How Many Varieties of Coffee Are There?

Varieties of coffee - Iburu Coffee

One may think the only varieties of coffee around the world are Arabica and Robusta, but certainly not! However, Coffea Arabica, known as Arabica coffee, and Coffea canephora, known as Robusta coffee, are the two most cultivated species today. Arabica accounts for 75-80 percent, while Robusta accounts for about 20 percent and differs from Arabica coffee in terms of taste. Arabica has lower bitterness, lower caffeine, better flavor, and a sweeter taste with an aromatic fragrance than Robusta. Therefore, consumers appreciate it more, selling at a distinctly higher price.

On the other hand, Robusta is more productive and less susceptible to plant diseases such as leaf rust, but they taste one-dimension and bitter. On top of Arabica and Robusta, there is a third main species known as Liberica. Its share of global coffee production is less than 1 percent, and it does not taste delightful. This article focuses on the multiple coffee varieties that have evolved throughout history, each unique in taste, performance, and adaptation to local geographic conditions.

The difference between a coffee variety, cultivar, and hybrid

We use terms such as variety, cultivar, and hybrid interchangeably in the coffee industry, although they have specific botanical meanings.

Variety - Varieties occur naturally. They often occur spontaneously through either mutation (for example, growing much larger cherries than other plants of the same variety), or through natural hybridization with another variety (and in rare cases, a different species!). A variety typically retains most characteristics of the parent plant (species). Species are a set of organisms with similar characteristics to each other and can breed among themselves.

Cultivar - Refers to any variety produced by horticultural or agricultural techniques and not normally found in natural populations; simply put, a cultivated variety. They are propagated by tissue culture, cuttings, or grafting. Most of the varieties we know in specialty coffee are cultivars. Some of the most widely known cultivars are Bourbon and Typica.

Hybrid - Hybrids are the offspring of different animal or plant species, varieties, cultivars, or lines. They may occur through natural or selective breeding; for example, mundo novo is a hybrid of typica and Bourbon. Hybrids are indicated in botanical terminology by a multiplication sign (x) between two parents. Another example is the Arabica, which, is a relatively recent hybridization of Robusta (Coffea canephora) and another lesser-known species of coffee known as Coffea eugenioides. Thousands of natural varieties of Arabica continue growing in the wild in Eastern Ethiopia, where this hybridization happened.

Cross- A cross refers to the deliberate breeding of two individuals belonging to either closely related species or from different varieties to produce offspring with superior traits. The resulting offspring usually carry a portion of the genetic material of both parent individuals.

Where does coffee beans come from? 

Coffea - Coffea is a genus of small trees and shrubs of the family Rubiaceae native to the tropical Old World as Africa. Over 120 individual species comprise the 'coffee genus,' especially C. arabica, C. liberica, and C. robusta). These evergreen shrubs or small understory trees have a horizontal branching pattern that is opposite-leaved. They bear white fragrant flowers in clusters at the base of the shining evergreen leaves, which produce cherry-like fruits with seeds used to make coffee. Seeds are generally flat on one side and convex on the other, with a groove on the flat side, i.e., coffee beans. Most plants in the Coffea genus thrive in tropical forests and subtropical uplands.

Other key concepts

Coffea arabica - Coffea arabica (C. arabica) is the species name for Arabica coffee. It is one of the two widely cultivated coffee species globally, the other being C. canephora, commonly called Robusta. Arabica originated in Ethiopia and has many varieties and cultivars that dominate Central and South America and much of East Africa today. It produces the highest cup quality. 

Coffea euginosis - Coffea eugenioides (C. eugenioides) is one of the two parent coffee species that produced C.arabica, which we love today! It is indigenous to the highlands of East Africa, including Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Western Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Coffea eugenioides has a lower caffeine content compared to C. arabica. 

Coffea canephora - Commonly known as Robusta coffee, this species was described more than 100 years after C. arabica. It originated in western and central sub-Saharan Africa. Robusta is mainly a productive commercial crop and distinctly differs from Arabica by physical and chemical attributes. For example, it has higher productivity and caffeine content than C. arabica.

How many different varieties of coffee are there?

The exact number of different varieties that exist in the world is unknown. To put this into perspective, the Jimma Agricultural Research Center in Ethiopia has collected and conserved about 7,067 coffee accessions from different growing areas. Breeders have so far identified about 140 species of the Coffea globally, while Ethiopia alone had released seven hybrid and 35 pure-line varieties (totaling 42 coffee varieties) by 2021 for different growing regions. This number will increase as more productive varieties are developed and previously unknown ones discovered. 

 Arabica coffee chart, Image, Counter Culture Coffee

Arabica coffee chart, Image; Counter Culture Coffee

The history of Bourbon and Typica

Bourbon and Typica are the most culturally and genetically essential groups of Coffea arabica globally. They are indigenous to the forests of Southwestern Ethiopia, and their seeds were first transported into the neighboring Yemen and cultivated as a crop. These seeds were mainly Bourbon and Typica, and their descendants spread around the world from Yemen. Thus, the coffees we call Bourbon today originate from plants transported to Ile Bourbon (now La Réunion) with the French, while the Typicas stem from plants taken to Java and the outlying Islands. Although only a small number of coffee plants or seeds may have been involved in these epic journeys, the Bourbon and Typica descendants form the basis of modern Arabica coffee cultivation.

Common coffee varieties


Typica is Arabica's first commercial variety and the most famous of the Typica-descended varieties. This tall cultivar of the C. arabica originated from the coffee brought to Java from Yemen. The plants are most like what we call Java today and spread from the island of Java in the early 1700s. Typica is a tall variety with bronze-tipped young leaves and bears large fruit and seeds. It is well adapted to the coldest climates and produces a good cup quality, especially in South and Central America where it dominated most coffee plantations until the 1940s.

Typica is also known to have relatively low productivity and is susceptible to all main pests and diseases, such as leaf rust. For that reason, most Americas have significantly replaced the Typica variety. However, it is still widely planted in Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica, where it is called Jamaica Blue Mountain.


Bourbon is the most known of the bourbon-descended varieties, famous for its excellent cup quality at the highest altitudes. It developed naturally on Île Bourbon (now known as Réunion) from coffee brought to the island from Yemen by the French missionaries in the early 1700s. However, the Bourbon did not leave the island until the mid-19th century, when the missionaries moved to establish in Africa and the Americas, introducing it to other parts of the world. Nowadays, many Bourbon-like varieties exist in East Africa, but none exactly match the distinct Bourbon variety found in Latin America.

This coffee can be red (Vermelho) or yellow (Amarelo) based on the specific sub-group. Broader leaves with green tips, rounder fruit, and seeds characterize the plants compared to Typica varieties. Stems are tall, more robust, and stand more upright than Typica. Bourbon variety yields relatively low production and is susceptible to all major diseases and pests.

Typica Cultivars

Typica cultivars are Java, Kenta and Maragogype.

Coffees related to Typica


Amarello de Botucatu




Bergundal AKA Garundang


Blue Mountain


Blawan Paumah
















Pache Comum


Pache colis


Pluma Hidalgo


San Bernardo AKA Pache


San Ramon







Bourbon Cultivars

The bourbon cultivars include Caturra, Batian, SL 28 & SL 34, pacarama and Bourbon Pointu/Laurina.

Coffees related to Bourbon




Bourbon Chocolá




French Mission






Jackson 2/1257






Orange bourbon


Pink bourbon


Red bourbon




Yellow bourbon

Crosses of Typica and Bourbon

These include Acaia, Mundo Novo, Catuai, Maracaturro, Rubi, Ouro Verde and Ouro Bronze.



Coffees with Timor Hybrid Lineage

Coffees with Timor Hybrid lineage are Catimor, Colombia, Icatú, IHCAFE 90, Ruiru 11, Anacafe 14, Sarchmor, Castillo and Oro Azteca.


The exact number of different varieties worldwide is unknown, and the coffee variety is a significant decision for a coffee farmer. Usually, the varieties with the best flavor have a smaller yield. However, new, more productive coffee varieties with better taste are constantly being developed while previously unknown varieties are being discovered worldwide. Thus, the number of coffee varieties is increasing. Important to note is that the more traditional varieties have still maintained their positions in the taste tests; all the most known coffee varieties are Arabica.


Genetic and phenotypic diversity of Robusta coffee (coffea caphenora.L.), Kahiu Ngugi & Pauline Aluka, 2019

Roasters guide to understanding coffee plant types

World Coffee Research Organization

Ethiopian Coffee (Coffea arabica L.) Germplasm Genetic Diversity Implication in current research achievement and Breeding Program: Review Dawit Merga* and Zenebe Wubshet


Iburu Coffee

We are happy to hear Alex.

Alexandru Bogdan

Thank you for all the information!

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Gakii Mugendi