With the release of our first Ethiosar varietal - Placeres Matazano Tablon - Joshua writes about varietal challenges and how Ethiosar represents the future of the coffee growing industry.
Written by Joshua Tarlo, Head of Coffee at Origin
The risk of proliferation of specific varietals
One of the biggest challenges in the world of coffee is the proliferation of specific varietals. When you drink a Colombian coffee more often than not you are drinking a Caturra, Castillio or the Colombia varietals. These varietals all have their merits, it may be taste or yields or disease resistance. This does mean though that thousands of farmers in Colombia are growing the same varietals of coffee having them exposed to millions of specimens of different diseases and funguses which leads to a higher possibility of mutations that may be better equipped in attack the coffee plant. With so many people growing the same species of coffee if something mutates it can easily spread and destroy scores of farms and devastate a nation’s entire industry.
Colombia is not the only country at risk. Having a dominant coffee species in any given country is quite common and is fostering a rush for coffee producing countries to research and develop new varietals with their own strengths so that coffee growing diversifies and protects itself from the possibility of a plague like those seen at the beginning of the century. Ethiosar is an example of this look towards creating new varietals.
The Ethiosar varietal
Ethiosar is a hybrid of the Ethiopian varietal Rume Sudan and Sarchimor. Those varietals are themselves hybrids. Rume Sudan is a Typica mutation out of Ethiopia. Sarchimor is a hybrid of Villa Sarchi, a natural dwarf mutation of Bourbon and Timor which is a cross between Robusta and Arabica species. This complex heritage means that there is a lot of genetic diversity in its makeup to offer not only disease resistance and yields but a vibrant cup profile.
Travels in Nicaragua. Sourcing the Placeres (Matazano Tablon) Ethiosar
Producing our Ethiosar is the Mierisch family in Nicaragua. Sitting in the back of a truck climbing up the side of a mountain in Nicaragua’s northern department Erwin Mierisch Sr. turned to me and asked what I scored the hybrid. 87 I told him. He smiled. Eleane, his daughter smiled.
“He likes that one.” Said Eleane.
“Why?” I asked
“It grows a lot of coffee and it doesn’t get sick, it’s easier.” Erwin said.
The natural processed Ethiosar was grown on the Placares farm in the Matazano tablon. Tasting the coffee it was the vibrant sweetness, lime and melon that really made it special. Those notes are common in the some of the finer Ethiopian coffees. Ethiopia, as the birthplace of coffee is the home of the biggest genetic diversity of the genus. Although Ethiopia protects its diversity through banning any act of taking coffee seeds out of the country there is work in such places as the nation’s Jimma research institute to develop new varietals.
Varietal research institutes
Research institutes like the one in Jimma are all over the coffee growing world. SL-28 and SL-34 carry the name of their birth place, Kenya’s Scott Labratories. These research farms are fascinating places. We’ve toured different research farms in Colombia, Brazil, Kenya and El Salvador and have seen incredibly cared for plants, with massive variation in look and production. They are all hunting for the varietals that will help protect the future of the industry. When these potential successful varietals are found they are released to see how they fare in the world. We believe supporting lesser known varietals is an imperative to ensure that there is a future in our industry. From the Ethiosar to the Javanica, the potential for new flavours and experiences in coffee is almost endless and we are always excited to taste and share something new.
"We believe supporting lesser known varietals is an imperative to ensure that there is a future in our industry." Joshua Tarlo, Head of Coffee at Origin