Typica (C. arabica L. cv. Arábica)
The plant that Linnaeus initially classified as Coffea arabica was, in fact, the Typica variety. It is from this variety that most arabica coffee plants are derived. Typica has relatively lower yields, but is known for its good quality in the cup.
Bourbon – Yellow (C. arabica L. cv. Bourbon Amarelo)
First discovered in 1930 outside of Pederneiras, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Yellow Bourbon is thought to be either a natural hybrid of Red Bourbon and Botucatu Yellow or a natural mutation of Red Bourbon. The plant is tall with yellow fruit, early maturation (20-30 days earlier than Mundo Novo), average screen size of 16, and is susceptible to leaf rust. The early maturation is especially favorable in higher altitudes or lower temperatures where maturation is delayed (Fazuoli et al., 2000). It was released commercially by the IAC in 1945 and has developed a reputation for excellent cup quality, including bright acidity and elevated sweetness.
In 1871, a natural mutation was discovered in a Typica field outside the city of Botucatu, Sao Paulo, Brazil that produced yellow fruit instead of red fruit (Oliveira and Maluf, 2007). It was called Amarelo do Botucatu, or “Yellow from Botucatu.” Due to lack of productivity,the plant was not introduced on a large commercial scale, however it is thought the its natural hybridization with Red Bourbon led to the Yellow Bourbon cultivar (Oliveira and Maluf, 2007).
Catuai – Red and Yellow
In 1949, the Instituto Agronomico de Campinas (IAC) crossed Mundo Novo and Red Caturra with the intent of combining the rust-resistance of Mundo Novo with the small size and high productivity of Caturra (Oliveira and Maluf, 2007). After several generations, Red Catuai and Yellow Catuai were released for commercial production. Catuai cultivar has shorter plant height, short internodes, mid to late maturation, average of 16 screen size, and moderate susceptability to leaf rust (Fazuoli et al., 2000). It is recommended for dense planting. Several lines of Catuai have developed, and it has become one of the most planted cultivars throughout Latin America.
Caturra (C. arabica L. cv. Caturra)
A natural mutation of the Bourbon variety discovered near Manhumirim in the Serra do Caparao range that divides the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo (CARVALHO et al., 1984). It was sent to the Instituto Agronomica de Campinas (IAC) in 1937, though it is likely that the mutation occurred at least 22 years prior to being received by the IAC (Oliveira & Pereira, 2008). The Caturra cultivar displays compact growth (short internodes) with early fruit maturation, high productivity, and average screen size of 16. Since Caturra was the first mutation discovered that offered decreased size with high production capacity, it was used by the IAC starting in the 1930’s for the genetic improvement of coffee and is the basis of many coffee cultivars commercially grown today. In Brazil, Caturra was not introduced commercially due to its lack of vigor, susceptibility to coffee leaf rust, and the fact that it enters into degeneration after several harvests. In the higher altitudes of Colombia and Central America, however, Caturra has flourished. Cup quality is considered to be moderate to good, however not as good a Bourbon or Typica. Caturra berries can be either red or yellow (Yellow Caturra and Red Caturra).
Due to the threat of coffee lead rust, the IAC focused on developing a rust-resistant plant. They acheived this by crossing of tetraploid C. Canephora cv. Robusta (Robusta coffee with its chromosome number artificially doubled) with C. arabica Bourbon, then backcrossing with Mundo Novo (Illy & Vianna, 1995) (Oliveira & Pereira, 2008). Icatu Tall height, red and yellow fruit, middle to late maturation, average screen size of 17, moderately resistant to leaf rust, medium to good cup quality (Fazuoli et al., 2000) (Illy & Vianna, 1995).
A natural mutation of Typica variety that first appeared near Maragogipe, Bahia, Brazil. All plant aspects of this mutation are larger than Typica, including tall plant height, large convex leaves that are broad at the base, and large bean size. Both yellow and red fruit varieties exist. Maragogipe also has a decreased level of caffeine, 0.6% vs 1.3% for Arabica (Wintgens, 2007). Due to its lower productivity it was not released for large scale commercial production in Brazil, but is now more commonly found in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico. It has mild cup qualities.
Mundo Novo (C. arabica L. cv. Mundo Novo)
A natural cross of Red Bourbon and Sumatra first discovered in Mineiros do Tiete, Sao Paulo, Brazil (Oliveira & Pereira, 2008). Seeds of this natural hybrid were planted and selected in Mundo Novo, Sao Paulo, Brazil, now named Urupês. Mundo Novo is characterized by tall height, red fruit, middle maturation time, average screen size of 17, good vegetative vigor, and high productivity.
Sumatra (C. arabica L. cv. Sumatra)
Imported to Brazil from Sumatra in 1896, it was noted to be vigorous with larger seed size thatn Typica and Bourbon. It was a key cultivar in the development of many of the cultivars planted today.
What is the difference between a varietal and a cultivar?
In coffee the term “varietal” is often used to refer to the origin of the coffee. For instance, a Cerrado is a coffee from the Cerrado region of Minas Gerais, Brazil, and is most likely a sweet and full-bodied coffee. This ambiguity is on its way out as this use of “varietal” is being replaced by the term “single origin.”
In wine, a “varietal” is a wine made from a single grape variety. For instance a bottle of Merlot wine is made from wine derived from the Merlot grape, thus it is a varietal.
In botany, a “varietal” is a plant type that occured naturally through cross-pollination, mutation, or adaption. Most varieties are true to type (their offspring will possess same characteristics as parent plants) A variety is always italicized, written in lower case, and oftentimes is proceeded by “var.” Cultivar is short for “cultivated variety,” and cultivars are plants that do/did not occur naturally, but rather have been bred for certain characteristics. Cultivars generally do not grow true to type, and must be propogated by other means. Almost all of the world’s food crops have been bred for certain traits and are therefore cultivars. Cultivar names are enclosed in single quotes ‘dsdsds,’ are never in italics, and are sometimes proceeded by the abbreviation cv. Two examples of common cultivars are Granny Smith (Malus ‘Granny Smith’) and Red Delicious (Malus ‘Red Delicious’) apples.
Fazuoli, L.C; Medina Filho, H.P., Filho, O.G., Goncalves, W., Silvarolla, M.B., Gallo, P.B. Cultivares de Cafe Selecionadas Pelo Instituto Agronomico de Campinas. 2000 Simposio de Pesquisa dos Cafes do Brasil, 488-493. http://www.sbicafe.ufv.br/bitstream/handle/10820/58/155537_Art128f.pdf?sequence=1
Oliveira, A.C., Maluf, Mirian. Diversidade em Coffea sp. O Agronomico, Capinas 59(1), 22-24, 2007.
Oliveira, A.C.; Pereira, A.A. (2008). Cultivares de Cafe Suscetiveis a Ferrugem Indicadas Para Plantio em Minas Gerais. Circular Tecnica(33), 1-5. Belo Horizonte: EPAMIG.