by R. Miguel Meza
Once upon a time not so long ago most of the coffee planted in the world was from one varietal, Coffea Arabica Var. typica or typical coffee. 100-150 years ago it didn’t mater where in the world your coffee came from Sumatra, India, The Americas the trees were essentially of same variety (exception being coffees from Ethiopia and Yemen and later the island of Reunion). The reason for this lack of diversity was coffees interesting history. Essentially all the world’s coffee at the time could trace their lineage back to a few seeds stolen out of Yemen and brought to India a few centuries earlier. From India it spread to Indonesia and eventually to Botanical gardens in Europe and then from one tree there it was introduced to the new world. Typica represented just one of many varieties growing in Yemen. Recent genetic comparisons indicate that it and the bourbon varietal not surprisingly likely had their origins in Eastern Ethiopia. With the exception of the Bourbon Varietal also brought from Yemen it wouldn’t be until the 20th century that anything else was an option to coffee planters. Now in the 21st century the once typical coffee is anything but. In most places in the world it is very difficult to find. Typica trees in most places are much lower yielding than most the mutant and hybrid varieties now common and also very susceptible to diseases like rust. From the 1860’s through the early 20th century rust spread around the world devastating coffee growers. The island of Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) for a short time the largest producer of coffee never recovered from this outbreak and the growers there switched to tea instead for which they are now famous producers of. In most places in the world its population was severely limited and growers began looking for other varieties to plant. In some places Arabica typical was replaced with the Robusta or Liberica species. In many other breeding programs were developed to produce strains more resistant to coffee diseases as well as trees that where higher yielding and easier. Now days it can still be found but it takes a little searching. I’ve tasted many memorable coffees from this variety. It often displays a very balanced profile with well developed sweetness and hints of nuts and citrus when grown at higher altitudes. Although I’ve experienced things as varied as red wine and chocolate from some typica coffees to Orchid and clove in others. Only a few years ago it would have been quite difficult to get a single varietal coffee but many quality conscious growers now offer unblended varietals and are beginning to re-explore the heirloom cultivars of bourbon and typica for their quality rather than quantity. From typica numerous mutations and selections have occurred producing varietals such as Kents, Margogype (giant beans) Mokka (tiny beans) Villalobos, Golden Drops (yellow fruit) and others. Dozens of modern hybrids can also count Typica as one of their parents some notable ones are SL795 developed in India and Mundo Novo developed in Brasil.
If one searches good examples of the typica varietal can sometimes be found from Panama, Mexico, Colombia, India, Indonesia and Hawaii.