Types and varieties of coffee beans

The variety of coffee types and beans is wide, influenced by factors such as geographic origin, plant species, and altitude of cultivation. Each coffee bean, Arabica or Robusta, develops unique characteristics depending on these conditions. These factors combine to create a wide range of flavors and aromas, offering a distinctive experience with each type of coffee.

What types of coffee beans can we find?

To understand the types of coffee we can find, it’s essential to consider two fundamental aspects: the coffee’s place of origin and the two main species of coffee plants, Arabica and Robusta.

Coffee Origin: Single-origin and blend

The coffee’s origin is a crucial factor that determines its distinctive characteristics. There are two main categories: single-origin coffee and coffee blend.

Single-origin coffee comes from a specific region and captures the terroir’s particularities in its flavor. This table of the top 10 coffee producers allows us to explore the diversity that makes each cup a distinctive sensory journey:

Countries60 kg BagsTonnes
Top coffee-producing countries in 2017/2022

The coffee blend combines beans from different regions to balance flavors and aromas. This blending technique allows master roasters to create distinctive flavor profiles that appeal to various palates.

Coffee plant species: Arabica and Robusta

Arabica coffee and Robusta coffee are the two main species of coffee plants that influence the taste and quality of the beverage.

Robusta coffee stands out for its resilience and ability to thrive in less ideal conditions. It’s more likely to grow at lower altitudes and warmer climates, making it a more cost-effective option for production.

However, its flavor may be less desirable due to its higher caffeine content and more bitter flavors. Nevertheless, we find varieties like Liberica and Excelsa, each adding unique nuances to the coffee experience.

On the other hand, Arabica coffee stands out for its quality and flavor complexity. Within this species, we find various varieties, with two of the most relevant being Bourbon and Typica, which are the basis for high-quality coffees. These varieties have unique characteristics, ranging from sweet and smooth flavors to citrus and fruity notes.

Varieties of Arabica coffee

Within the world of Arabica coffee, we encounter a wide variety of subspecies that add depth and diversity to the coffee experience:

  • Caturra: Native to Colombia, it’s a natural mutation of Bourbon. It brings sweetness and body to the coffee, offering a balanced experience in the cup.
  • Castillo: A hybrid derived from Caturra, known for its disease resistance and mild profile with citrus notes. Its emergence has enabled more sustainable cultivation in certain regions.
  • Yellow Catuai: Originating in Brazil, it combines Mundo Novo and Caturra varieties. It has a smooth body and flavor with hints of nuts.
  • Mundo Novo: Also originating in Brazil, this variety results from a natural cross between Bourbon and Typica. It offers a smooth and pleasant taste.
  • Geisha: Hailing from Ethiopia and popularized in Panama, it’s known for its floral and fruity flavors and its bright acidity.
  • Pacamara: This variety, born in El Salvador, results from a cross between Pacas and Maragogipe varieties. Pacamara yields large beans and intense flavors with chocolate, nuts, and caramel notes.
  • SL28 and SL34: Originating from Kenya, these varieties are appreciated for their bright acidity and fruity flavors. SL28 is known for disease resistance and a complex profile, while SL34 stands out for its fruity and balanced character.
  • Ethiopian Heirloom: Ethiopian Heirloom varieties are an intriguing blend of flavors, including fruity and floral notes, citrus, and cocoa.
  • Catuaí: Originating in Brazil, the Catuaí variety has diversified into multiple subvarieties, such as Red Catuaí and Yellow Catuaí. These variants often have a smooth and sweet body, with nuances ranging from nuts to tropical fruits.
  • Pache: Descendant of the Typica variety, Pache is mainly cultivated in Guatemala and Mexico. Its flavors can vary from chocolate to caramel, characterized by smoothness and balanced acidity.
  • Mokka: Originating in Yemen, this ancient variety features small beans and intense flavors. It can offer a diverse flavor profile, including notes of dried fruits, spices, and chocolate.
  • Ateng: This variety, popular in Indonesia, is known for resisting adverse climatic conditions. Ateng beans can produce full-bodied coffee, often with earthy notes and distinctive regional flavors.
  • Timtim: Another Indonesian variety often grown on small family farms. Its flavor profile can range from smooth and sweet to more earthy and smoky flavors.

Varieties of Robusta coffee

Robusta coffee also presents various subspecies influencing its flavor and aromatic profile. Let’s delve into some of these varieties, reflecting the richness of this species:

  • Liberica: Native to West Africa, this variety is characterized by its large leaves and coffee beans. It often presents bold and unique flavors, including fruity and floral notes and spicy undertones.
  • Excelsa (or Liberica var. Excelsa): Originating from Africa and widely cultivated in Southeast Asia, this variety offers a range of flavors spanning from tropical fruits to spicy and earthy notes. Excelsa adds depth and character to blends and can be an important part of many coffee mixtures.
  • Rimang: Cultivated in Indonesia, this Robusta coffee variety is valued for its earthy flavor and full body. It is often used in blends to add depth and flavor breadth.
  • Java: Originating from Indonesia, this variety brings smooth and pleasant flavors with hints of nuts and chocolate. Java is valued for its versatility and ability to contribute to balanced flavor profiles.
  • Baracoa: Produced in Cuba, the Baracoa variety is known for its distinctive flavor, which may include chocolate and spice notes.
  • Culi: Primarily grown in Vietnam, the Culi variety stands out for its smooth and sweet flavor, with hints of caramel and chocolate. It’s one of the most cultivated Robusta varieties worldwide and is widely used in blends and instant coffee.
  • Canephora (Conilon): A subspecies of Coffea canephora, mainly cultivated in Brazil. It’s valued for its resistance and ability to thrive in challenging climatic conditions. It can have more bitter and earthy flavors compared to other varieties.

Identifying quality coffee through packaging

When considering the purchase of good coffee, it’s essential to pay attention to various aspects that impact the quality and experience of the beverage. These characteristics can be found on the packaging of specialty coffee.

Characteristics of Quality Coffee Packaging

Coffee tasting notes

Coffee tasting notes indicate the flavors one can expect when tasting a cup. These flavors can range from cocoa to nuts or hints of panela, allowing coffee enthusiasts to explore a range of sensory experiences.


Typology refers to the coffee plant species and variety, often including the specific name, such as “Yellow Catuai.” This information provides insight into coffee’s unique characteristics, from distinctive flavor profiles to singular aromatic properties.

Processing method

Some coffees specify the production process on the packaging, such as “washed,” “honey,” “giling basah,” etc. These processes influence the flavor and character of the coffee.


The origin of coffee is fundamental to understanding its history and context. Determining whether it comes from a unique region or incorporates beans from diverse geographical areas can influence the complexity of flavors and the story behind each cup.

Cultivation altitude

The altitude at which coffee is grown is a crucial factor. As coffee grows at different elevations above sea level, its characteristics change, affecting the beverage’s taste and body.

For instance, coffee grown at higher altitudes can offer brighter and more acidic flavors, while those from lower altitudes may have richer and smoother profiles.

Roast date

The freshness of coffee is essential for an optimal experience. The roast date informs us about the recent transformation of green beans into roasted coffee beans. Freshly roasted coffee retains its characteristic flavors and aromas, allowing you to enjoy an exceptional cup.

SCA score

Some coffee packaging may display a score given by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), which assesses coffee quality. This score provides a reference for the excellence and level of mastery involved in coffee production.

Written by Pablo Barrantes Nevado
I am Pablo Barrantes, a coffee lover. I decided to start this website to solve all the doubts that arise every day when preparing our favorite drink: coffee. I am an industrial engineer by profession, but I have worked in coffee shops for many years, where I have learned all the secrets about coffee machines and coffee. My passion for coffee has led me to investigate and study beyond the obvious, and thanks to this, I can offer solutions and give news about coffee and coffee makers. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I research, document and write here.

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