Red Catuai vs Villa Sarchi

SANSANimg

Coffee producers make a choice when it comes to the type of coffee tree or variety they wish to grow, a choice that impacts the investment and return, cost and profit of their farms. Most countries now have several varieties for farmers to choose from, selected based on yield, flavour profile, hardiness, growth pattern, input requirements etc. A producer knows that a tree takes 3-5 years from planting till full harvest, and have a typical lifespan of 15-20 years before yields start to drop and it might need stumping or replacing. As such the planting of any type of coffee tree is a big commitment, and it’s not uncommon for one farm to grow several varieties suited to different soils, sun exposures, altitudes etc within a farm. Sometimes varieties are not separated during harvest, sometimes they are and sold as individual lots.

We currently have two Costa Rican coffees in the webshop, from farms in the same town, from the same altitudes, processed the same way, but of differing varieties. Santa Rosa 1900 grows several varieties but our lot from them is a Red Catuai, while our lot from San Martin 1900 is a Villa Sarchi. As well as tasting different from each other, they have very different botanical and agricultural traits. One is a man made hybrid while the other is a natural mutation, one was imported from South America while the other spontaneously occurred hours away from the farm. Both are delicious when grown and processed well, so while we can’t decide which one we think tastes better, it’s always fun to learn a bit more about the origins of the two trees.

Red Catuai

The Red Catuai was developed by agronomists in Brazil in the late 1940’s as a cross between Caturra and Mundo Novo. It inherited the small stature of the former but the average bean size of the latter, and is considered a high yielding variety. It launched as a commercial variety in the early 70’s and quickly gained popularity across Brazil and the rest of Latin America, due to its adaptable nature which made it thrive in a variety of locations. While it needs a bit more input of fertilisers and pesticides than some, the fact that it can be quite densely planted (near 6000 trees per hectare) still makes it an economical choice for many farmers. Visually its branches are at a fairly right angle to the trunk, and the the distance between clusters of cherries on the branch is short. It does well at high altitudes and tolerates areas with stronger winds and more rain than other coffees.  It comes in both a yellow and a red cherry, tends to ripen a little later in the season and once ripe the cherries do not easily fall off the branch. While compact and easy to harvest, the cherries are prone to ripen at an uneven pace, and as such the trees need to be picked in several passes for best results.

Villa Sarchi

The Villa Sarchi is a natural mutation of Bourbon that was discovered in the West Valley of Costa Rica around the early 1950’s. It has smaller proportions than the Bourbon, and is generally classed as a dwarf variety. It yields a healthy harvest and does well at high altitudes, but prefers to be grown under shade or semi-shade from other trees. It has a good root system and doesn’t require a high input of fertilisers to produce well, so for producers who want to be organic it’s often a popular choice. However, it needs deep, naturally nutrient rich soil and enjoys a bit of room to spread out, thriving at about 3500 trees per hectare. Visually it’s different from the Catuai in that its branches sit at about 45 degrees to the trunk, and while the Villa Sarchi branches also have short internodes, the cherries are exclusively red. Spearheaded by a few passionate farmers it has gained a big following in Costa Rica doing very well in competitions, and as such has begun to enjoy popularity in other countries as well.

Anette Moldvaer

Anette Moldvaer

Anette Moldvaer is the co-founder and green coffee buyer of Square Mile Coffee Roasters. Since starting as a barista in Norway 18 years ago she has worked in imports, education, training, cupping and roasting. She is a World Cup Tasting Champion, an international coffee judge and the author of "Coffee Obsession”.

Anette Moldvaer

Anette Moldvaer

Anette Moldvaer is the co-founder and green coffee buyer of Square Mile Coffee Roasters. Since starting as a barista in Norway 18 years ago she has worked in imports, education, training, cupping and roasting. She is a World Cup Tasting Champion, an international coffee judge and the author of "Coffee Obsession”.