease, pests and frost, and is, not surprisingly, more expensive. Of the many varieties of arabica, the typica and bourbon are the most distinct and the best known, and from these have come other strains, such as tico, Kent, mokka, Blue Mountain, the Brazilian hybrid mondo nuevo (or mundo novo), garnica, and mibirizi, to name only a few. Cultivars from the mondo nuevo variety include villa Sarchi, Geisha and Villalobos, and catuai is a hybrid of mondo nuevo and caturra (a large-bean bourbon mutant). Catuai's fruit may be yellow (amarelo) or red (vermeoho). San Romon is another large-bean typica mutant.


The most famous typica mutation was first discovered in the Maragogype region of Brazil's state of Bahia. Maragogype trees produce the world's largest coffee beans, sometimes called "elephant'" beans (not to be confused with a certain bean defect, called an "elephant ear"). Maragogype beans are grown in several countries and are a sought-after coffee for their smooth flavor as well as attractive appearance. Unfortunately, because their yield is low, maragogype trees are expensive to maintain, and at the end of their productive lives, many of the trees are being replaced with more "normal" growths.

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