Discover Geisha, Bourbon, & Other Coffee Varieties: Insightful Guide

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter
Discover Geisha, Bourbon, & Other Coffee Varieties: Insightful Guide

Discover Geisha, Bourbon, & Other Coffee Varieties: Do you know what Geisha/Gesha or Bourbon coffee looks like? There are many coffee varieties, and it’s not always clear how they differ. Beyond variations in flavor and profile, there are evident physical differences among the plants.Some coffee plants are tall and slender, while others are short and bushy. The coffee cherries can vary in size and color. Read on to learn more about the identifying characteristics of six popular Arabica varieties.

Understanding Varieties: How to Identify Different Coffee Plants


There are hundreds of coffee species, but around 70% of the world’s coffee production is Arabica. Although Arabica is more vulnerable than Robusta, its flavor and aroma make it more appealing to consumers. Many Arabica varieties are cultivated for both commercial and specialty markets.

Producers choose to grow a particular variety for various reasons, such as yield, profile, and environmental conditions. Recognizing coffee varieties is crucial to avoid mixing lots during harvest and processing, which could result in confusing profiles and unsatisfactory cupping scores.

To better understand how common varieties differ physically, I observed six different Arabica types. This study took place between the end of the harvest season and the beginning of flowering (approximately two months) on farms in Boquete, Panama. The altitude of these farms ranges from 1300 to 1800 meters above sea level.

The characteristics included in this article are based on this specific plant analysis. My study is a personal observation of a limited number of farms and is not intended as a general reference.

Detailed Look: Typica Coffee Variety

The Typica variety has distinctive characteristics and may be the easiest to recognize. The plants have a conical shape with a vertical main trunk and can reach up to 5 meters in height, meaning the distances between branches and between nodes are greater than in other varieties.

The lateral branches form angles between 50 and 80º with the vertical stem. Both the trunk and the branches are not very thick. Typically, the leaves, cherries, and green beans are elongated, and the leaf tips are bronze when young.

Additionally, the leaves have a smoother surface and less wavy edges compared to other Arabica varieties. Typica cherries turn bright red when ripe.

Classic Elegance: Bourbon Coffee Variety

Bourbon shares the tall stature and conical shape of Typica but is slightly bushier with more secondary branches. The main trunks are larger, and the branches appear thicker, making the plant more robust and less flexible than Typica. Moreover, the distance between branches and nodes is shorter. This higher density means Bourbon produces about 30% more fruit than Typica.

The leaves are broader than those of Typica and have an uneven texture with wavy edges. Young leaves are usually green but sometimes have bronze tips. The cherries are round and, when ripe, turn a range of red, orange, or yellow hues (but not on the same plant).

Compact Strength: Caturra Coffee Variety

Many Arabica varieties are descendants of Bourbon and Typica. Caturra is a dwarf mutation of Bourbon that occurred naturally and is much shorter and denser than its plant relative. The distance between branches on the trunk is shorter, and it has many secondary branches, making Caturra bushier than Typica or Bourbon.

In other aspects, it has similar characteristics to Bourbon. Its large leaves have wavy edges and green tips. The cherries are also round, average in size, and turn red or yellow when ripe.

Resilient Excellence: Catuaí Coffee Variety

Catuaí is a cross between Mundo Novo and Caturra. Just as Caturra is a natural mutation of Bourbon, Mundo Novo is a natural mutation of Typica. In Catuaí, you can detect the characteristics inherited from both Typica and Bourbon.

The plant is relatively short, and the lateral branches form narrow angles with the primary branches. It’s unusual to see secondary branches at the top of the plant, giving it a more umbrella-like shape compared to the conical shape of Typica and Bourbon.

Catuaí leaves are wavy with generally green tips, though bronze tips have been observed in some cases. The fruit doesn’t fall off the branch easily, making it a good choice for areas with rain or strong winds. The plant is high-yielding and produces medium-sized round cherries that usually turn red or yellow when ripe, with rare cases of orange Catuaí.

Notable Hybrid: Pacamara Coffee Variety

Pacamara is a cross between the Pacas and Maragogipe varieties, created by the Salvadoran Institute for Coffee Research (ISIC) in 1958. It is not considered a stable variety, meaning the plants are not consistent from one generation to another. However, it is widely cultivated.

Pacas is another mutation of Bourbon, and Maragogipe is a mutation of Typica. The latter has very large cherries, a trait it passed on to Pacamara. Pacamara is easy to recognize due to the size of the fruit and its characteristically pointed leaves, which can have green or bronze tips.

The plant has a compact stature and a conical shape. The distances between branches and nodes on the branches are short, making it a bushy plant. The trunk and branches are similar to Bourbon in terms of thickness and lesser flexibility compared to other varieties.

Prestigious Variety: Geisha/Gesha Coffee

This highly popular variety is easily recognized by the angle of its upper branches and the shape of the plant. The upper branches stretch toward the sky at angles between 45 and 50º. Geisha/Gesha is tall with a large distance between branches and nodes. The trunk and branches are slender, similar to Typica.

The leaves are smooth and elongated, and the cherries are also elongated, similar to Typica’s fruit. In my experience, the main visible difference between Geisha/Gesha and Typica is that the former has an umbrella shape or a flat top, whereas Typica has a conical shape.

Geisha/Gesha cherries have a completely different flavor from other varieties. They have citrus notes, sweetness, and a floral element reminiscent of jasmine.

Discover Geisha, Bourbon, & Other Coffee Varieties:Conclusion

Recognizing Coffee Varieties with Ease

Different coffee varieties not only differ in flavor and profile but also as visually distinct plants. By observing the shape and stature of the tree, as well as the characteristics of the cherries and leaves, you can more easily recognize the type of Arabica being cultivated and processed.