The vast majority of commercial coffee in the world is made from Arabica or Robusta beans. However, do you know what the third most popular yet peculiar type of beans is? Well, that’s one of the lesser-known varieties of coffee beans known as Liberica. And today, we’re throwing light on the question, what are Liberica’s coffee beans?
- Liberica coffee beans are the third most popular type of coffee beans globally, after Arabica and Robusta.
- These beans are large and irregular in shape and have a fruity coffee aroma with a floral and woody taste.
- Liberica is mostly grown in West Africa (Liberia) and Asia, as these coffee beans do well in these climates.
- Also, Liberica is known to have a complex and aromatic blend different from any other type of coffee.
Let’s find out more about some of the rarest coffee beans out there!
What’s Liberica coffee?
Liberica coffee is a coffee plant species first identified in Liberia and therefore gives it its name.
It is a much larger plant/tree than any other species, growing to 20m in height and yielding significantly larger coffee beans than other varieties.
Liberica is the third most popular drink coffee globally, accounting for 2percent of the world’s consumption of Arabica behemoths (about 75percent) and Robusta (about 20 percent).
The coffee it produces is still coffee. It’s brown, it’s innately bitter, and it’s full of caffeine, all the things you expect from your favorite drink.
It has not entered the consciousness of the coffee brewers and roasters in the West, possibly due to its difficulty in obtaining and maybe its unappealing taste.
Despite this, it remains very popular in some countries, especially for its inexpensive ways of selling coffee, such as instant coffee.
The origin of the Liberica coffee plant
The Liberica coffee plant is indigenous to Western Africa, the country of Liberia, hence its name.
The Liberica coffee plant then spread from Liberia and Western Africa to the world, beginning in the 1890s.
Around that same time, Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, promoted the Liberica plant’s cultivation.
One of several reasons for this was the disease (coffee rust) that caused the mass dying of Arabica plants, which helped pave the way for Liberica to participate in the market share.
Arabica coffee plants were not immune to Hemeileia vastatrix, a fungus that triggered plants to shed their leaves and prevented the production of coffee beans.
However, Liberica is used to hot climates and high temperatures and thriving at low altitudes, making Liberica plants much stronger than they have been able to combat disease and pests.
During that time, the USA encouraged the cultivation of Liberica beans in the Philippines.
As a result, the Southeast Asian country has become a popular coffee supplier that has propelled their economy.
The fungus epidemic did not last long, and the Arabica plants gradually began to recover, which effectively made the Liberica plants take a back seat.
The characteristics of Liberica
Gonzalo Hernandez is the owner and manager of Coffea diversa, a “coffee farm” in Costa Rica that cultivates more than 700 different botanical varieties of coffee. He states that today, Liberica “can be found growing wild all over tropical Africa.”
“It’s a really strong coffee plant,” he says. “It grows well under the conditions of Coffea diversa in southern Costa Rica.
“We have a few natural mutations that also occurred spontaneously in Coffea diversa. There is a natural mutation of [liberica] that creates ripe cherries that are yellow, and another that ripens to be pink,” he adds.
Liberica trees start to bear cherries up to five years after being sowed. They grow tall, with few trees reaching up to 17 meters tall, making it difficult to pick cherries.
The leaves and cherries are also significantly larger than those of robusta and Arabica. Liberica leaves can reach as wide as 30 centimeters, and the cherries of the species can be almost twice the size of the other two when mature and ripe.
Also, the ratio of pulp to parchment for liberica is approximately 60:40, relative to the ratio of 40:60 for both Arabica and robusta. Not only does this increase the drying time for liberica cherries, but it also affects the flavor. “Since liberica has a lot of pulp and ferments when it dries naturally, it has a fruity flavor,” Pacita says.
“Some taste like jackfruit (which is now famous as a substitute for meat),” she says. “Jackfruit is very common in South East Asia. The flavors we get in liberica are almost always defined as [being close to] jackfruit – more often than citrus or stone fruit.”
Naturally processed liberica contains these delicate notes of Jackfruit, while the washed process gives more citrus and floral flavors, or even more “traditional” flavors, such as chocolate.
Beyond that, Liberia’s other remarkable flavor features include lingering mouthfeel and persistent sweetness – liberica is often characterized as sweeter than Arabica. This may be because liberica seeds are more porous, ensuring that beans eventually extract more sugar from the mucilage.
What’s Liberica coffee taste like?
Liberica coffee has dark chocolate notes, including a smooth aftertaste and tastes of nutty, smoky, floral, spicy, and ripe berry flavors.
In reality, it combines all the features that a lot of coffee enthusiasts enjoy, as it is full-bodied, caffeine-like, and inherently bitter.
While the West has not yet completely understood the unique taste of Liberica coffee, it is still very popular in some countries.
And if you like instant coffee and other budget-friendly alternatives, you could fall in love with Liberica as well.
There’s a good reason why Liberica coffee is currently taking about 3percent of the global coffee market – it’s just that it’s relatively uncommon and not that easy to get.
How much caffeine is there in Liberica Coffee?
As we mentioned earlier, Liberica has the lowest content of caffeine among all other coffee beans. Robusta has the most, with 2.26 g of caffeine per 100 g of beans. Arabica comes second with just 1.61 g of caffeine per 100 g of beans. Liberica has just 1.23 g of caffeine per 100 g of beans.
What’s the difference between Arabica, Robusta, and Liberica?
Liberica and Robusta coffee’s classical taste profile is very similar, while Arabica is slightly different from the two types of beans.
Coffee enthusiasts know that Robusta and Liberica prefer to have a dark, earthy, and bold taste, whereas Arabica usually has a softer and sweeter taste.
Irrespective of that, Liberica beans have a smoky smell, identical to durian, although you can detect some of the fruity highlights that these coffee beans have.
Out of more than 100 coffee varieties, Liberica, Robusta, and Arabica are the key commercial varieties, and here’s what gives each of them their uniqueness:
Arabica beans have a sweeter and lighter taste with sugary and fruity tones and a delicate acidic flavor.
Subsequently, these darker and oval-shaped coffee beans are traditionally found in Indonesia, Brazil, India, and Africa (Eastern and Central).
While this type of coffee beans is not over-caffeinated, it can provide light to medium-bodied cups.
And to taste the delicacy of Arabica coffee at home to the fullest, grind whole roasted beans right before you brew them for maximum freshness.
Robusta beans are made from full-bodied cups with an acidic and bitter flavor with notes of nutty and chocolate.
In addition, these coffee beans are dry and pale in color, and have a circular form.
Robusta also mixes well with sugar and milk, which is why this coffee bean variety is perfect for making iced coffee that we all enjoy during the hot summer days.
Liberica coffee beans seem to have a mildly smoky and woody flavor with floral and spicy hints and are usually a little bitter.
Nevertheless, drawing on Liberica fans’ experience, Liberica beans typically have a slightly burnt taste (like “liquid tobacco”) when not properly brewed.
Liberica beans are easy to identify as far as appearance is concerned due to their teardrop, asymmetric form.
Their aroma is as strong as that of the Arabica beans, which makes Liberica a perfect espresso.
Excelsa – Liberica or a different type?
Excelsa was regarded as an individual species of coffee until 2006 when it was categorized as a Liberica type by a British botanist, Aaron P. Davis.
It also grows on tall trees, has a similar shape to bean, and is used in conjunction with other coffees to add additional flavor and thickness. It has a blend of light and dark roast aroma and accounts for 7% of global coffee production.
Where can I buy Liberica Coffee Beans?
It’s bit harder to buy Liberica beans but there are a few places you can feel confident purchasing.
And if you’d like to brew some Liberica at home because it’s so rare, it’d be better to buy Liberica coffee ground.
Grind the required amount per serving to ensure optimum freshness.
The total number of coffee producers in the world dealing with Liberica plants is small.
In any case, you can still find these Liberica beans in the listed countries:
Malaysia is the single largest producer of Liberica beans out there.
This is the country where you can find the best and most natural taste of Liberica coffee.
Common coffee shops in Malaysia called kopitiams sell these rare beans, and you can make Liberica coffee in these shops.
The Philippines’ Cavite and Batangas provinces are renowned for cultivating Liberica beans, which make up 4 percent of the country’s coffee harvest.
You’ll find it locally under the name of Kapeng Barako Coffee in several locations around the Philippines.
Older generations of Filipinos normally prefer a mix of muscovado sugar and strong and rich Barako coffee.
- Support the recovery of this endangered species
- Aroma: floral and fruity
- Flavor: slightly smokey
- Flavor profile continually changes after brewing - like good red wine in the glass
- Low to Medium Caffeine (Liberica) - Low Acid
- Rarest of remaining four species of coffee beans
- Largest beans of any coffee species
- Direct trade
- Known as "Barako" coffee
- 1 pound
European colonialists also carried Liberica beans to Indonesia, where Liberica can still be seen today.
While Robusta plants have received more prominence as they need less maintenance, Liberica beans are still being produced in Riau and Jambi provinces.
And you can get them at most smallholder shops.
Is Liberica gradually becoming extinct?
Liberica is still being grown, so there is no danger of it disappearing any time soon, even though the cultivation is not as widespread as it used to be. However, it’s a whole different story for the wild variants.
Wild coffee plants are increasingly disappearing due to climate change and deforestation, including more common coffee varieties, including Arabica and Robusta.
What makes Liberica even more likely to vanish entirely is that its cultivated form is being hybridized. This hybridization produces a Liberica subspecies that grows much shorter and thus easier to harvest.
The flavor profile of these hybrid coffee beans is also very different, being less robust. Many cultivators are beginning to turn to this Liberica hybrid rather than a purebred one, which makes the production of Liberica purebred even more unusual.
The recent re-emergence of coffee rust also took a major toll on Liberica’s cultivated coffee. This means that Liberica is slowly dying out, both in the wild and in the farms. The Philippine government’s efforts have made significant progress in slowing down this disappearance, but hopefully, the coffee of Liberica will still be enjoyed by future generations.
While Liberica coffee beans are pretty much unknown (they make up only about 3percent of the global coffee market), they still have some unique taste and flavor characteristics.
Liberica coffee provides an outstanding aroma with hints of floral, earthy, and smoky flavors, and although some coffee lovers find it too intense, others consider Liberica to be a discovery.
If you ask us, we’d suggest spicing up your daily coffee routine with about 10percent of Liberica’s coffee.
Not only will you get a new taste profile to break away from your normal routine, but you’ll be able to see what Liberica coffee beans are mostly about.
So, have you ever had an opportunity to try Liberica’s coffee?
We would love to hear about your impression of these specialty coffee beans, so please leave a comment below!
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