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Your guide to Peaberry Coffee
In pursuit of the perfect coffee, connoisseurs will hail peaberry as the cream of the crop; the best of all beans. But just what is it? Most people know a thing or two about coffee: we all have our favourite and are familiar with the Robusta and Arabica bean. But peaberry coffee is a bit of an unknown. Where does it come from, what does it taste like?
What is Peaberry Coffee?
Strictly speaking, coffee beans aren't beans at all; they are seeds of the coffee cherry. This bright red or yellow fruit grows in trees or bushes and in most cases the fruit has a skin which encases a pulpy core. Inside this, there are two seeds which grow flat together, like the two halves of a peanut.
But in the case of the peaberry, a natural genetic mutation means the coffee cherry produces a single bean rather than two. They are smaller than standard coffee beans - hence the prefix "pea" - and are considered by some people to produce a superior cup of coffee with a distinctive aroma and complex flavour.
Among Latin American farmers, peaberry coffee beans are known as caracol or caracolillos (snail or little snails in Spanish), because of their shape, which is more rounded than usual coffee beans. Fans of the peaberry bean maintain that it contains more nutrients, and, after roast, it offers a superior cup of coffee. Several roasters believe that the rounder berry shape of these beans means they can be heated more efficiently, rolling around more easily in roasting drums, which results in a consistent finish.
It may come as a surprise to find that the peaberry coffee bean is not that rare: about 5-8% of a crop can take this form of natural mutation. But because only a minority of farmers have the facilities to separate the peaberry beans from the rest of the crop, they will often be sold along with "normal" beans. Sometimes growers will pick out the peaberries by hand or by using a sieve, so they can be processed and their products sold separately. The larger estates use machinery to filter the mutant berries out from the rest.
When they go on sale, coffees from the peaberry seed attract a premium, not simply because the beans are rarer and offer a unique flavour, but because the whole process is more labour-intensive. This is a speciality brew, one that is ideal if you want to try something with a difference.
What types of peaberry coffee are there?
Peaberry coffee products tend to come from the countries with the largest and most well-established growing traditions, such as Tanzania, Kenya and Brazil, while the Hawaiian peaberry coffee (Kauai Coffee) is making an entry into this lucrative market. You may also find Costa Rican peaberry coffee or even options from Papua New Guinea and Colombia but these are not as popular.
Tanzania peaberry coffee is rapidly becoming one of the most popular types. Coffee, Tanzania's biggest export crop, is grown chiefly on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Maru. Small fincas or farms are responsible for the largest share of the crop, although there are a few large estates. Peaberries here are cultivated at between 4,000 and 6,000 ft above sea level and in general, Tanzanian coffee sits at the high-quality end of the market and its peaberries add a little extra finesse.
The Kenyan peaberry coffee beans find their way to a roaster near you from the coffee cherries in the Nyeri highlands. Kenya produces about 50,000 metric tons of coffee annually, and coffee cultivation covers about 160,000 hectares on the sides of Mount Kenya and Mount Elgon, in a well-drained and loamy soil. Grown at high altitude, roasting peaberry coffee beans from this region will give you a rich, earthy and fruity flavour with a distinct aroma.
Hawaii has started to increase its peaberry production and shipping in response to the growing demand for the valuable little seed. Coffee from the country's volcanic and richly fertile islands is known as Kona, and local connoisseurs claim the peaberry beans make the "champagne" of Kona. Only the mutated Arabica beans grown on Hualalai and Mauna Loa's hills on the Big Island can truly be called Kona peaberry coffee. Growers claim these beans make one of the world's best coffees.
Brazil is by far the world's biggest producer of coffee, supplying 60 million 60-kilo bags a year. Only about 5% of the coffee crop is peaberry beans, grown mainly in the state of Minas Gerais in the southeast of the country. While Brazilian coffee, from the Arabica and Robusta beans, is plentiful, it doesn't have a great reputation for quality. Brazilian peaberry is different: those who purchase this blend have no hesitation in giving it five stars.
What does Peaberry coffee taste like?
Fans of peaberry coffees - and they are growing in number - say it adds a sweeter, lighter and slightly fruitier note to its twin-bean equivalent. Overall, the flavour depends on the origin of the beans. Brazilian flavouring is caramel, nutty and creamy, while the "magic little beans" add citrusy notes. Tanzania peaberry coffee beans have a medium body, nice acidity and a rich, chocolatey flavour with hints of citrus and currant. Kenyan coffee has a reputation for high quality and rich feel and the peaberry tops it off with a little citrus acidity. Going for the Hawaiian Kona peaberry coffee results in a roast that is fairly intense with a hint of bitterness and spice.
Our Peaberry coffee
At Coffee Direct we’re proud to offer a high-quality Kenyan Peaberry coffee. This is smooth with an intense flavour and fine acidity, coupled with a well-rounded aroma and fruity notes. It is produced from coffee beans grown in the Nyeri region and is suitable for a cafetière or filter machine.
Need a peaberry coffee review or two to convince you to give it a try? Here's what our recent customers have been saying:
“It’s a triumph - have read they are unsuitable for a bean to cup machine but they are most definitely suitable and make a cracking smooth espresso."
Rhys B. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Family favourite. Nice roast, beautiful taste. Grinds perfectly for a champion brew.”
Neil H. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
"Peabody perfection. Exquisitely fruity and tasty, The Peabody has a slightly unique taste which I haven't experienced before. But the roast was perfect. And I really enjoy my cup of coffee."
Daniel B. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
"Flavoursome Kenyan coffee. Well rounded and carefully roasted. Nice aroma and acidity, slightly fruity."
Alan H. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
What is peaberry coffee?
Peaberry coffee is a result of a coffee cherry producing one bean, instead of the usual two. While regular coffee beans come in pairs and are relatively flat, a peaberry coffee bean is singular, and quite round. This is a naturally occurring genetic mutation that affects about 5% of coffee beans in most varietals. Due to its rarity, the complex process involved in producing the coffee and the highly rated flavours, Peaberry coffee has a relatively high price tag.
Does peaberry coffee have more caffeine?
While some peaberry coffees may taste stronger and sweeter than a ‘regular’ coffee equivalent, they do not have more caffeine.
Peaberries can come from Robusta or Arabica beans, so choosing a Robusta origin will give you more caffeine if you want the extra kick. However peaberries are also available in a decaffeinated form, or as a French roast, which has a lower caffeine content.
Is peaberry coffee less acidic?
Peaberry coffee is known for having a high acidity, although the exact levels will be determined by the origin, type of bean and processing method. It is important to note that the flavours and smoothness of peaberry coffee will vary from brand to brand, so don’t assume they will all taste the same.
Not sure which size bag you need? See How Many Cups each size provides.