We are starting a series on Coffee Varietals and kicking it off with Bourbon!
Genetic fingerprinting indicates that Bourbon (along with Typica) were the main seeds taken from Yemen and Ethiopia. From Yemen, descendants of Bourbon and Typica spread around the world, forming the basis of modern arabica coffee cultivation.
The French attempted to introduce this coffee in the 1700s from Yemen to Ile Bourbon (now known as La Reunion), an island off the coast of Madagascar. The seeds three times as it was not successful the first time and only a small number of plants prospered in the second and third introduction. Bourbon coffee did not leave the island until it was first introduced to the Americas by French missionaries in 1860 to southern Brazil where it spread north into Central America.
Bourbon is a disease susceptible varietal compared to other subspecies of coffee and requires dedication and care to maintain its health. Bourbon coffees also tend to have reduced yields due to the trees producing less fruit per plant compared to other varietals and are not as resistant to coffee rust or coffee berry disease. The beans are dense, high in glucose and with a complex chemical composition and is generally recognised by the specialty industry to have distinct flavours and sweetness, which is why it continues to be grown despite lower yields.
Bourbon berries are small but thick. They can be red, yellow or pink and the colour of the berries are dictated by a natural mutation of a specific gene in the coffee. Yellow is a natural mutation of Red Bourbon and the hybridization of the two create Pink Bourbon.