When we think of coffee beans, Arabica and Robusta are the two words that instantly come to mind. Even though there are plenty of other coffee bean types, there is a reason behind Arabica and Robusta coffee beans being known by almost everyone.
Arabica coffee beans make up for roughly 75 percent of the entire coffee production in the world, and Robusta beans follow with roughly 20 percent. Together, these two coffee beans make up for 95 percent of the coffee production in the world. Because of this, it’s only natural that Arabica and Robusta coffee beans are the ones that we are used to seeing the most.
On the other hand, Liberica coffee, which is a much lesser-known type of coffee bean, only accounts for less than 2 percent of the global coffee production. Due to how little Liberica coffee exists compared to giants such as Arabica and Robusta, there is a high chance that you have never even seen it before.
That being said, even though Liberica coffee accounts for 2 percent of the coffee production in the world, it is the third most-produced coffee bean after Arabica and Robusta, which once again shows us how these two coffee bean types dominate the coffee market.
So, what is Liberica coffee, and how does it differ from the coffee beans we know?
Origin of Liberica Coffee
First off, let’s start with the origin of Liberica coffee.
Liberica coffee (Coffea liberica) originated in Liberia, a country that is located in West Africa. While the first plantation of Liberica coffee dates back to 1864, research says that it was being cultivated as early as 1792. Compared to other coffee plants, Liberica plants are known for being tall and producing large fruits.
The introduction of the Liberica coffee plant to different countries, such as Indonesia, India, and the Philippines, was a result of the coffee leaf rust disease that took place in the 19th century. At the time, it was thought that Liberica coffee was resistant to this disease that affected Arabica coffee plants at the time, which prompted countries to replace their Arabica plants with Liberica ones despite Arabica plants being the go-to when it comes to coffee cultivation.
That being said, Liberica plants were eventually replaced in favor of Robusta plants in certain areas, as it turned out that Liberica plants weren’t immune to the disease either. In fact, the coffee rust disease brought Liberica coffee close to extinction at some point.
With Arabica plants surviving extinction through the coffee rust disease, the cultivation rates of the Liberica coffee plant dropped, making Liberica coffee one of the rarest coffee types in the world right now.
Even though Liberica coffee is native to African countries such as Liberia, Uganda, and Angola that are located in West and Central Africa, these countries aren’t the primary areas where Liberica coffee is produced anymore.
Where Is Liberica Grown?
Nowadays, the greatest source of Liberica coffee is Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia, with certain African and South American countries also contributing in smaller amounts.
While Malaysia is known for almost exclusively producing Liberica coffee, the majority of Liberica production in the world comes from Indonesia, the fourth biggest coffee-producing country in the world. To put it into perspective, the Liberica coffee production of Indonesia almost doubles Malaysia despite Liberica coffee not being the main focus.
The reason behind these countries sticking with Liberica coffee plants throughout history is because they haven’t felt the need to switch to Robusta plants as their climate allowed Liberica plants to grow optimally without problems.
Even though Arabica coffee is the primary choice in the coffee industry nowadays due to having the best flavor out of all coffee bean types, Liberica coffee is one of the most expensive coffee types due to its rarity and shortage of production.
How Does Liberica Coffee Taste?
We can say that Liberica coffee is similar to Robusta coffee due to both of them sharing an overall bitter flavor profile that can be described as strong and smoky. That being said, you will find that Liberica coffee has a considerable amount of aftertaste as opposed to Robusta, which almost has no aftertaste.
Because of its bitter taste, Liberica beans are often blended with Arabica beans just like Robusta beans are to balance out the flavor of the blend.
That being said, trying Liberica coffee can be a bit of an odd experience due to how familiar we are with Arabica and Robusta beans, which is why you may have to give it a few tries before you make a complete decision about it.
Those who drink Liberica coffee usually prefer to add ingredients such as milk, sugar, and flavored syrups to bring a certain level of sweetness to their cup and cut the bitterness down.
Liberica Coffee Characteristics
Time to get down to the characteristics of a Liberica coffee bean.
The size of a Liberica bean is quite large compared to other coffee types, which is to be expected considering that the Liberica plant and its fruits are also quite large.
Due to their bigger size, Liberica beans are also heavier than most other coffee types.
The large size of a Liberica bean is considered to be one of its defining characteristics, making it easy to distinguish a Liberica bean from other coffee beans.
A Liberica bean is completely asymmetrical in shape, which is a trait that you can only find in a Liberica bean.
While other coffee types such as Arabica and Robusta have definitive shapes of oval and circular, respectively, the closest thing you can associate with the shape of a Liberica bean is a teardrop.
The caffeine content of Liberica beans is 1.23 grams of caffeine per 100 grams of coffee, which puts it behind both Robusta and Arabica beans.
In fact, the caffeine content of a Robusta bean is almost double the amount of caffeine that is found in a Liberica bean.
How is Liberica Coffee Different than Robusta and Arabica Coffee?
The main differences that set Liberica coffee apart from Robusta and Arabica are its production rate, price, and aftertaste.
While aftertaste isn’t something we are used to seeing in Robusta and Arabica coffee, Liberica coffee comes with a distinctive and long-lasting aftertaste with a quite smoky flavor profile.
The amount of Arabica and Robusta coffee that is produced is so much more than Liberica coffee, which is why Liberica coffee is pretty unheard of compared to Arabica and Robusta beans that you can find in almost every grocery store.
The production rate also affects the price. While it’s possible to find Arabica and Robusta beans of different prices depending on their quality, Liberica beans are mostly quite expensive due to how rare they are.
While it’s quite rare to stumble upon Liberica coffee, especially in certain areas, make sure you grab yourself a pack if you have the chance to. It may taste strange at first due to its unique flavor, but it’s a welcome change of pace to take a break from the coffee beans we brew with every single day.
We feel like every coffee lover should try as many types of coffee beans as possible and experience the differences they show compared to Arabica and Robusta coffee that we regularly drink. After all, there is a lot more to the world of coffee than just two types of coffee beans.
Have a great day, and enjoy your coffee!