Coffee Varietal 101: Castillo

Castillo is a leaf rust resistant varietal developed by the Colombia National Coffee Research Center, Cenicafé.

Federación de Cafetera de Colombia (FNC) is a non-profit organisation that exists to promote the production and export of Colombian coffee. Cenicafé was created by FNC to study issues related to coffee production, quality, pests, diseases and conservation of natural resources in the Colombian coffee regions.

COFFEE LEAF RUST (watch this space for a more detailed post on coffee diseases)

A coffee leaf rust epidemic hit Central America in 2012, and the region is still recovering from its impact today. Leaf rust has been an issue for over a century but took until 1990 for it to be confirmed present in all major coffee producing countries.

Coffee leaf rust is a disease caused by the fungus, Hemileia vastatrix. It presents as yellow or orange spots and can kill a plant if not caught early enough with the potential to take out a whole plot. The disease prevents or slows photosynthesis, which is the process that plants require to create the energy needed to live as well as the ability to effectively grow fruit. Being a fungus, it is highly contagious. 


To create resistant varieties, a regular Arabica variety such as Caturra must be crossbred with a variety containing Robusta. Generally speaking, Robusta is cheaper, easier to grow and is resistant to most diseases and pests. The tradeoff is that Robusta beans don't taste nearly as good as high quality Arabica. Crossbreeding generally leads to a variety that's great for growing in tough environments. The problem with this is being able to produce a variety that also tastes excellent.

In 1968 Cenicafé began a genetic improvement programme to create rust-resistant varieties. They first looked at Caturra and the Timor Hybrid, many rust-resistant varieties have been made this way and are labelled Catimors. The first experiments resulted in the Colombia variety but Cenicafé sought to improve it further. The goal was greater productivity, greater resistance, bigger beans and greater quality as well as hardiness.

It is common for rust-resistant varieties to lose resistance over time which makes preemptive action important for coffee producers. Thanks to the research done by Cenicafé, Colombia already had a leaf rust resistant variety before the disease struck.

After 23 years of research and development, Castillo was released for production in 2005. To this day, it remains resistant to leaf rust.

Check out our new Single Origin Filter Roast, produced by Luis Anibal Calderon in Villa Betulia, Huila. This 100% Castillo microlot is fully washed with flavours of Cane Sugar, Pomegranate & Lime. Grab a bag in store or online!

REFERENCES: - Colombia Relationship: The Castillo Variety by Nick Brehany, November 5, 2019 - Coffee Varieties: Debunking Myths Around Castillo by Angie Katherine Molina Ospina, June 13, 2017

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.