Bourbon and Typica

Bourbon and Typica are the two main varieties of the Coffee Arabica species. They are considered to be the two “Heirloom”or “Heritage” Arabica coffee varieties, which originated in south western Ethiopia. It is believed that most Arabica coffee varietals are derivatives of the Typica or Bourbon variety.

It is commonly accepted that the Bourbon variety is a natural mutant variety of Typica. Recent genetic studies suggest that Typica and Bourbon coffee beans were brought from the forests of Southwestern Ethiopia to Yemen for cultivation. From Yemen the coffee plants spread to other parts of the world.

Source: here

Coffee cherries of Arabica in hands
Coffee cherries of Arabica

A very low caffeine content, a delicate flavour… A floral and fruity aroma with notes of musk, rhubarb, pineapple, rose and spices…”  – Pierre Hermé, French Pastry Chef


In 1714, the Sultan of Yemen offered 26 Bourbon coffee plants as a gift to

king Louis the XIV of France. These plants travelled across the Indian Ocean to the French colony of Bourbon (now called Réunion and a part of France), a small volcanic island in the Indian Ocean.  

This journey is an important milestone in coffee history. Initially called Café Leroy (the name of one of the first local coffee farmers), the name Bourbon Pointu was given to this variety from 1920 onwards.

The plants grew extremely well and developed their own characteristics.

‘A peculiar varietal was cultivated at Réunion — a low-growing, long-bean mutation of Red Bourbon that came to be known as Bourbon Pointu, or simply, Leroy — and was said to be favored in turn by France’s King Louis XV, and satirist Honoré.’

More here:

‘The coffee tree has a conical shape and is drought-resistant. Its medium-sized cherries are pretty spiked (until 15 by hub), as well as its grains, significantly stretched and spiked. The tree is notable by its small size, thin leaves and sprigs.

This variety has several advantages. First, leaves density allow cherries to ripen slowly and develop a higher sugar content.

This variety gives a nice acidity to the coffee, low bitterness but above all, a lower caffeine content. Caffeine is only 0.4 to 0.6%, i.e. half of the Arabica caffeine (1.2 to 1.6%).’ here

Natural disasters and other causes led to disappearance of the Bourbon Pointu variety in the 1940s. Réunion’s coffee varietal was thought to be extinct. However, Yoshiaki Kawashima, a Japanese coffee expert and researcher – also known as one of the world’s leading “coffee hunters” – searched the entire island and was able to identify 30 Bourbon pointu plants, which survived. Thanks to the efforts Kawashima and his team the island’s coffee industry experienced a renaissance over the last decade.

‘In 2007, the Speciality Coffee Association in Japan awarded the rare distinction of “premium coffee” to this product “that is entirely without fault”.  here

Have a look at this informative and inspiring video: here

Other blogs about coffee species: 

About Typica you will find more here:

About  Heiloom Ethiopian coffees,  here: