Typica coffee is one of the most genetically important varieties of Coffea arabica, and the journey it has taken through time and across oceans makes it one of the most fascinating as well. The history of coffee as we know it, drink it, and love it today is a blend of myths, legends, and cultures. With documentation of coffee drinking dating back to at least the 15th century and historical narratives dating back even further, Typica is one of the most common varieties of coffee plants cultivated for consumption around the world and at the Kauai Coffee Estate today.
Take a historical and informational journey with us as we explore the origins of the Typica variety and find out why drinking Typica from Kauai Coffee is anything but ordinary.
What is Typica Coffee?
Before we dive into the history of Typica, it’s essential to understand a few key botanical terms.
Genus: Coffea is the botanical genus of the coffee plant. If it has been a while since your last biology class, all living things can be classified using a scientific ranking system known as taxonomy. Genus is a rank within this system. Other taxonomic rankings include Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.
Species: Arabica is a species of coffee. While there are more than 100 known species of coffee, only two, arabica and robusta, are widely grown for commercial consumption. All of the coffee varieties grown at Kauai Coffee are Arabica.
Variety: Typica is a variety of arabica coffee. Varieties are unique subspecies that occur in nature through hybridization or mutation over time. Cultivar is another term you may hear used interchangeably with variety; however, they are slightly different. A cultivar is a subspecies created by human intervention.
An Origin of Myth and Legend
Ask any two historians how coffee became the global beverage it is today, and you’re likely to get several different origin stories because the discovery of coffee is significant in Ethiopian and Yemeni culture. Several stories and legends surround the first use of coffee as a source of energy and drink in both. Even so, undomesticated coffee is native to Ethiopia, and many of the ancient historical narratives from both places point to the region as the indigenous home of the coffee we cultivate and drink today.
One of the earliest Ethiopian legends about the discovery of coffee didn’t appear in writing until the 1600’s but details the story of Kaldi, a goat herder who lived in the Kingdom of Kaffa in the 9th century. One day while herding his goats, Kaldi noticed an unusual amount of energy and noise coming from his herd. He realized they had been eating bright red berries from a group of small shrubs and decided to try the fruit. Not long after tasting the beans, he felt the energizing effects of caffeine for himself. Upon his discovery, Kaldi pocketed some fruit and took it home to share with his wife and with monks at the monastery.
Several early Yemeni stories share similarities with the legend of Kaldi and include tales of mystics traveling in Ethiopia who happened upon energetic birds eating the unusual fruit. Like Kaldi, the spiritual travelers ate the coffee cherries and felt the characteristic buzz of caffeine. Other accounts link the discovery of coffee in Yemen to a Sheik exiled from Mocha who discovered coffee while on the verge of starvation.
The first historical record of coffee consumption and trade comes from the Sufi Monasteries of Yemen during the 15th century. Merchants exported coffee beans from Ethiopia to Yemen, and the Sufis used them in a beverage that helped improve concentration and focus during prayer. From there, it didn’t take long for the use and cultivation of coffee to spread through the Middle East and Asia.
Typical Coffee, Extraordinary Journey
Typica is a Latin-derived word meaning typical or ordinary. It is the first word used to describe the variety of coffee plants exported from Ethiopia to Yemen, which eventually made their way around the Middle East, Asia, and to the new world via Malta, England, and France in the 16th century.
What is remarkable about Typica is its old-world origin and worldwide cultivation today. Because the Typica variety has been cultivated for so long, it tends to take on new names based on the region it is grown in today, and that is how our worldwide Typica journey finally heads to Hawaii.
Coffee comes to Hawaii
Coffee’s journey to Hawaii is full of twists, turns, and characters worthy of a Hollywood screenplay, but to keep our Typica train moving, we’ll jump to 1825 when Chief Boki, the Royal Governor of Oahu returned from a diplomatic mission to England and Brazil with coffee seedlings. As you may have guessed, these seedlings were of the Typica variety.
Chief Boki planted the first coffee orchard in the Manoa Valley the same year, and in 1828, missionary Samuel Ruggles took cuttings of the Manoa plants and began to grow them in the Kona region of the Big Island. Commercial coffee production was slow to start in Kona even though it is the most famous growing region in the Hawaiian Islands today. Can you guess which island hosted the first commercial coffee growing operations? If you said Kauai, you’re correct!
To this day, Typica is grown throughout Hawaii and goes by many names, including Kona Coffee and Kauai Coffee. Other Typica derived coffees you may be familiar with include Blue Mountain, Sumatra, and Guatemala. Crosses of Typica with the Bourbon variety include Acaia, Mundo Novo, and Catuai, which are all varieties of coffee grown at Kauai Coffee!
Try Typica, Taste History
By now you can see that Typica may be common, but it is far from ordinary. When you drink the Typica variety, or others crossed with it, you are drinking coffee history. You are sipping a legendary beverage with ancient origins, and global reach. You are tasting an extraordinary journey through time, across oceans, and grown from Hawaiian soil. Try these 100% Kauai Coffee Typica and Typica-Bourbon derived varieties today.
- Typica Dark Roast: Flavorful well-balanced coffee with a hint of tartness. Medium Roast: weet-toned with delicately complex flavor, influenced by lingering hints of sweet berry. An enjoyably subtle presentation – each cup reveals a delicate symphony of flavors. It finishes with a hint of ripe berries.
- Sun Dried Typica: Sun dried, handpicked Typica varietal. A complex cup of coffee. Elegant yet delicate with deep floral, richly sweet in structure. Fully satiny, flavor-saturated. Notes of cherry, cocoa nibs, spice, clove, pepper, nut, berry, coffee blossom, orange zest, and tea rose.
- Kauai Blue Mountain: A unique, well-balanced coffee with a malty flavor and fruity notes. The ultimate expression of Island coffee – smooth, mild, and subtle with a pleasantly bright aftertaste. Learn more about Kauai Blue Mountain Coffee here.
- Kauai Blue Mountain Peaberry: A round aroma complements gentle hints of fruit.
- Acaia: New Varietal in 2017. Acaia features a smooth, frothy cup with flavor attributes of milk chocolate, mocha and caramel notes. The finish is bright and sweet.
- Acaia Peaberry: Smooth, frothy cup with flavor attributes of milk chocolate, mocha, and caramel notes. The finish is bright and sweet.
- Mundo Novo: Medium-bodied with a crisp, woody, bold flavor and nutty undertones. A rousing cup of coffee – it boasts an expansive flavor profile and a pleasant finish.
- Mundo Novo Peaberry: Sweet finish with a medium body.
- Sun Dried Mundo Novo: Fermented & sun dried. Delicately floral with hints of coffee blossom, honey, and orange zest, finishing with undertones of chocolate and caramel.
- Red Catuai: A mild to medium-bodied coffee, touched by a smooth, sweet finish with a hint of cardamom.