What Is Caturra Coffee? All About This Bourbon Varietal

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

Our review process | Our team

Every bean has a story to tell in the vast, exciting world of coffee. One variety that stands out for its distinct flavor profile is Caturra coffee.

Every bean has a story to tell in the vast, exciting world of coffee. One variety that stands out for its distinct flavor profile is Caturra coffee.

This natural mutation of Arabica Bourbon is one of the most economically important coffees grown in Latin America. It has unique origins, growing techniques and flavors.

Come along with me as I explore what sets Caturra apart from other Arabica coffees. After reading this post, I’m doubly sure your appreciation for this unique brew will rocket!

What Is Caturra Coffee Exactly?

Caturra coffee is a naturally occurring mutation of Arabica Bourbon. Bourbon is a variety originating in Ethiopia. It made its way to Yemen (home of qahwa coffee) in the 1450s before Dutch traders took it to Indonesia in the 1700s. From there, it conquered the world!

Surprisingly, coffee experts discovered this Bourbon varietal growing in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, miles away from its Ethiopian origins. Eventually, they developed it for the commercial markets in the 1960s.

Caturra is a breeze to care for and harvest. But, take note, this single-origin coffee needs careful nutritional input to thrive. There are two cultivars of this naturally occurring mutation:

  • Red Caturra

  • Yellow Caturra

Both cultivars show dwarfism and perform extraordinarily well in full sun conditions. Needless to say, its robustness makes this single-origin particularly popular with coffee growers throughout Central and South America.

This natural mutation of Arabica Bourbon thrives at altitudes of 4,900 to 5,500 feet (1,493 to 1,670 meters). It also needs yearly rains of between 98 and 137 inches (2,500 and 3,500 millimeters) to grow perfectly.

The higher the altitude, the better the harvest’s quality, but (you can’t have it all I guess) the lower the yield.

Caturra plants generally begin flowering three to four years after planting. Its selection process, called mass selection, has growers choosing a group of individual seeds for their superior performance.

Growers bulk seeds from these parent plants to form a new generation. They repeat the process for the greatest yield and productivity.

Where Is Caturra Grown? Top Producing Countries and Regions

From its humble origins in Eastern Africa, Caturra coffee has made quite a name for itself in Latin America. Although it was never officially released onto the Brazilian market, it rapidly expanded throughout Central America, particularly in Guatemala.

Indonesian Coffee Plantation

From there, it spread to neighboring countries, including:

  • Bolivia

  • Costa Rica

  • Ecuador

  • Honduras

  • Jamaica

  • Nicaragua

  • Panama

  • Peru

But where Caturra really took off is Colombia. Growers first introduced this coffee into the country in the 1970s. Before long, it accounted for nearly half of the country’s production!

A government-sponsored program beginning three decades later improved the production immensely. In this program, coffee experts oversaw the rehabilitation of an incredible three billion coffee plants – a massive feat!

Growers replaced existing Caturra plants with the coffee leaf rust-resistant Castillo variety. Caturra is a parent plant to this newer, more hardy coffee cultivar.

What Makes Caturra Coffee Special?

So, why grow Caturra coffee? What’s in it for the producer?

Well, first of all, this single-origin coffee plant is highly productive (even in full sun)! In the right growing conditions, your first crop can yield an incredible 750 pounds (340 kilograms) of market coffee per acre! Besides, Caturra always delivers good cup quality due to its smaller, denser coffee beans packed with flavor.

However, there’s a caveat. Caturra is susceptible to the deadly coffee leaf rust (locally La Roya) and coffee borer disease (locally La Broca). These scourges have destroyed many plantations, especially in Costa Rica and Guatemala.

Coffee Beans Hawaiian Islands

But all’s not lost! When crossed with the Timor hybrid, this naturally occurring mutation of Bourbon Arabica produces new Catimor cultivars. These are resistant to coffee leaf rust, and include Citistic, Costa Rica 95, IHCAFE 90 and Lempira.

Another reason for Caturra’s popularity is how easy it is to maintain and harvest. Thanks to this variety’s compact size, its dense coffee cherries are usually situated at a manageable 6.5 feet (2 meters), making them a breeze to pick.

And while these coffee trees need a lot of TLC, the extra effort is well worth it. In fact, you can grow as many as 6,000 of these dwarf trees per hectare with single-stem pruning. That’s quite good if you ask me!

Wonder why this coffee has experienced widespread commercial adoption in Central America and Colombia? Let’s recap!

These are the main reasons why: it’s high-yielding, easy to maintain and easy to harvest and process. That makes it the perfect “commercial” specialty coffee! In fact, it is one of the region’s most economically important coffees.

Last but not least, Caturra is an excellent choice for creating new cultivars thanks to its abundant berry yield and compact bean size. It’s also a superb benchmark coffee for testing any new generation of cultivars.

Caturra Coffee Cup Profile

Now to what we all want to know – what does this intriguing coffee taste like? 

Well, given how coffee buyers covet this coffee on the market, I don’t have to tell you that it’s pretty special.

Caturra has pronounced sweet chocolate notes. It also displays bright, citrusy notes of orange, mandarin, lime and grapefruit. That’s quite the contrast!

Coffee buyers especially love its medium body, pleasant citric acidity and sweet finish. These complex coffees are versatile, too (rare for coffee beans) and serve equally well as a light, medium or dark roast.

Hot Americano Coffee

As a light roast, Caturra’s natural citrus acidity shines in the final cup, making it the perfect brew for a delicious pour-over or drip. In contrast, Caturra coffee shows more chocolate notes the darker you go.

Medium roasts make an excellent pour-over, automatic drip or French press brew. As a dark roast, I recommend enjoying Caturra as an espresso or cold brew. It still maintains its sweetness at this hard-to-get-right roast level, making it a prized cup among coffee enthusiasts.

The final cup also benefits from adding cream or milk, so lattes, cappuccinos and even frappuccino iced coffees taste really good with this bean variety.

Natural Red Caturra is sweeter than the Yellow variety. It has prominent hints of chocolate, grapefruit and berries. In contrast, the latter shows distinct, all-out tropical fruit flavors.

Keep in mind, however, that Caturra coffee beans are like most other coffees in that they offer unique flavor profiles and tastes, depending on where they grow.

Final Thoughts: A Must-Try for Coffee Lovers Everywhere

And there we have it – all you need to know about Caturra coffee! I hope this read was entertaining and, more importantly, informative. I also hope (hand on heart) that I’ve enticed you to try this exotic, single-origin coffee.

This Arabica Bourbon varietal is a testament to its growers’ skill, passion and dedication – a bona fide taste sensation for those looking to try coffees on the road less traveled.

Do yourself a favor and bag some Caturra beans from Central America or Colombia today. You won’t be sorry. The complex acidity and sweetness of this rare coffee is –chef’s kiss – exquisite!

Caturra coffee stands out as one of the world’s most loved beans, especially for those who know a thing or two about specialty coffees. Have you ever tried this coffee before? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments section! 

Caturra Coffee FAQ

Caturra coffee is one of the most significant Arabica varietals in the world. It is a naturally occurring hybrid of the Bourbon varietal originating in Ethiopia.

Caturra is a naturally mutated dwarf Bourbon variety of Arabica coffee. The name Caturra means “small,” in one of the native American Indian languages in Brazil.

Catuai is a high-yield Brazilian Arabica coffee. It has a smooth, sweet finish with hints of cardamom and a mild to medium body. Aromas of chocolate, almonds and honey, as well as notes of nutmeg, are pronounced in these coffee beans.

Yes, Caturra is an excellent and much sought-after coffee. This Bourbon varietal has a well-balanced, lemony, sweet cup character with hints of honey and maple.

Your coffee expert
Team Image
Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Table of Contents