Everything You Need To Know About Liberica Coffee


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With all the types of coffee beans available, Arabica and Robusta are the only varieties that meet the global demand for coffee. From the cups you order from cafes to the bags you buy at the store, most probably made up of either Arabica or Robusta beans.

Liberica on the other hand, is an uncommon coffee and rare in the specialty coffee industry. Maybe most new coffee lovers wouldn’t probably recognize it, even though its presence is slowly catching up nowadays. 

But why does Liberica coffee not that popular? Being the third species after those two, how come not all people are talking about it?

The real treat for Liberica beans is it’s credited hardly in the coffee industry and global market. Besides, you can only find this variety in some specific countries. So, some people assume it as rare coffee species and close to extinction.

In this article, we’ll further explore the Liberica species and answer some of your questions. Let’s delve and learn more about it.

What is Liberica Coffee?

Liberica coffee originally comes from the western and central parts of Africa, specifically in Liberia, where established first in the mid-1800s. It is one of the leading coffee species that are rarely cultivated nowadays. It accounts for less than 2% of commercially-produced coffee worldwide.

In other words, this type of coffee is not that popular and very rare in the coffee industry as of being hard to find and difficult to develop. 

Furthermore, Liberica is just another coffee variety from the family Rubiaceae, farmed, and grown into a coffee tree. It’s an evergreen shrub that develops as a large tree (up to 20 m high) defiant to pests and diseases. Additionally, it also has larger leaves and beans than other types of coffee.

In terms of growing condition, it’s almost the same as the Robusta to which can tolerate dry surroundings. With that being said, this coffee likes to grow at low altitudes and can handle low elevated environments. 

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Physical Property and Taste of Liberica

Liberica is the only type of coffee that has unique characteristics. It’s known to have immense size, density, and mass in terms of beans. Actually, both its fruits and beans tend to be much larger. Also, the shape of the bean is irregular, almost like an almond’s shape.

In terms of taste profile, Liberica coffee tends to have a better cup quality than Robusta but less superior compared to Arabica. You can generally describe it as a distinct floral and fruity flavor, with a bit of woodiness and earthiness. Those who’ve tried this coffee will find it to offer a completely different taste to the more popular coffees.

Even though it’s delicious, it has a more bitter taste than Arabica and Robusta, which contributes to its strong flavor that Filipinos typically recognized (as they called it “Barako coffee,” which means “stud,” and is associated with the image of masculinity).

It is usually served as black coffee. But since it’s known for its inconsistent flavor, it’s better to use it as a blend coffee to add complexity and depth to the taste. It means to provide an improved flavor profile combination and give your brew more substance and smooth power.

A Brief History of Liberica Coffee

The Liberica was Originated in Liberia, West Africa. But as time passed, it has become naturally grown in most Southeast Asia parts like the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. But you can also find it less in some coffee-producing counties, including the islands of Nicobar, Seychelles, and Andaman.

Liberica gained its popularity in the late 1800s, where coffee rust attacks the Arabica crops in Africa, Java, and Brazil. Since it dramatically affects the Arabica coffee production, the industry tried to disseminate the Liberica into other countries. And during that time, it is relatively widely cultivated in some regions.

The farmers believed this variety to be resistant to rust disease. So, they rapidly introduced it worldwide to sustain coffee production. It reached most of Southeast Asia, which includes India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

The Philippines is the first country to try the cultivation of Liberica; this remarked it as its famous coffee crop. Although the Coffea Arabica were still planted way back in the 1740s, the region was the first to harvest and export Liberica at an excellent volume. That leads the country to be the primary supplier of coffee globally during that time, which also helped the country’s economy.

When the Philippines gained its independence, this led to Liberica coffee’s downfall in the global market as the production starts to degrade.

Is Liberica Coffee Extinct? 

Liberica beans are still commercially produced. They’re indeed included in the four main types of coffee

However, the availability of enough beans is the problem as it’s only obtained explicitly in some regions. It means that if it’s local demand, sure, there’s plenty of it. But if globally, it may be close to extinction as many people can’t experience the taste of it.

Let’s take Malaysia and the Philippines, for example. Liberica is not that rare in both of these countries. Liberica coffee is well-recognized in the Philippines as well as crucial in Malaysia. Even though Arabica is always the most consumed coffee, Liberica still has a stable position within the Asia Pacific market.

Liberica is associated with the famous “Barako” blend, which is the Philippines’ coffee choice. Until now, it’s still available in the local supermarkets and served in coffee shops across the country. Sometimes, however, it’s exclusively for locals and tourists as it’s not been imported in any considerable quantity to other countries.

The coffee industry in the Philippines tried to save the remaining areas cultivated with Liberica from extinction. Besides, both the government and private sectors have made an effort and achieved a successful improvement in acceptable agricultural practices. This job has led to a burst in the availability of enough beans and steady growth of coffee. Nowadays, the Philippines is one of the few countries that still produce Liberica coffee.

Malaysia also produces a severe amount of Liberica beans. Although it’s not that significant to global bean production, it’s still very important to cultivate this coffee in the country. The major coffee species planted in this nation are Liberica and Robusta. They respectively account for about 73% and 27% of the country’s coffee production, making these their essential varieties of coffees. 

Just like the Philippines, there are also many large Liberica bean producers and in cafes locally. If you want to brew a Liberica coffee yourself, you can easily access it in Malaysia. 

However, sure, that only means that this said coffees still exists and accessible. But even though Liberica is abundantly produced locally, both of the mentioned countries can still experience a serious shortage of Liberica beans.

What Makes Liberica Coffee Hard to Find?

There are a lot of factors that contribute to its rarity.

Look at it as being challenging to cultivate. Supply and demand also devote to it. And of course, its popularity has been taken already by Arabica and Robusta.

Low Production of Beans

If we look to a dipper argument, as highlighted above, Liberica can’t produce significant yields that can sustain the global need for coffee.

The global demand is substantially higher than the local supply. Aside from being grown in a few countries, its global production is only limited to smaller quantities.

So, sometimes people will go through extensive searches to have a taste of it. Others will travel to its origin to also at least engage with it. Unlike Arabica beans, which you can find everywhere, Liberica is rare and hard to find because only very few countries cultivate it. 

High Demand for Arabica Coffee

One of the reasons is because people nowadays don’t really delve into exploring it. Liberica is often mixed with other varieties like Robusta just to be sold in the market, because sometimes even locally, there’s no buyer for it.

If I’m going to ask you to choose between Arabica and Liberica coffee, you would probably aim for better and higher quality, which means you will choose Arabica.

In terms of cup quality and specialty coffee status, Arabica indeed dominates the business. Arabica beans tend to sell at higher prices in the world market, and that’s maybe one reason why many farmers invested heavily in producing them. If they can plant an Arabica coffee and produce a significant amount of it, they would probably focus on it.

Liberica and even Exelsa have almost zero growth. Very few coffee growers have made an effort to cultivate these species, resulting in limited availability of enough beans in the market.

However, some small coffee plantations of Liberica, roasters, and companies have emerged in the coffee industry in today’s market. And with the help of technology, you can easily order their beans online. The challenge, however, is the assurance of quality and traceability.

The Growing Condition for Liberica

Liberica coffee is often defined as a plant of the lowland tropics. We’ve said that this coffee likes to grow at low elevations (up to 600 meters) because Liberica performs better in this kind of environment than Arabica and even Robusta.

But it has several similarities to Robusta at some point. Like for example, they can both tolerate a hotter and harsher climate, where annual daytime temperatures are within the range of 24 – 30°C. It also prefers a 1,600 – 2,400mm of annual rainfall. That means it can still flourish under light shade and on well-drained sandy soils.

Let’s go again to Malaysia. In all of the tropical countries worldwide, the climatic conditions for coffee still haven’t changed. It’s suitable to grow Arabica in highlands, as well as Robusta and Liberica in lowlands. With that being said, that’s one of the reasons why Malaysia produces excellent quantities of Liberica beans while negligible portions of Arabica beans. 

Malaysia targets the cultivation of both Liberica and Robusta due to its optimum growing temperature of 18°C to 30°C. The plants can grow even in full sunlight there. In addition, the geographic condition of the region also plays a significant role, whereas Arabica can only be grown in high elevation areas such as the Cameron Highland in Pahang.

It’s the same situation if you will visit a coffee farm in the Philippines. From the lowland to mountainous regions, almost all of the coffee varieties become suitable in it. But Liberica is grown predominantly in Batangas and Cavite, which are considered lowland provinces.

The Processing Method for Liberica Coffee

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A freshly picked coffee cherry has to undergo any processing method to extract the beans. However, since we already know that a Liberica bean has inconsistent physical properties than a normal one, what processing method is suitable? 

Liberica cherries are the largest amongst the coffee varieties. Sometimes the size also varies. So, if we think of it, can it be processed and handled in a way like Arabica cherries?

According to coffee experts, you can indeed process it in any standard and usual method that you know. A washed or honey-processed Liberica coffee is the best if you want to target the specialty coffee market. 

Washed processed beans tend to produce a more classic, floral, and chocolaty flavor. Naturally processed Liberica offers a fruitier flavor; as they say, it tastes like jackfruit. 

The only thing that needs necessary adjustment is the equipment since Liberica coffee has the most prominent cherry in size, mass, and density. Due to the popularity and more significant demand of both Arabica and Robusta, most commercial processing types of machinery have standard sizes that suit either Arabica or Robusta.

Therefore, although these inconsistencies do not directly determine the beans’ quality, it may still affect the final flavor if harvesting and processing are not suitable and adequately handled. Having that said, it’s essential to design a coffee processing system and machinery that possesses physical attributes that are convenient to Liberica.

FAQs

Q1. Where Can you Find or Buy Liberica Coffee?

As highlighted in the discussion above, geographically speaking, you can find it mostly in Southeast Asia. Particularly in the Philippines, Malaysia, and even Indonesia. 

If you want to buy Liberica beans, there seems to be reliable places that offer some Liberica for sale, thanks to the internet. However, because Liberica beans are only limited to some counties, it’s still best to obtain them from local producers to ensure quality, authenticity, traceability, and freshness. 

Tip: I will mention it again. Find it locally, from website to online store to retailers. Lazada is the largest and popular online market place across Southeast Asia. You can find it there.

Q2. Is Liberica Coffee Good?

Of course, the cupping notes offer a range of flavors. If you’re not fun of exploring different coffee tastes, you may find it a little bit different from the ones you recognized frequently. But one thing that defines the flavor of Liberica coffee that stands out from any other is its fruitiness.

Again, as mentioned, the taste is a personal preference. Experiencing an unpleasant aroma or gaining interest in Liberica coffee doesn’t define its entire characteristics. Maybe it’s terrible for you, but it’s good for me.

Q3. What Kind of Coffee is Kapeng Barako?

“Kapeng Barako” is just a variation of the Liberica species, a popular coffee choice in the Philippines. The word “kape” means coffee, whereas the term “Barako” is a tough local word for a male stud bull, reflecting masculinity’s image. Therefore, if you hear the phrase “kapeng barako,” you will think that the taste is associated in a strong coffee with earthy flavor. 

Q4. Is Liberica Coffee Cheap?

The prices of coffee beans vary from different factors. Mostly in how the beans are processed and handled, which is sometimes very costly. If you find some expensive Liberica coffees, the beans were probably sorted and prepared to produce zero defects. If it’s labor-intensive, the cost is higher, and then the price is also higher.

But sure, in terms of cup quality, it’s much cheaper compared to Arabica beans. However, it’s a little bit expensive than Robusta.

Q5. Does Liberica has Less Caffeine?

Since Liberica coffee has a robust taste and flavor, it has more caffeine content. It’s also resistant to pests and diseases and can tolerate a hotter environment compared to Arabica. Like Robusta that has a high amount of caffeine, Liberica also has a high amount of it to become more receptive to a harsher climate.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for something exclusive and rare experience about coffee, you should delve into Liberica. However, Liberica is not the only one that you need to discover. 

Imagine if you’ve explored all the types of coffee beans available, whether directly from the origin or blended from your roaster, you’re indeed getting the best coffee beans possible. Also, you’re not missing yourself out on some delicious coffees that you haven’t tasted before.

Like this article? You might also like: Introduction to the Coffee Plant (Everything You Need to Know)