What is Liberica Coffee?

LeClair Organics Liberica Coffee Beans coffea liberica beans

In North America we primarily drink two types, or species of coffee. Usually this is Arabica Coffee or Robusta Coffee. Our Liberica Coffee is the third rarely seen species in North America.

Liberica Coffee comes from a distinct species coffea liberica, separate from Arabica Coffee(coffea arabica) or Robusta Coffee(coffea canephora) and our own rare Racemosa Coffee(coffea racemosa) product. Liberica is grown very minimally compared to the other species and accounts for less than 1 percent of coffees grown. The majority of liberica coffee is consumed locally in the countries in which they are cultivated from in Southeast Asia, adding to the elusivity. We aim to change this and make this somewhat uncovered species available and known across Canada.

Liberica Coffee the third coffee species

It’s quite easy to get confused with all the specialty coffee available out there. Liberica comes from the a separate species coffea liberica. A good comparison would be raspberries versus blackberries commonly found in all grocery stores. They are related from the same genus, have many commonalities. However each are a their own entity, a separate species with visually distinctive berries, flavour profile. Coffea Liberica and liberica coffee therefore is also considered its own entity and unique flavour experience.  There are actually 124 known varieties of coffee in the genus coffea, however the majority of those are wild species and not actually in commercial production.

What many coffee sellers across North America provide are different varietals of Arabica and robusta species. There are many coffee varieties and different genetic traits amongst the same species. These may have occurred through selective breeding or natural occurring varietals.  A good example of this would be Yellow Bourbon which produces a vibrant yellow coffee berry as opposed to the usual red colouring. Another genetic variation is the Maragogipe varietal, which is a substantially bigger bean than other common Arabica beans.


The Coffea Liberica Plant

When looking at a coffea liberica plant it is a easily distinguishable from other coffee species. Coffea Liberica is a large tree, with oldest trees getting up to 20 meters tall. Due to the height, liberica coffee berries are harvested using ladders. The size of the coffea liberica trea is also among the largest of the coffea species.  Just to provide a comparison, Arabica Coffee or Coffea Arabica on the other hand is a small bush. When grown commercially they only grow to about 5 meters.

The leaves very large, almost similar to the size of 8 ½ x 11 common printer paper. It has been noted that if liberica gets leaf rust, it is able to recover over time.  Liberica coffee berry is much larger, approximately four times heavier than an arabica. These larger berries are also resistant to coffee borer beetle. Arabica coffee berries are comparably only 1 to 1.5 cm long.

Coffea liberica also has a much more extensive root system. With a combination of attributes and great root system, coffea liberica is much hardier, adaptable to hot climates, resistant to pests and disease, and can grow at low altitudes. Liberica coffee holds genetic biodiversity as a separate is a much more resiliant species. Therefore coffea liberica may grow in regions otherwise not accessible to an Arabica bean. Arabica plants require a very precise altitude and climate, and due to ever changing global climates this may start to become problematic. These same resilient traits may also hold potential for future plant hybrids.

What does the liberica coffee bean look like?

The liberica coffee bean is a signature teardrop shape and is approximately 1/3 larger than an arabica bean.  The difference will be visually noticeable to the eye.

Liberica Coffee Bean coffea liberica bean

How much caffeine does Liberica coffee have?

Liberica is noted to have the least caffeine levels amongst both Arabica and robusta.  It has slightly less caffeine than Arabica beans.

Liberica Coffee Flavour and Aromatics

Flavours generally depend on the roasting and the processing methods used. However due to the fact this is a distinctive species it will be immediately apparent upon aroma and first sips that this is a completely different bean. Those that try it will notice it is unlike the other coffees they have tasted before. It is well noted to have a very aromatic and bold flavour. Our Liberica coffee has flavour notes of jackfruit, blackberry and a dark honey. Liberica beans are higher in sugar content amongst other coffee species and you will notice subtle flavour notes of honey.

In the philipines liberica coffee is actually named Kapeng Barako or Barako Coffee which represents boldness. This of course comes from the bold aromas and flavours.

Liberica is a distinct bean from Arabica and therefore requires also requires different requirements and care in roasting to obtain optimal flavour. There are a few articles online mentioning negative flavours of smokiness & burnt flavour. This would most likely be due to roasting flaws of this distinct bean with higher sugar content. Those minority of negative perceptions do not portray the true flavour potential of this bean.

Coffea Liberica History

Wild growing coffea liberica origins come from west Africa and Liberia hense the name liberica coffee. Although natively grown in west Africa, cultivation today is primarily in Southeast Asia such as Malaysia and the Philippines. In the Philippines it is know locally as barako coffee or kapeng barako.

Liberica Coffee appeared to gain more widespread popularity during the major global coffee rust in 1890. and Over 90 percent of the worlds Arabica coffee population had been destroyed.  As mentioned before, Liberica is a much more hardy plant resistant to disease, pests and drought, was therefore utilized to replace Arabica coffee plants! Up until mid century Liberica was widespread, however farmers eventually started transitioning back to producing robusta beans or more profitable types of crops. As mentioned the Liberica tree grows up to 20 meters, making it more difficult to harvest. This has been part of the reason causing many farmers to shy away from growing liberica. Farmers had alternatively turned to robusta beans.  It has primarily been grown in the Philippines, Malaysia and a few other countries ever since and perhaps now has opportunity to regain popularity.

The story of Liberica Coffee is a success story portraying the importance of biodiversity. When the coffee rust decimated 90 percent of global Arabica beans, Liberica was able to adapt to the conditions and fill it’s place temporarily. Liberica’s unique traits as a robust crop may also be used for future development in hybridization. As mentioned there are approximately 124 coffee species, some only documented a few times however. Of the 124 coffee species, 75 coffee (60%) have been evaluated as threatened with extinction from the official IUCN Red List of Threatened Species criteria. We have not even scratched the surface to uncover the potential use of these various species. Perhaps there are more species out there with similar potential as liberica or our racemosa coffee. That’s also why we are also quite proud to provide Racemosa coffee, to strengthen supply and long term stability of this unique species.

How To Use Liberica Coffee

Use our liberica coffee in Liberica Coffee cocktails or barista recipes.  As a short list, top five ways to drink liberica coffee includes a liberica latte, liberica espresso martini, iced sparkling liberica coffee, virgin liberica espresso martini, or liberica espresso Paloma.  These can be all found on our recipe pages.