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Articles / Origins of Arabica Bourbon

Origins of Arabica Bourbon

Monday, October 27, 2014
Article Origins of Arabica Bourbon

Arabica Bourbon is among the best coffee varieties you can find in Brazil, Salvador, and Rwanda. This widely known and popular coffee is cultivated in three color varieties, red, orange and yellow bourbon. But what does it have in common with the American whiskey? Nothing at all, fortunately.

The name comes from the place of origin of this wonderful variety, which is a small island in the Indian Ocean called Réunion, formerly Bourbon. The earliest records mentioning coffee from this lovely volcanic island come from merchants of the East Indian Company and date from the beginning of the 18th century. The first exports started in 1718, and the coffee usually went to Mokka harbor in Yemen and then on to Europe. Exports started off slowly at first. Just less than two tons were shipped in 1724, but this increased rapidly over the next hundred years, peaking at 2,440 tons of coffee per year.

The coffee, first called Café du Roy, then Café Leroy, was served to kings at the French court and was the brand of choice of the classic author, Honoré de Balzac, who enjoyed forty cups a day. Or so they say…

The Bourbon variety found its way to Latin America around the middle of the 19th century, where it gradually replaced the older Ethiopian variety, the Arabica Typica, mainly because of its 30% larger yield. While the Arabica Bourbon was doing well in the world, the production on Réunion was slowly, but steadily, decreasing year by year. Farmers opted to grow sugarcane, tea and vanilla beans instead of coffee, and therefore 1942 marked the last export of Arabica Bourbon from the island of Réunion. The last harvest came eight years later and then the variety was forgotten about, even by the locals.

After almost sixty years, one unrelenting Japanese coffee specialist from Ueshima Coffee Company discovered 27 original plants and restarted production. The resulting coffee is called Bourbon Pointu. It is sold only in Japan and holds the prestigious Premium Product title from the Specialty Coffee Association of Japan. It is also quite pricey, at $35 for 4 ounces.

The Bourbon Pointu is exceptional for its low volume of caffeine and delicate taste with a slight acidity, low bitterness, full body, and the charming fruit flavor of oranges and tangerines.

One can only hope that the island of Réunion will eventually return to its former coffee glory and that we will be able to enjoy Bourbon Pointu as well.

If you are curious about the original taste of Arabica Bourbon, go ahead and try our (Guatemala Finca El Injerto) or newly imported (El Salvador Finca San Jose).