The globe-trotting history of two coffee varieties for International Coffee Day
It's easy to forget how far coffee travels to reach your cup, but it is a truly international beverage: many blends include coffee from two or even three continents. Plus, consumers are often unaware of the centuries-long journeys that common coffee varieties undertook before ending up in their current growing regions.
So to celebrate International Coffee Day, this Monday, October 1st, we're highlighting the history of two particularly globe-trotting varieties that are currently available from our Direct Trade partners in Central America.
It's not just a nickname for coffee—Java originated in Ethiopia and was brought to the Indonesian island that gives it its name by Dutch traders in the early 19th century. By the mid-20th century, a breeder in Cameroon had begun experimenting with the variety and found that it was resistant to Coffee Berry Disease, which is a problem for African coffee growers. CBD resistance coupled with low fertilizer requirements and fast maturation (3 years from planting to first harvest) made Java a great option for smallholder farmers. After 20 years of experimentation and selection, Java was released for cultivation in the 1980s.
In the early 1990s, a French agricultural research organization introduced Java to Central America, where it thrives at high altitudes. Juan Diego de la Cerda of Finca El Socorro in Guatemala planted Java at one of the highest elevations on his farm, and we're now roasting his first harvest. We're thrilled by the quality of this subtle and complex coffee.
Given that a focus of this year's International Coffee Day is Women in Coffee, our next selection comes from Finca Las Mercedes, a fifth-generation farm in El Salvador operated by Lucia Abrego Ortiz Barriere. We're currently offering Lucia's La Avila, a Bourbon lot grown at 4,600 feet.
Bourbon is a high-quality variety that originated in Yemen and was brought to Île Bourbon (now La Réunion) by French missionaries in the early 18th century. It did not leave the island for a century, until the missionaries ventured into Africa and the Americas. Bourbon reached Brazil in 1860 and rapidly spread throughout Central and South America due to its quality and favorable growing conditions.
Bourbon has, for the most part, been replaced by its descendants (such as Caturra and Catuai) and related varieties, but the original is still produced in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru.
If you're interested in learning more, visit worldcoffeeresearch.org.