Bourbon fruit clumping form, at San Martin Jilotepeque, Guatemala
Bourbon clumps at San Martin Jilotepeque - The classic form, with distinct nodes for fruit bearing along the branch. San Martin Jilotepeque, Guatemala.

Along with Typica, Boubon is a primary arabica cultivar worldwide. Bourbon was planted by the French on the island of Bourbon, now Reunion, in the Indian Ocean near Africa. (Bourbon (in coffee generally pronounced “boar-bone”, not “burr-bun” ) and Typica, are main Coffea Arabica cultivars globally).

The seeds were sold to the French by the British East India Company from Aden, Yemen, and were planted in 1708. After generations, it began to express unique characteristics and became more adapted to the environment there.

Bourbon has slightly higher yields and is more resilient than Typica in general, but both are far below modern hybrids in this regard. It has a broader leaf and rounder cherry (and green bean) than Typica, a conical tree form, and erect branches. I have noted the clumping coffee cherry along the branches on Bourbon trees, because of the way the flowering nodes are grouped on the secondary branches.

It has many local variants and sub-types, including Tekisic, Jackson, Arusha, and the Kenya SL types.

In general, Bourbon can have excellent cup character. It has a classic balanced cup, well-integrated acidity, and can develop good bittersweet roast taste. It can be my favorite for single-origin espresso.

The cherry ripens quickly, sometimes sooner than other varieties on a farm that has a mixed crop, but is at risk from wind and hard rain. It is susceptible to major coffee diseases. Bourbon grows best at altitudes between 1100 – 2000 MASL.

Bourbon coffees should have green tips (new leaves) whereas Typicas should have bronze-to-copper tips. (But I have seen Bourbon trees with bronze new leaves too.)

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