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Whats the scoop on this awesome variety, what the hell does all the colours mean, and how many are there? Well read further and you will know my friends!

History of Bourbon

Bourbon came from Yemen, and the French Missionaries brought them to Bourbon Island where they named them! The island is now called La Reunion. This occurred in the early 1700s, a century later around 1860 they were then introduced to Brazil and then further into South and Central America where they thrive today. Even expanding into India, and East Africa where they melded with Ethiopian landraces so hold a different profile to that in Latin America. In the introduction of these beans hybrids and mutations occurred giving us Orange, Yellow, Pink, Mayaguez cultivars that we know today.

It is typically grown between 1,000 to 1800masl and ideally cultivated ‘under shade’, and out of rain to allow its sugars are retained and so that cherries to ripen at the tastiest rate of maturity. It does also result in a lower performance. You typically see them processed either natural or honey to boost its sweetness. However, especially in Colombia at the moment you are seeing a big increase in experimental fermentation processes to highlight the sweetness even further. When you see bourbon thrive in Africa it has a totally different sweetness due to not only climate but the nitrogen rich soils boost the fruit like sugars.

When roasting you need to consider the hybrid sub varietal as they have differing glucose and fructose contents and some of them are super complex chemical wise, so tend to hit that first crack super quick. They tend to be pretty dense so roasting in small batches at higher temperatures but for a short roasting time is ideal.

Red Bourbon

The OG, you see this one A LOT in Africa, in Burundi and Rwanda. It is called Red because those cherries are a deep dark reddish colour. The aroma tends to be relatively floral, but with citrus and grapefruit and vanilla. In taste it has that texture of vanilla but with some initial fruitness and medium acidity.

The reason why this is an OG coffee is this is the version of Bourbon that the French missionaries spread around the world. It is a classic looking coffee plant. The one used a lot in adverts for Arabica.

Yellow Bourbon

This was once upon a time one of the most widely produced varietals in the world. But with any cultivation you don’t know how it will fare until years later. This varietal had low productivity so has now been replaced by higher yielding crops. This strain has a higher level of fructose which is linked to floral notes.

So where does the name come from? It’s yellow because the cherries are yellow! (Are you seeing a pattern here?) So this is because of its introduction in Brazil, where they harvested the Bourbon was where the Yellow Botucatu (the genetically mutated Typica variety) so after some time the Bourbon planted inherited those yellow characteristics, which created a noticeable citric quality to the coffee. In Brazil it is only being planted so that the varietal doesn’t disappear because it is a lot of work for very little yield.

Orange Bourbon

Now we are getting to the really interesting varietals! Why do you think this was is named Orange ? Because of the cherries! It is a peachy kind of orange colour. You may not see this varietal heaps because it is a rare and scarce varietal. There are some controversy some people state they find no cupping difference between red and orange bourbon, that the only difference is the varying quantities of photosynthetic pigments (a fancy way of saying one is a different colour). However, others swear it is a very high quality coffee with good citric notes.

Pink Bourbon

This is a varietal that keeps popping up especially in special lots for competitions! It is truly a beautiful coffee but just like anything you can get really fucking great pink bourbon and not as good. It is called pink because the fruit is a super pretty pinkish colour. Another word for this is Rose Bourbon which I absolutely adore! There is a lot of controversy on how this coffee came about. A lot of coffee professionals state it is a genetic mix of Red and Yellow Bourbon. But coffee producers disagree completely. To be honest I am on the side of the producers too. They argue that there is a clear lineage to the Colombia variety and due to those beautiful flavours there is clear Ethiopian landrace flavour notes in this coffee. There is also a much larger amount of glucose in this coffee compared with its cousins. Even further there are arguments that there is different strains of pink bourbon which I have definitely noticed. Some are so aromatic and floral that you think they must be related to geisha and those are the coffees that producers have had trouble cultivating. Whereas some other roasters have come across easier harvested plants which does not taste as aromatic therefore arguing in those farms there are clear links to Catimor.

Bourbon Mayaguez 139 & Bourbon Mayaguez 71

I will be honest with you, I only discovered these two due to the world research, I only have seen them once under these names in purchasing beans. They are found commonly in Rwanda and Burundi, they got these names as they were cultivars from the USDA germplasm collection of Mayaguez in Puerto Rico. As they come from the same collection they are very similar. They were introduced to Rwanda in the early 1950s. They are not rare it seems, I just think they don’t get classified as this varietal very often.

Bourbon Chiroso

Holy Fuck, this was super exciting for me, I only found out about this a few months ago and It’s awesome. This comes from Urrao, Antioquia and just like Pink Bourbon they believe it has clear linage to Ethiopian landrace due to delicate floral flavours very close to Gesha style coffee. But no one has any idea how it ended up in Urrao. It has recently in 2020 won the cup of excellence award with an outstanding 90.03 score! It did win the Cup of Excellence back in 2014, so it is a clear winner of quality. However due to Covid the coffee producer has been struggling to spread the word about this varietal and merit the value it deserves. The tree itself looks closer to a Caturra tree the coffee producer Felipe explains but the beans have that bourbon longness. Also the beans have great productivity which is why a lot of the coffee producers favour this variety in the region. They seem to get their resilience and productivity from a mutation found in Caturra a varietal that is also grown in the area, it does extremely well in the cool climate and high elevations. The high elevations is where the Ethiopian landrace mutations does well and those awesome complex flavours develop.

Bourbon Aruzi

Now this is interesting, I have struggled so much to find out more about this. I found one offering from the Korean coffee roasters Momos Coffee and they describe the coffee as the epitome of balanced coffee, with flavours like green apple, cane sugar and tea like bitterness. I have reached out to green bean importers working closely with the coffee producer Javier Quintero Cuchimba who is based in Huila, which is why this blog has taken so long to be published. So when I have heard more about this variety I will post another with my findings!

That’s all folks, I hope you enjoyed this as much as I have. It is a lot of information, so I wont hold it against you all if you just enjoy the titbits on the Instagram page! Have a great coffee everyone!

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