Pepper Guide: Home-Grown Coffee Bean Varietals

May 24, 2016

You can bet that the average coffee drinker’s knowledge of coffee jargon is limited to those seen on café menus. The milk-to-coffee proportions are easy enough to master once you’ve figured out what mix best suits your taste, but when the suspended chalkboards mention specialty coffee beans, one is usually left clueless.

Not a lot of people know what makes an “Arabica” or a “Robusta” so special. Even regulars rely on their baristas for excellent brews without knowing what makes them good. To help us become a little more well-versed in the language of coffee, and to guide us in distinguishing among the beans that make up our cup of joe, we’ve prepared a short list of the common varieties we encounter locally.

1. Arabica

pure arabica

Arabica beans are the most acidic coffee beans. Their flavor profile varies from being sweet, soft, tangy, floral, smooth, fruity, and bright. It is typically used in specialty and quality drinks, and can be prepared using all brewing methods.

– Makes up 70% of the world market.
– Regarded as the coffee bean with the best quality.

2. Robusta


Robusta is usually bitter and strong. It is sometimes described to have a harsh, woody, burnt taste to it. Nevertheless, with its diverse flavor profile its taste is also likened to chocolate, and even rubber. This type of bean is used in the production of instant coffee and is added to some espresso blends to improve crema or add a little “kick.” It is also used for the luxury civet coffee in Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as most Vietnamese coffee.

– Makes up 25% of the world market.
– Contains twice the amount of caffeine in Arabica.
– Costs half the price of Arabica in its raw form.
– Easy to grow as it results in high yield, and also repels insects.

3. Liberica (Barako)

pure liberica

The traditional coffee bean found in the Philippines, Liberica or Barako is defined as a strong, pungent, intense, bitter, and earthy bean. It is commonly uses the drip and French presses as its method of extraction.

– Similar in quality with Robusta.
– Consumed and produced only in the Philippines (Batangas and Cavite) and Malaysia.
– Described physically as large and asymmetrical.

4. Excelsa


Not a lot of information can be found on the cupping quality of Excelsa coffee beans, however, some experts believe this type of coffee to have a very unpleasant aroma. In the Philippines, the scent of Excelsa is said to be similar to the smell of jackfruit.

– Reclassified under Liberica in 2006, but it is still sold separately in the Philippines.

2 comments in this post SHOW

2 responses to “Pepper Guide: Home-Grown Coffee Bean Varietals”

  1. skeptic says:

    What’s the flavor profile of excelsa beans?

  2. Hal Smith says:

    Excelsa has some of the best taste for my palate that I’ve tried. It is like a stout when it comes to beer, to use an analogy. It’s dark, bitter, lots of body. It reminds me of dark Ethiopian Arabicas in a dark roast. This could just be the batch that I tried from the Phillipines. Maybe other Excelsas taste differently. I think more people should try all four bean species/varieties.

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