Hawaiian Pink Bourbon!

Winner of the 2013 Hawaii Statewide Cupping Competition: Puna Pink Bourbon

Wild Coffee Lovers Club letter  | October 2015


The majority of the world’s specialty coffee comes from two lineages of Coffea Arabica: Typica and Bourbon (no, not the adult beverage, though just as delicious; pronounced boar-bone). You could call these two the granddaddies of commercial Arabica.

Both originated in Yemen, and both were carried by enthusiasts to different regions of the world where they were propagated and culled for preferential traits, eventually adapting to the landscape. Bourbon - your coffee of the month - landed on Bourbon Island, where it was “discovered” and named in the 18th century. It’s since evolved and/or mutated into dozens of cultivars you may recognize, many of which we grow: Caturra, Pacas, Villa Sarchi, Yellow Bourbon, Orange Bourbon, etc. Typica’s history is a similar story: it traveled around the globe, carried by different enthusiasts and evolving concomitant with the cultural preferences and landscape into names you certainly know, like Kona Typica and Jamaican Blue Mountain.

Being that you’re in our coffee club, we're deducing you’re more sophisticated than the average coffee drinker and you already understand that morphological differences aside, varietals have a big impact on the cup profile. In a side-by-side comparison with var Typica, you’ll find that Bourbons often have heavier, richer flavors - like dark chocolate and dark fruit - and more complex acidity (think red wine). As such, they often enjoy what’s known as the “Bourbon Advantage” in cupping competitions, meaning that all other things being equal, they often do better in competitions. Case in point: this Puna Bourbon became the single varietal that won the 2013 Statewide Grand Championship here in Hawai’i.

Typica, a tall, conical, Christmas-tree-shaped cultivar tends to have a clean sweetness, often a lighter body, and with various floral notes, sometimes wood; depending on the landscape and practices of the farmer, they can taste “cherried”, and are usually caramelly. As a general practice, but not a rule, I find that Typica’s are best served black. They also grow terribly in Puna. Perhaps it’s the volcanic pahoehoe landscape or the occasional deluge of rain, but we’ve noted that Puna Typica attracts insects, produces little, and persistently appears to be suffering. We’ve decided to leave the Typica to grow in Kona & Ka'u.


Each year before sending our Bourbon crop to coffee club members, we blindly cup, slurp and describe each coffee without knowledge of how we’ve cupped and described it years prior. And each year these remarkable coffee cups with straight-forward cupping notes nearly mimicking the year before: walnut, pecan, red wine, dark chocolate, black tea, green apple, etc. As we look back on the cupping notes submitted by judges on the year this Bourbon won the cupping competition, the notes are similar if not spot-on: walnut, red wine, chocolate, green melon, etc.

Please enjoy and, as always, we love to hear your feedback.

Cheers and Aloha,
Big Island Coffee Roasters

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