Liberica coffee, a lesser known coffee bean type, didn’t originate in the Philippines but from Liberia, West Africa.
Yes, Coffea Liberica is a species of coffee that originated in West Africa and was just just brought to the Philippines in the 1800s.
This coffee isn’t as popular as what we see in our everyday coffee as it only accounts for 1% of the total supply of coffee in the world. Why? Simply because its demand for its flavour characteristics are quite low when compared with Arabica and Robusta.
On average the Liberica coffee tree reaches 10 to 15 feet in height but can grow as high as 20 feet. It is a strong tree that has leaves that look and feel leathery compared with other coffee trees and they’re also larger than most.
They also cannot grow in areas where the temperature drops below 32F for any length of time. The optimum temperature to grow Liberica is around 65-80F.
The coffee beans are often larger than the Arabicas and the Robustas and it also has a tougher skin, which makes it difficult to market.
Countries that produce Liberica
As of now, Malaysia is the leading producer of Coffea Liberica while there are some who plant this in the Ivory Coast. West Africa, where it originated, still produces this coffee bean type while the previous leader, the Philippines, has also been planting and produces a variety called Barako Coffee or Kapeng Barako. The trees can also be found in Vietnam and Indonesia.
How it Tastes
It is often noted that the Liberica Coffee has a mild and nutty taste but Kapeng Barako, considered to be the best among Liberica species, from the Philippines has a more the mild to strong taste. It is often used as part of a blend because it complements Coffea Robusta nicely. As part of a blend, Liberica Coffee tastes really good!
Related: Have you tried the very expensive Civet Coffee?
How the Barako Coffee / Coffea Liberica is saving the Philippine coffee industry
Coffee in the Philippines started when the Spaniards brought the Liberica coffee centuries ago when the country was still under its colony.
With a very ideal climate to produce coffee, the country became the 4th largest producer of coffee in the world until the “coffee rust” almost swept out the entire coffee industry in the Philippines.
Survival from the coffee rust of other coffee countries like Vietnam and Indonesia further pushed the country down.
Today, there are efforts in the Philippines, specifically in the areas of Batangas and Cavite, to revive the once thriving industry and help regain its status as one of the best coffee producing countries.
The Figaro Foundation has been at the forefront of many coffee planting activities and awareness programs. There is also the Philippine Coffee Board who helps the coffee industry by promoting the Philippine coffee month (October) by having events sponsored by local coffee shops that promote Liberica Coffee / Kapeng Barako.
Not only has the Kapeng Barako led to the revival of the industry but ultimately it has led to more jobs for the Filipinos.
The Philippines is banking on its Barako Coffee, which is said to have a superior taste compared with Robusta. This will be a long process as the trees don’t produce for two years and most farmers have been discouraged because of this.
Only time will tell whether the Philippines’ coffee industry can rise up and become a major coffee player. So far all things have been headed in the right direction and have been positive and we all hope that one day everyone will have a taste of Kapeng Barako.