Coffee Varieties: Typica

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.


Typica is an old coffee variety and the father of numerous sub-varieties. Typica came from Yemen. Dutch traders carried it to Malabar, India and later on to Indonesia. Subsequently Typica arrived at the French colony of Martinique in the West Indies. Natural selection and breeding have produced the following new varieties:

  • Criollo (South America)
  • Arabigo (Americas)
  • Kona (Hawaii)
  • Pluma Hidalgo (Mexico)
  • Garundang (Sumatra)
  • Blue Mountain (Jamaica, Papua New Guinea)
  • San Bernado & San Ramon (Brazil)
  • Kents & Chickumalgu (India)

We have written about Kona coffee, a variety that is famous for its quality.

Organic Kona coffee is grown on mountainous slopes on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kona coffee benefits from mild weather and moist growing conditions as well as the volcanic soil of the Hawaiian Islands. Because of its scarcity as well as its quality Kona coffee is one of the world’s most expensive coffees. Organic Kona coffee is therefore rarer and somewhat more expensive. Coffee was first grown in the Hawaiian Island in the early 19 th century from cuttings brought form Brazil. The Kona brand itself dates back to the 19 th century and an Englishman, Henry Nicholas Greenwell. Although Hawaiian coffee was first grown on large plantations a crash in the worldwide coffee market in 1899 led owners to lease or sell land to their workers. This started a tradition of family operated coffee farms of five to twelve acres. The fact that families continue to grow on the same land has led to the tradition of sustainable coffee growing that is the hallmark of growing healthy organic coffee. Top grades Kona coffee are Kona Extra Fancy, Kona Fancy, Kona Number 1, Kona Select, and Kona Prime.

This is just one of the fine offshoots of the Typica coffee variety. You can get Typica as regular or organic. Like the other Coffea Arabica varietals that have been developed from it, Typica coffee plants have a conical shape with a main vertical trunk and secondary verticals that grow at a slight slant.  Typica is a tall plant that stands 3.5-4 meters in height.  The lateral branches form 50-70° angles with the vertical stem.  Typica coffee is not a high producer but is sought out for its excellent cup quality.

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