How Many Coffee Varieties Are There?

How Many Coffee Varieties Are There?

Readers of our articles on will have realized that our decided coffee preference is Arabica coffee as opposed to Robusta or other kinds.. They will also have noted that there are many varieties of Arabica coffee. In fact, there are more than ten thousand different varieties of coffee! The majority of these are not commercially available or even commercially viable as they are sub-varieties growing where coffee started in the mountains of Ethiopia. Nevertheless, for those interested in checking out different coffee varieties, here is a bit of useful information.

What Is a Coffee Variety?

Varieties of coffee are types that are genetically different from each other. The genetic differences result in slightly different tastes, aromas, caffeine content, plant size, plant yield, tolerance of extreme temperatures, resistance to plant diseases and pests, and productive life of the coffee plants. A commonly used example for varieties is the apple. There are Granny Smiths, Gala, and Red Delicious. A red delicious may be better for peeling and eating but Granny Smith is generally better for making an apple pie! Similarly with coffee, slight genetic differences will result in a coffee that you prefer versus another that you dislike.

How Many Coffee Varieties Are There?

How Do New Coffee Varieties Happen?

Coffee grows in the wild. It started in Africa but can grow anywhere in the tropical regions of the world. When a plant is left alone it may experience genetic changes. If the changes result in better survival, the changes are passed on and when genetic changes are damaging that strain commonly dies out. This process has to do with plant survival and little to do with you getting the best cup of coffee.

Commercial Coffee Varieties

Since humankind first started domesticating plants about 10,000 years ago, people have chosen the seeds of the best tasting, best producing, hardiest, individual plants and selectively replanted them. This speeds the process so that it goes faster than natural selection. And, while plants are selected for their hardiness they are also selected for taste, aroma, ability to store their fruit, and any other quality that humans wish. Thus, we have high quality Arabica coffee and its many sub-varieties because it is a great coffee.. And we have Robusta and its sub-varieties because it produces more caffeine, larger plants, and greater yield. Since the arrival of coffee leaf rust on the scene, growers have selected for qualities of plants that confer resistance to the disease. Folks like the Colombian Coffee Growers Association have even cross bred Arabica and varieties like Robusta to obtain greater disease resistance. The goal is always to preserve the fine taste and aroma of Arabica while gaining resistance against leaf rust and other plant diseases.

How Many Arabica Varieties Are There?

Although there are more than 100 potentially available commercial coffee species and thousands of wild species, there are many fewer commercially viable varieties or cultivars, which is a common term for domestic varieties. An early domesticated variety or cultivar is tipica. This was the variety of coffee that first left Ethiopia for the Arabian peninsula and subsequently was grown all over the world. A problem with basic typica is that it has a poor yield and is susceptible to plant diseases. This issue has been remedied by creating typical sub-varieties such as Arusha, Benguet, Bergendal Sidikalang, Bernardina, Blue Mountain, a Bourbon varieties, Catuai, Catimor, Caturra, Kona, Maragogipe (a natural typical mutation), Mundo Novo, Pacamara, Pacas (natural mutation), Pache Colis, Pache Comum, Sagada, and Santos. In a major coffee growing region like Colombia the predominant varieties are standard Arabica (typica), Bourbon, and Caturra.

Why Are Some Coffee Varieties More Common?

Coffee farmers are creatures of habit. They plant the same variety of coffee on the same land time and time again because they get a good yield of a good coffee and a good price for their product. They generally only change varieties when they have been having problems with disease like leaf rust. In this case a grower in Colombia would change from standard Arabica or typica to Caturra because it has a higher resistance to leaf rust. Because a healthy Arabica coffee plant can produce normally for thirty years and as long as fifty with lower yield, it is entirely possible that a grower is never confronted with the need to plant new plants and thus consider different varieties in their working lifetime. On the other hand, when left rust or other infestations kill entire fields of coffee, this becomes an issue. When a coffee variety reliably produces good yield, acceptable disease resistance, and a good price it goes into common use and that only changes when those conditions change.

Thus, for the coffee drinker interested in finding new varieties to try, it can be difficult to find most of them unless one were to travel to remote regions of the world where a given variety is grown and consumed.

Coffee Antioxidants and Your Health

Coffee Antioxidants and Your Health

Coffee has a whole host of health benefits. Why is that? There has been a lot of research into the health benefits of coffee and a major factor appears to be that coffee, especially Arabica coffee from places like Colombia, is rich in antioxidants. With that in mind we have given a bit of thought to coffee antioxidants and your health. The first thing to consider is oxidation and why too much of it can be a bad thing.

What Is Oxidation?

Oxidation has to do with oxygen reacting with other elements or chemicals and changing them. Within the human body oxidation creates what are called free radicals as a result of this process. The issue for one’s health is that free radicals cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can break down DNA, damage cells, and inflammation. These can, in turn, result in conditions like high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, diabetes, disorders related to obesity and even types of cancer.

What Are Antioxidants?

As one might expect, an antioxidant helps put the brakes on oxidative processes. Because the free radicals that can cause damage to cells and DNA are produced normally during natural metabolism, the presence of antioxidants is important. Vitamins A, C, and E have antioxidant properties as do beta-carotene and lycopene. But these are often not enough to do the job of protecting the body against free radicals. Here is where external sources of antioxidants come into play.

Coffee Antioxidants and Your Health

Coffee Is the Biggest Source of Antioxidants for Many People

Coffee has a lot of antioxidants, about 200mg to 550 mg per cup. This is comparable to red wine. However, blueberries, cranberries, artichokes, kidney and pinto beans, raspberries, strawberries, apples and green leafy vegetables all have higher antioxidant contents. So, why is coffee the biggest source of antioxidants for most people? It is because we drink so much coffee! Americans drink about 400 million cups of coffee a day. Consumption of things like cranberries and artichokes pales in comparison to coffee intake.

What Are the Antioxidants in Coffee?

Green coffee beans have antioxidants and others are produced during coffee roasting. Green coffee has significant amounts of chlorogenic, ferulic, caffeic, and n-coumarinic acids, all of which are strong antioxidants. During roasting there is a reaction between sugars and amino acids in the coffee beans. Melanoidins are produced a coffee is roasted while chlorogenic acid may be reduced, especially in a dark roast.

Health Benefits of Coffee

As noted on the Johns Hopkins University website, coffee has a whole bunch of health benefits. First of all, at any age, coffee drinkers are likely to live longer than folks who do not drink coffee. This is because drinking coffee cuts down the risks of diabetes, kidney disease, and coronary heart diseases. In regard to diabetes, coffee drinkers have a significantly lower risk of getting Type II diabetes, the more common form of the disease. Drinking coffee regularly is linked to lower risks of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, liver problems, colon cancer, stroke, and general damage to one’s DNA. Virtually all of these health benefits can be linked to the protective effects of antioxidants in coffee. As a rule, the more cups of coffee a day one drinks, the greater the benefit. However, this tops out at about six cups of coffee a day.

How Coffee Affects the GI Tract

How Coffee Affects the GI Tract

Coffee has a whole host of benefits for a person’s health. But coffee drinkers can also be prone to heartburn and other gastrointestinal problems. The fact is that there are quite a few gi effects of drinking coffee, both positive and negative. That being the case, we present a short summary of how coffee affects the GI tract. Our article relies heavily on information from a review of the literature article published in Nutrients in 2022. Our treatment of this issue starts at the top of the gi tract.

Coffee and Salivary Enzyme Production

The first effect of coffee on the digestive system happens in the mouth with increased secretion of an enzyme that helps digest starches (polysaccharides). Studies have shown that drinking coffee can increase secretion of the salivary enzyme alpha-amylase and/or not affect it. Interestingly, the effect is more pronounced with cold as opposed to hot or warm coffee. The level of salivary enzyme increase appears to be unrelated to any gastrointestinal symptoms or complaints.

Coffee and Secretions in the Stomach

When we eat something and it arrives in the stomach, the stomach responds by secreting hydrochloric acid as well as digestive enzymes like lipase, pepsin, and chymosin. When we drink coffee it increases the secretion of hydrochloric acid. Caffeinated coffee does this more robustly than decaffeinated coffee. While coffee increases the amount of acid secreted it does not affect how quickly the stomach empties. Thus, food and excessive acid may remain in the stomach for the normal length of time.

How Coffee Affects the GI Tract

Coffee and Problems of the Esophagus and Stomach

Most folks who are interested in how coffee affects the gi tract also have gi problems after drinking coffee. They get heartburn, upset stomach, gas, nausea, etc. A major issue for gastro-esophageal reflux is incompetence of or relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter, the band of muscles that normally keeps stomach contents and acid from going back up the esophagus. Coffee appears to decrease the effectiveness of the lower esophageal sphincter with, in turn, can allow stomach acid reflux into the esophagus. This can be a problem because, unlike the stomach which tolerates a high level of acid, the esophagus does not. The acid causes irritation, inflammation, ulceration, scaring, and even Barrett’s esophagus, which can lead to esophageal cancer.

It should be noted that many other dietary factors as well as obesity typically contribute to gastro-esophageal reflux.

Coffee and the Gallbladder and Pancreas

When partially digested food passes out of the stomach it goes to the duodenum where gallbladder and pancreatic enzymes are added. Coffee is known to increase both bile production from the gallbladder and contractility of the gallbladder via the hormone cholecystokinin. This effect happens with both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. Cholecystokinin also stimulates the pancreas to secrete other enzymes that help digest starches, proteins, and fats. Another effect of coffee is that it appears to reduce the incidence of gallstones at the rate of about a 5% decrease per cup of coffee per day.

Coffee and Bacterial Populations in the Intestinal Tract

There is a lot of research showing that coffee consumption can affect the relative levels of three most common types of bacteria in the lower intestinal tract, Bacteroides, Prevotella, and Ruminococcus. There do not appear to be all that many significant effects on health due to how coffee affects these bacterial levels.

Coffee and Cancer of the GI Tract

Numerous studies have shown that drinking coffee slightly reduces the risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver, and gallbladder. There does not appear to be an association be risk of cancer of the large intestine and coffee consumption.

Common Sense and Coffee Consumption

All of the research into coffee and gi tract issues involves large groups of people and statistical significance. For the individual it is a different issue. If you find that drinking too much coffee regularly results in heartburn, cut back on you consumption. If you can drink coffee without problems by drinking only with a meal, do that. If you blood pressure is high and reliably goes up with three or four cups of coffee a day, cut back on your consumption. In the end, common sense will be your best guide if you think coffee is causing problems in your gastrointestinal tract.

El Niño and Colombian Coffee Production

El Niño and Colombian Coffee Production

The El Niño weather pattern is back and coffee producers in Colombia are concerned. Colombia is the world’s third leading producer of coffee and the leading producer of high quality Arabica coffee. Less rainfall, more sunny days, and higher temperatures are likely to affect coffee production, coffee diseases, and coffee quality. How long this lasts and how severe its impact will likely determine the quality as well as the price your cup of coffee in the coming year. Thus we are concerned about El Niño and Colombian coffee production.

What Is El Niño?

El Niño is a recurring weather phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean. Trade winds that normally blow west along the equator weaken or even reverse and blow east. Normally cold water rises from the ocean depths to replace the water flowing west. This ceases during an El Niño event and the jet stream moves south of its normally neutral position over the equator. Warm water can be pushed back east toward the west coast of the Americas during an El Niño event. While all of this creates more rainfall in the western USA, countries along the west coast of South America experience less rainfall. This includes the coffee growing regions of Colombia. El Niño occurs on the average every seven years but can happen every couple of years or not for ten years or more. The typical El Niño lasts less than a year but can last longer such as the 1991 to 1995 El Niño event.

El Niño and Colombian Coffee Production

How Does El Niño Affect Colombia?

Warmer and dryer weather caused by El Niño can affect both the main coffee crop in Colombia and the secondary mitaca crop. How long El Niño event this will last is a guess even for meteorologists. The most important time will be first months of 2024 with lower rainfall and higher temperatures throughout the coffee growing regions. Historically an El Niño event will increase production of the secondary or mitaca crop. The main crop can be increased or decreased.

A moderate El Niño event historically tends to increase Colombian coffee by fifteen or sixteen percent. A stronger event may even reduce production below average levels. A normal El Niño year will result in between one million three hundred thousand and one million eight hundred thousand extra bags of Colombia coffee production.

Specific issues include rainfall or lack of it when coffee plants are flowering. If plants become excessively dry at this time in can result in a much greater reduction in coffee production than otherwise anticipated. One blessing in disguise that comes with El Niño is that coffee leaf rust is less of a problem when coffee growing areas dry out.

Effect of El Niño On Colombia Coffee Quality

A typical El Niño event causes a substantial increase in coffee borer infestations. There is also typically an increase in the percentage of lower grades of coffee by as much as six to nine percent. Coffee borer infestations intend to increase by about five percent. Filling defects like “averanado” beans become more common as do smaller screen sizes, and black bean. As many as seven hundred thirty-two bags of substandard coffee above the average is being projected for this El Niño weather event.

Effects of El Niño and Latitude in Colombia

Historically the various regions of Colombia are affected differently by El Niño. Northern regions above 7 degrees north latitude and regions below 3 degrees north latitude are less affected by El Niño events. These areas include Huila and east of Caldas. Altitude and cloud cover can be major factors in whether El Niño helps of hurts the local coffee crop.

Is It Real Kona Coffee?

Is It Real Kona Coffee?

Here at Buy Organic Coffee we commonly promote coffee from Colombia. However, we always note that there are all sorts of good coffees throughout the world. Our point regarding coffee from Colombia is that there is more uniformly excellent Arabic coffee in Colombia that anywhere else in the world. One of world’s great coffees comes from the Hawaiian Islands, Kona coffee. While Hawaii produces about 2.4 million pounds of Kona a year, Colombia produces about 1,491 million pounds of Arabic coffee a year. Like Colombian coffee, Kona is unique and commands a higher-than-average price. This invites imitation and so the question arises, is it real Kona coffee?

Copycat Kona

As noted in an article in The New York Times, there are lots of folks selling cheaper types of coffee and calling it Kona. A recent lawsuit helped Kona growers with their fight against counterfeit beans. We have written about how great coffee is commonly grown in rich volcanic soil. Volcanic ash is an excellent fertilizer. It also includes lots of unique minerals in greater quantities than normal soil, Thus, one can find higher levels and unique ratios of things like barium to nickel or strontium to zinc. A recent lawsuit, settled out of court, used this approach to show that several large companies were marketing non-Kona coffee as Kona.

Is It Real Kona Coffee

How Expensive Is Kona Coffee?

Kona coffee is very good. It is also produced in much lower quantities than coffees from Colombia, Brazil, Vietnam, and other big producing countries. This relative rarity helps keep the price up in the $50 a pound range. In addition, Kona coffee is grown on small farms with lots of manual labor, making it more expensive to produce than coffee from mechanized operations. The point is that anyone who can fool the public into thinking that an average coffee with an average wholesale price is Kona, can make out like a bandit! The recent lawsuit may have helped deter the former amount of copycat Kona being sold as the settlement ran in the $41 million range!

What Does a Coffee Brand Name Mean?

As a rule, customers trust certain brands of products that they buy. This is generally because these products are of consistently high quality. Such is the case with coffee from Colombia and with Kona coffee. As noted in the Times article, Swiss cheese and French fries are generic terms and do not tell us that the product came from Switzerland or France. However, when someone buys Kona coffee they are expecting coffee that was grown in the Hawaiian Islands in the specific regions where Kona coffee comes from. The testing done in the lawsuit helps confirm the uniqueness of Kona coffee. However, like with Colombian coffee, Kona is grown by folks whose families have work on the same farms in a coffee culture more than a century old. Nobody is banning other folks from selling coffee. What they are doing is making sure that when someone gets Kona coffee they are getting the real thing and not a cheaper imitation that cheapens the public’s sense of what Kona coffee is all about. The same applies when you see Juan Valdez on the package and can be assured that your coffee is from Colombia.

What Is the Colombian Cafetero?

What Is the Colombian Cafetero?

The third leading producer of coffee in the world is Colombia. It is the biggest producer and exporter of the highest quality Arabica coffee. The historical, geographic, and cultural center of Colombian coffee growing is in three districts or departments in the western part of Colombia. These are Risaralda, Caldas, and Quindío and are also called the coffee triangle or (coffee growing axis. In Spanish these are triangulo de café and eje Cafetero). Although these three departments lie at the heart of the Colombian coffee culture and cafetero, nearby departments such as Nariño, Tolima, Valle de Cauca, Huila, Norte de Santander, Antioquia and Cauca are also big producers of Arabica coffee. All of this is located in the Andes Mountain range in the west of Colombia in a coffee culture that is two hundred years old and rich volcanic soil.

Coffee in Colombia

Coffee came to the New World and Colombia with European settlers. A Jesuit priest, José Gumilla, wrote in 1730 about coffee growing in the east of Colombia. Commercial production is first recorded from the early 19th century when coffee was first exported from the port of Cucuta. Today’s main coffee growing region of Colombia was colonized in the middle of the 19th century with founding of the city of Manizales, Caldas.

Volcanic Soil and Colombian Coffee

Volcanic soil provides the base for the best coffees in the world. This kind of soil comes from ancient lava flows and accumulated volcanic ash. It is rich in nutrients like potassium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, boron, calcium, sulfur, silicon, sodium, magnesium, and other trace elements. It belongs to a class or soils called andisols.  These soils have a high capacity to hold water and have a high content of volcanic glass and are able to fix phosphorus. It takes centuries for lava flows to weather and break down into soil. However, volcanic ash is available immediately as a soil nutrient. Nevado del Ruiz, in the Colombian cafetero is an the active volcano that produces a plume ash and fumes every day of every year.

Buy Arabica Coffee Directly from Colombia
Nevado Ruiz Volcano

Promoting Colombian Coffee

There are a lot of great coffees in the world. What makes the Colombian coffee triangle unique is that it produces uniformly great coffee in much bigger quantities than any place else on earth. In order to make coffee production a profitable undertaking coffee growers in Colombia need to find ways to effectively market their coffee. This began in earnest at a marketing agency in New York City in 1959. The fictional character Juan Valdez was created. The goal was to identify Colombian coffee as a single origin product of exceptionally high quality.

The term eje Cafetero came years later and further identified the region at the core of Colombian coffee production. This region was originally part of the department of Caldas. At the start of the 19th century Caldas was divided up into the departments of Quindío, Risaralda, and Caldas. Thus old Caldas (Viejo Caldas) is the eje cafetero of Colombia or coffee triangle.

Coffee Grows Everywhere in the Colombian Cafetero

Coffee grows the best where it is cloudy and rains much of the time. It loves rich volcanic soil such as in the coffee triangle of the west of Colombia. Coffee does not do well standing in water. Thus it does well growing on slopes of which there are plenty in this part of Colombia. It is the primary cash crop for farmers in the mountainous region of western Colombia. Along the Carrera de Café or coffee highway from Manizales to Pereira coffee grows on pretty much every available slope. The families there go back as far as two centuries as coffee farmers.

Tree Canopy Cover and Coffee Leaf Rust

Tree Canopy Cover and Coffee Leaf Rust

Coffee grows naturally in the shade. Thus a tree canopy that is natural or made up of crops like plantain results in shade grown coffee. However, coffee leaf rust is a serious fungal disease that threatens coffee crops. Coffee leaf rust thrives on moisture. Thus, if a tree canopy cover increases leaf moisture it could result in more coffee leaf rust and defeat the purpose of the canopy in the first place. What is the relationship between tree canopy cover and coffee leaf rust?

On Site Study of Coffee Leaf Rust and Tree Canopy Cover

Fortunately the issue of how tree canopy cover affects or does not affect coffee leaf rust infestations has been studied. Tree effects on coffee leaf rust were studied from Latin America and Africa. Issues looked at included interactions of trees and plant diseases such as fungi and specifically coffee leaf rust. It turns out that trees can both inhibit and promote coffee leaf rust on coffee plants growing beneath the tree canopy. There are specific tree leaf traits and canopy characteristics that reduce the risk of coffee leaf rust. These include thin canopies with lots of openness, short tree height, small and dentate leaves, and horizontal branching.

Trees and Coffee Diseases

Coffee leaf rust is not the only coffee disease affected by trees. Others include American leaf spot disease of coffee, Armillaria root rot or Pink Disease, Coffee leaf scorch or Brown Eye Spot, Dieback syndrome, phoma leaf blight, and coffee berry disease. A major factor for some of these fungal diseases is that the tree canopy inhibits leaf drying and thus provides a home for the fungal disease. For others the tree canopy and especially trees at the edge of the farm that slow wind speeds protect against distant wind borne fungus entering the coffee growing area.

Different Trees for Different Purposes for Inhibiting Leaf Rust

Trees that let more light through the canopy are useful for coffee plants beneath them. However, on the edges of a coffee farm it works well to have large trees with huge canopies, waxy, thick, small leaves that reduce wind speeds that reach the interior coffee growing area. Pruning trees every year to maintain the ideal characteristics is ideal. Data in this study came from onsite observations in real coffee farms under real conditions over years. The ideal situation on any given coffee farm is typically obtained after trial and error over the years. General principles will, however, apply. Too much moisture encourages fungal growth. Thus a balance needs to be struck between the benefits of growing coffee in the shade and letting moisture remain too long on coffee leaves.

Which Trees Do Coffee Farmers Use and Why?

In any given area there are a lot of possible tree species to use to provide shade for coffee. However, in any given region there are a handful of favorites used by coffee farmers. This is usually for a preference for nitrogen-fixing varieties, ones that are easy to prune, ones that produce fruit, or ones that can be cut down for sale as timber. As a practical matter, coffee farmers will typically use the tree varieties that they and their family have always used unless problems arise.

The bottom line for a coffee farmer who uses trees to grow coffee in the shade is that they need to pay attention, prune the canopy as needed, and clean up the sorts of clutter that promote fungal plant diseases.

SlideShare Version – Tree Canopy Cover and Coffee Leaf Rust

Tree Canopy Cover and Coffee Leaf Rust – PDF

How Weather and Climate Affect Coffee Leaf Rust

How Weather and Climate Affect Coffee Leaf Rust

Coffee leaf rust is a constant threat for crops everywhere in the world. This fungal plant disease is the reason that a country like Colombia grows about 80% of its coffee using resistant strains of Arabica and only 20% using non-resistant Arabica strains at much higher altitudes. It is generally accepted that coffee leaf rust is more of a problem at lower altitudes where temperatures are higher and less of a problem at higher altitudes where temperatures are lower. A problem in a coffee growing region like Colombia is that it is full of micro-climates because of the extent of its mountainous terrain. Thus, sorting out effects of climate versus effects of local weather on coffee leaf rust can be difficult.

Fungal Plant Diseases and the Weather

There are more than nineteen thousand fungi causing crop infestations across the world. Many lie dormant until local environmental conditions trigger them. According to the US Department of Agriculture, between ten and twenty percent of agricultural production is lost every year due to fungal diseases. This is an issue of food security. Because many fungi are beneficial, eradicating all fungi is not a good idea. Because environmental speciation is a major factor with fungal plant diseases, the problem commonly comes down to how the local farmer deals with the problem on their farm. In the western Andes in Colombia microclimates are the norm so that the relationship between fungal plant diseases and the weather varies from one area to the next even when separated by only a few kilometers.

Climate Versus Weather and Coffee Leaf Rust in Colombia

Researchers from the University of Exeter looked at coffee leaf rust infestations in the coffee growing region of Colombia. They used climate reanalysis data to model coffee leaf rust risk. Specifically, they tested the hypothesis that the severe coffee leaf rust outbreak from 2008 to 2011 was related to climate changes instead of short term weather factors. Their model used leaf wetness duration and temperature as factors likely to make coffee leaf rust infestations worse. Their conclusion was that at so far as the 2008 to 2011 leaf rust epidemic was concerned it was not related to climate changes.

How Weather and Climate Affect Coffee Leaf Rust

The best these folks could do was compare canopy wetness, temperature, and infection risk over the years. They admit that accurate on the ground measurements are difficult to obtain. What coffee farmers experience is that non-resistant strains do not do well at lower altitudes where temperatures are higher. This is why the fifth of Colombian coffee production by original Arabica non-resistant varieties is all at the highest altitudes.

Because local factors are so important with plant diseases like coffee leaf rust, more often than not the best judge of what coffee varieties to plant and how to handle an individual patch of land is commonly best handled by the coffee farmer whose family has probably farmed there for generations.

Coffee Leaf Rust Prevention

A coffee farmer cannot control the weather but can plan based on local experience. Clearing away residue that encourage fungal growth is useful. There are also fungicides containing copper that are useful against coffee leaf rust. However, they need to be applied before an infestation to prevent it and not afterward to treat it. The copper tends to improve crop yields but is not a viable option if the coffee farmer wants to maintain organic coffee certification.

SlideShare Version – How Weather and Climate Affect Coffee Leaf Rust

How Weather and Climate Affect Coffee Leaf Rust – PDF

Why Is Arabica Coffee Expensive?

Why Is Arabica Coffee Expensive?

When they buy coffee at the market or order a cup of Java with their meal, some folks are only interested in the caffeine and others are looking for the excellent aroma and taste that comes with an Arabica coffee. For those who only want enough caffeine to stay awake, Robusta coffee is cheaper and has a higher caffeine content. The reason that coffee house coffee is more expensive is that they use Arabica coffee beans from places like the Colombian coffee triangle. So, why is Arabica coffee expensive? Is it all about the market for better tasting coffee or is there more to the story?

Coffee Harvest for Arabica vs Robusta

Both Arabica and Robusta coffee plants take three to four years from when they are planted until they bear fruit. Both will typically keep producing coffee beans for twenty-five to thirty years and then taper off but potentially keep producing for up to fifty years or even more. During that time a Robusta coffee plant routinely outproduces an Arabica plant by about thirty to forty percent yield. This is assuming that both plants remain healthy and produce year after year.

Coffee Leaf Rust and Other Coffee Diseases

The British grew coffee on the island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) until the middle of the 19th century until a fungal disease killed all of the coffee plants which was when they switched to growing tea forcing much of the British public to become tea drinkers instead of coffee drinkers. Coffee leaf rust has wiped out vast areas of coffee production over the years spreading across the East Indies to Africa and in about 1950 to Brazil from where it spread bit by bit up through Colombia and into Central America and Mexico.

Why Is Arabica Coffee Expensive?
Arabica vs Robusta Coffee Prices

How Plant Diseases Like Leaf Rust Affect Coffee Prices

Developing newer varieties of Arabica that are cross bred from resistant strains and growing Arabica only at higher elevations where it is cooler have helped Arabica production recover but made Arabica more expensive to grow and more scarce. Climate change with progressively higher temperatures has driven Arabica production higher into the mountains also thus reducing output and driving prices up. Fortunately for Robusta coffee, it is resistant to coffee leaf rust and many other coffee plant diseases. Thus it can be grown at lower elevations and is not prone to having whole fields wiped out by plant disease. This makes Robusta cheaper to grow and maintain so the coffee farmer can sell at a lower price than Arabica and still make a profit.

The Market Determines the Price of Coffee

The eternal problem for coffee farmers in the mountains where coffee grows best is the same for farmers everywhere. When there is a great year with ideal weather, no new crop diseases, and, thus, a bumper crop, the price of their crop falls. This problem is often compounded by exchange rates. Coffee is priced in dollars and is quoted on the New York Mercantile Exchange. You can walk into coffee cooperative office in the heart of the Colombian coffee triangle and see a TV screen with up-to-the-minute price quotes in dollars and conversions to Colombian pesos. Every time Brazil has a bumper crop the price of Arabica falls and when they have drought and production falls the price goes up everywhere. Because Robusta can grow and produce in dryer conditions it is less prone to such variations in crop yield and thus less prone to such extreme price variations.

What Is Organic Coffee?

What Is Organic Coffee?

The pinnacle of the coffee world is organic coffee. So what is organic coffee? The organic label means that the coffee you are drinking was grown, processed, and stored according to sustainable agricultural practices and not mixed with coffee that does not meet this standard. The short version is that organic coffee is free from the roughly one hundred fifty impurities that can routinely be found in regular coffee grown by regular means. Roughly three percent of commercially available specialty coffee is organic.

Certification of Coffee As Organic

Coffee may be totally organic but you, the consumer, do not know that since you live in somewhere North of the coffee belt that is in the tropics. The coffee probably comes from near Manizales, Colombia, in the Colombian coffee belt, was likely grown around 8,000 feet altitude in rich volcanic soil and miles away from any nearby city. Luckily there are organizations that go to coffee farms and make sure that all of the boxes have been checked so that the coffee you are drinking is organic. The label on your bag of coffee says USDA Certified but the US Department of Agriculture delegates the certification job to local experts. The only coffee the US resident drink that is grown in the USA is grown in Hawaii where the USDA does the certifying.What Is Organic Coffee?

Criteria for Organic Coffee Certification

Coffee falls under the same rules that the USDA uses for all organic foods. Here is what they say.

In order for coffee to get organic certification, the land it was grown on has to have been free of herbicides, pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers for three years or more and there has to be a buffer of land between the organic coffee crop and adjacent non-organic crops. This has to be demonstrated to the certifying agent before certification can be obtained. Additionally, organic coffee is processed, stored and shipped separate from other coffee.

Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled ‘organic,’ a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified. Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.”

When you insist on the organic label for your coffee you can be assured that the coffee is high quality because nobody goes to all of the trouble of organic farming without producing a superior product. Thus, besides being free of impurities, grown according to strict standards, and processed to perfection, your coffee is Arabica of the highest quality.

Gourmet Organic Coffee

Besides organic coffees the other set of expensive coffees are gourmet coffees. May gourmet coffees are, in fact, grown organically. Thus they are free of impurities, tend to have higher levels of antioxidants, and generally taste a lot better than the average cup of coffee. As we noted, because organic growers put more effort into their crop much of that work results in gourmet quality coffee at the same time that it satisfies organic requirements.

What Is Organic Coffee? – SlideShare Version