Quick guide to coffee varieties

Quick guide to coffee varieties

You have heard it before, but variety really is the spice of life when it comes to coffee. In fact, it may be the single-most-important factor that determines the quality of your morning cup. If it has been a little while since your last science class, variety is a rank in the system we use to classify and name plants, also known as taxonomy.

Variety is a rank below species that differentiates groups of plants that are smaller than a species but have some characteristics that are similar and some that differ from the species. It may be most helpful to think of coffee varieties the same way you think about grapes and wine. For example, you may already be familiar with some of the grape varieties that make wine like merlot, chardonnay, and zinfandel. While they are all grapes, the subtle differences in how they grow and taste make all the difference in the wine they produce.


There are more than 100 species of coffee across the world, but Arabica and Robusta are the two most prominently used to make the caffeinated concoction we all love. Our coffee farm on Kauai is the largest coffee estate in the United States with 4 million trees planted on nearly 3,000 acres of volcanic soil. We grow several varieties of coffee on Kauai and also source from farms in Costa Rica and Brazil to guarantee a continuous flow of quality coffee from the plant to the cup. Here is a quick guide to five coffee varieties you should know.


Acaia is a rare variety originating from Brazil and closely related to Mundo Novo. It produces a larger bean and fruit that when roasted has a sweet fragrance with hints of chocolate, caramel, and nut, finishing with citrus and tea-rose as it cools.


Red and Yellow Catuai make up approximately 80% of the coffee grown on our farm on Kauai. It is derived from a cross between the highly productive Mundo Novo and compact Caturra varieties making it an ideal choice for Kauai’s warm Pacific Sun and volcanic soil. Catuai produces a high yield of fruit and grows well in full sun and at higher altitudes.  When roasted, Catuai coffee produces a sweet aroma and earthy notes.


Mundo Novo coffee plants are extremely productive and produce a high-quality cup. Mundo Novo coffee trees can grow taller than other varieties and originates from Brazil. When dark roasted, it makes for an exceptional cup of coffee with a wonderfully smooth finish.


According to World Coffee Research, Typica is one of the most culturally and genetically important varieties of Arabica coffee in the world. It grows very well at higher altitudes and produces a larger coffee bean than some of the other varieties grown at Kauai Coffee. It’s also the genetic origin of other well-known and loved varieties such as Jamaican Blue, Kona and Java.


A natural mutation of Typica originating in Brazil, Yellow Bourbon is known for its high quality and high yield. Sweet and floral when roasted with hints of fruit, rounding off with spice and milk chocolate.

Shop for your favorite brands and premium coffees online now. Chock full o’Nuts®, Hills Bros.® Coffee, Kauai Coffee®, Chase & Sanborn®, Master Chef®, MJB®, Reveille®, Segafredo Zanetti®