Varietal Series Tasting Guide

Posted by Ryan Knapp

Variety Guide
On Monday, The 2013 Varietal Series will be shipping out from our headquarters in Grand Rapids, MI.  There are a handful of tastings taking place in cities across the country and an entire week dedicated to only offering coffee from the Varietal Series on the brew bar at our Grand Rapids shop. We have created a simple guide to suggest an order to enjoy the 8 coffee line-up.  The coffees are lined up to experience the varieties in the order of their discovery beginning with one of the earliest discovered varieties to natural mutations to hybrids and lastly an unknown recently discovered variety.  All of the varieties in this set are members of the Arabica species.  The coffee has been harvested ripe, de-pulped, fermented, washed and patio dried in a very similar manner in order to highlight the unique characteristics of the individual coffees.

It is important to note when tasting through these coffees that they only represent a very specific terroir. The flavors experienced shouldn't be a blanket statement about a certain variety. A Bourbon grown on the Rodriguez farm in El Salvador will have differences when compared to a Bourbon grown in Brazil or elsewhere. The flavor of a variety will be highlighted uniquely depending on its given terroir, so let this tasting experience simply embrace the flavors throughout the Rodriguez family farms.

01 Typica
We suggest enjoying the Typica first. The Typica is one of the first discovered varieties of the Arabica coffee species centuries ago in Ethiopia (or Yemen depending who you are talking to). This is one one of the two main parent varieties in the Arabica family along with Bourbon.  The Typica tree grows taller than most varieties and is known for its conical branches producing oval shaped fruit. Typica has become less common in many areas because of its very low production, yet the quality is generally fantastic, with nice sweetness and cleanliness.

(From top to bottom: Red Bourbon, Yellow Bourbon and Orange Bourbon)

02 Bourbon
Second up is the Bourbon. Bourbon, along with the Typica, is the other parent that Arabica varieties can be traced back to. Bourbon gets its name from Bourbon Island (now Reunion Island) where the variety derives from. The Bourbon tree is shorter than the Typica but has more secondary branches and produces about 25% more coffee than the Typica variety, although it is still considered a low producing variety.  The Bourbon cherry is small, but dense. Bourbon is known to have exceptional quality offering nice sweetness and acidity.

03 Yellow Bourbon
The Yellow Bourbon (pictured below) is like the Bourbon variety, but is a spontaneous mutation that ripens to a yellow color rather than a deep red.  Yellow Bourbon has similar flavors, but often increased acidity and brightness in the cup.

04 Orange Bourbon
The Orange Bourbon is another natural Bourbon mutation that ripens to an orange color.  The Orange Bourbon generally carries characteristics that marry the the element of a Red and Yellow Bourbon. For the past two years (and it will be available again next month), we have offered Amarillo y Naranja which is a blend of the Yellow and Orange Bourbon from El Porvenir.

05 Caturra
Caturra is a variety that naturally mutated from Bourbon in Brazil in the 1930s.  The tree height is quite a bit shorter than Bourbon but has a much higher production with better weather resistance.  Over the years this variety has become a lot less prevalent in Brazil, but has gained a lot of popularity in Colombia and Costa Rica. Generally Caturra has less sweetness than it's parent Bourbon, but offers a delicate body with bright acidity.  At higher elevations we've seen great flavor come from the Caturra variety, examples being Luis Reinoso and Didier Reinoso from Colombia and Santa Lucia in Costa Rica.

06 Pacas
Pacas is a mutation also from the Bourbon variety that was discovered in 1949 in El Savador nearby El Porvenir at a farm named San Rafael owned by the Pacas family.  The variety was named after the owners of the farm it was found on. Pacas carries a lot of similarities to Bourbon, yet generally has slightly less sweetness in the cup with good body.

07 Pacamara
The Pacamara is a hybrid created in 1958 in El Salvador by the Institute for Coffee Research. Pacamara was created by crossing the Pacas variety with the Maragogipe - where it gets its name from the first 4 letters of each of its parents.  The Maragogipe appeared in Brazil in the 1870s and is know for the large cherries it produces, with consequently large seeds with low density. The Pacamara cherry and seed takes on the appearance of the Maragogipe, but the flavor profile is quite unique offering a lot of acidity, floral notes with a delicate body. Due to its unique profile, the Pacamara isn't for everyone, but many of us at Madcap have fallen head over heels for this particular coffee.  Limited quantities of the Pacamara, La Gloria will also be available by the bag next month.

08 Elefante
Lastly, we recommend that you finish this tasting experience with the Elefante (pictured above). The Elefante is the one variety in this series where its origin is still unknown.  It was discovered by the Rodriguez family over the past 4 years on their farm.  The tree has a lot of Bourbon similarities, yet some of the spacing and branches expected from a Typica, with a very low yield. The variety received it's name Elefante because of the enormous size of the coffee fruit.  The density of the cherries are double the weight of bourbon, and generally quadruples the amount of juice that comes out of the cherry when squeezed.  Madcap is the first and only roaster in the US to have the Elefante.  The flavor is outstanding, offering intense sweetness, great body and floral notes throughout.  Next month we will also have limited quantities of this variety available by the bag.

Have some fun and enjoy these coffees responsibly!