Coffee varieties: Bourbon

Bourbon is a natural mutation of the Typica variety and is a high-quality coffee known for its sweet taste. It has a low resistance to leaf rust, the bark beetle Hypothenemus hampei, known as the Hampe's thrips (whose females lay eggs in the coffee fruit) and other diseases and pests. It is commonly grown in Burundi, Rwanda and Latin America.

Its mutations can be found in Brazil and Latin America. Bourbon produces 30% more coffee than, for example, Typica, but its yield is still lower than other varieties. It has relatively small fruits that grow densely together. The cherries ripen quickly and fall off quickly and easily in the event of rain or wind. The quality of this coffee is excellent and very similar to Typica. The cherries of this variety are often yellow (Yellow Bourbon) or red (Red Bourbon) in colour. The ideal altitude for growing this variety is between 1000 and 2000 metres above sea level.


Arabilea Bourbon was planted by the French in the middle of the Indian Ocean on the island of Bourbon (now Réunion) around 1708. Spontaneous mutations in the new soil caused the resulting plants to flower and fruit more productively than their ancestors, which made it easy to spread throughout Brazil and other parts of Central and South America, as well as on the African continent, specifically in Rwanda.

The Bourbon variety was introduced in Brazil around 1860 and from there it spread rapidly northwards to other parts of South and Central America, where it is still grown today. Here it was mixed with other varieties introduced from India and Ethiopian landraces. Today, there are many varieties of Bourbon in East Africa, but none exactly match the distinctive Bourbon variety found in Latin America.


The Bourbon variety is the reason why Brazil became a world producer in the 1960s. It caught on as a replacement for the loss caused by the outbreak of leaf rust in Java. Bourbon varieties are slightly sweeter, often with a caramel flavour. They have a pleasant, fresh acidity. However, their flavour profile depends on where the coffee was planted. Salvador Bourbons are buttery, caramelly and reminiscent of freshly baked bread. Rwandan varieties, on the other hand, have a more pronounced tendency to taste like fruit.


Bourbon itself has undergone several mutations and variations since its introduction: subvarieties include plants whose cherries ripen red, yellow or orange; Caturra, El Salvadorian, Pacas and many others.