Coffee Varieties: Bourbon

Coffee varieties are the subspecies of coffee that occur by natural selection and by selective breeding. Disease resistance, yield and flavor vary from variety to variety. Variety or breed selection is critical to the planter as he or she must pick the optimal variety for altitude, sun or shade, soil conditions and climate. Regarding coffee varieties here are a couple of terms:

Variety: A variety is a smaller group than a subspecies and a larger group than a form. A variety has most of the characteristics of the species but differs in specific ways.

Cultivar: This is a cultivated variety and is developed using agricultural breeding techniques. The coffee in your cup is most likely a cultivar. Two common cultivars are Bourbon and Typica.


In the very early 18th century French planters grew coffee on what is today Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Under French rule the island was called Bourbon. The coffee came from Dutch traders. Mutations that occurred on that island in that climate became a favorite were exported to Latin America. Bourbon plants have as much as thirty percent more coffee beans than the Typica variety.

Offshoots of Bourbon

Subsequent breeding and natural selection resulted in several sub-varieties from Bourbon. Caturra, Kenyan K7, Orange Bourbon, Yellow Bourbon and Pacas are all offshoots of the original Bourbon coffee variety. As with all varieties and sub varieties, the offshoots keep some of the characteristics of the original and add something new.

Where Does Bourbon Grow?

El Salvador is often referred to in coffee circles as the Bourbon country. And, of course the Caturra offshoot is common in Colombia as we mention in a previous article. El Salvador gets half of its export earnings from coffee. Planters began producing coffee in El Salvador in the early 19th century. Today El Salvador produces about 90% of its coffee as shade grown. Organic coffee from El Salvador is of high quality.

Organic coffee differs from regular coffee in several aspects. The soil in which organic coffee is grown must have been verified as free from prohibited substances for at least three years. In addition there must be distinct boundaries between land on which organic coffee is grown and land where pesticides, herbicides, and prohibited chemical fertilizers are used. This guarantees that drift of substances sprayed or otherwise applied on adjacent land will not contaminate the organic plot of land. Organic coffee certification includes the adherence to a specific and verifiable plan for all practices and procedures from planting to crop maintenance, to harvest, de-husking, bagging, transport, roasting, packaging, and final transport. Along the way procedures must be in place at every step to insure that there is no contamination of the healthy organic coffee produced in pristine soil with regular coffee produced on soil exposed to herbicides, pesticides, and organic fertilizers.

If you are interested in specific coffee varieties please contact us at and we will be glad to help or send you to someone who can.

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