Central American coffee is characterized by a classic clean flavor, a light to medium body and a good acidity balanced profile.
Producing first class coffee is of great importance to the national economy.
Different methods are used for cultivation to produce distinct tastes and qualities. Coffee trees reach a height of over 10 meters in the wild, but those used for coffee bean production are cut at between two and four meters high. The shrub has a straight and smooth trunk with perennial green, big, thin leaves. The coffee bush is usually ready for harvest after three to five years, each plant yielding an annual production of just over two kilograms for 30 to 50 years.
Coffee beans are small, round berries. The beans grow from elongated racemes. In the initial phase, the bean has a green color that goes through shades of yellow and red during the next eight or eleven months of growth as it matures, depending on the conditions and type of coffee. The peel and pulp of the coffee bean are used as organic fertilizer or as food for livestock. The harvesting season lasts from October till February, yet the production process is continuous.
There are three main varieties of beans, namely Arabica, the oldest cultivated coffee plant known for the best flavor, and Robusta and Liberica plants primarily used as commodity coffee found in most coffee blends.
Arabica is considered to have the best flavor with the lower amount of caffeine. Virtually all Arabica coffee is hand-picked, mainly due to the height of the plant. Arabica plants can grow up to 20 feet and human pickers can choose the ripest beans at the top.
Within the Arabica species there are three main varieties, namely Typica, Bourbon and Caturra. Each has subtle differences that add character nuances to body, acidity and balance, detectable to the discerning palate.
Bourbon is a main coffee of the Arabica cultivars, characterized by broad leaves and round berries. The fruit is relatively small and dense. The cup quality is excellent.
Caturra is an Arabica type coffee and a mutant of Bourbon, characterized by a good yield potential and citrus-like characteristics. Because of the ideal growing conditions, the Bourbon variety flourishes in Central America.
Catimor is a variety that derives from the Caturra type, the plant is highly productive and resistant to disease. Beans from the Catimor variety are bitter and sharply flavored. They are used to enhance the flavor of blended coffees.
The finest coffees in the world come from Arabica cultivars. The Arabica coffee is a premium bean that stands out for its intense aroma, pleasing natural acidity, with moderate body and bitterness.
Robusta is typically found in espresso blends. It is characterized for a high caffeine content. For a long time coffee growers throughout the world tried to replace Arabica with Robusta as the better coffee bean. Considering economic factors, Robusta is an ideal production and harvesting plant, but it cannot parallel the quality of the Arabica flavor. It is now well settled that the best coffee in the world comes from the Arabica beans.
Liberica is grown predominantly in South East Asia. It is generally not found in the United States or Europe. Liberica became popular in the late 19th century due to its resistance to a coffee killing disease called leaf rust that was destroying fields of Arabica coffee plants. Eventually hardier, more-disease resistant Arabica varieties were produced and discovered resulting in the decrease of Liberica plantings. Liberica was never a serious competitor to Arabica or even Robusta plants.