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Liberica and Excelsa: The Coffee Beans

Posted by Meera Nair on

By chance or otherwise, conversations pertaining to coffee tend to be peppered with mentions of only arabica and robusta.

Yes, they are two of the most widely used coffee beans. But by no means do they encompass the diversity of all the coffee plants that can be found in different regions of the globe.

You may find it difficult to comprehend why this is important, considering the cultural significance of coffee and the lack of exposure that the other coffee beans get. 

Even sources suggest that around 75% of coffee consumed in the world is brewed from arabica beans, and almost 20% of the rest is made up of robusta coffee.

What then of the other coffee variants?

How do they differ from these category-dominating varieties, and why don’t they enjoy a fair share of the popularity?



The history of how liberica entered the coffee market is one filled with twists and turns.

When, in the 19th century, coffee rust destroyed massive stores of arabica coffee across the world, cultivators turned to liberica for replenishing their coffee supply.

Liberica coffee beans roasted

But once the trouble had been abated, arabica once again dominated the market, and liberica took the backseat, from where it has held an almost negligible presence over the decades.

Originated in West Africa, the Coffea liberica plant is also grown in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia today.

Its beans are larger in size when compared to arabica and robusta. With an irregular shape that bears no implication on its taste, the beans almost have a rustic appearance.

Coffee brewed from liberica beans is said to have an earthy, smoky taste that is preceded by its floral-fruity aroma. If you enjoy coffees that have a kick of spice and resemble the flavour of chocolate in some ways, you just might enjoy liberica coffee.



A true rarity, excelsa is said to account for only 7% of the coffee distributed in the world.

First found and grown in Africa, Coffea excelsa is a plant that produces these almond-shaped coffee beans.

Now also cultivated in a few parts of the Asian continent, such as the Philippines, India, and Vietnam. The beans are grown on tall trees that sometimes grow up to 30 feet in length. 

coffee varieties

Compared to arabica and robusta, excelsa coffee is quite low in caffeine. It has a fruity flavour with a punch of tartness that lends a unique taste to the beverage.

Although in the early 2000s, excelsa came to be reclassified as a variant of Liberica coffee, several coffee enthusiasts still refuse to accept that because of its distinctiveness. Apart from its taste, one of the key differences between the two is the shape of the beans. Excelsa coffee beans are more rounder in shape.

There isn’t much commercial weightage on the production and distribution of these two coffee types.

Firstly because the production costs are comparatively higher, and also because there isn’t much awareness or acceptance of these coffees.

Liberica and excelsa tend to be used sometimes as part of coffee blends because of the intricate flavour. Only if the demand for these coffee beans/ grounds increases do they stand a chance to tip the scales in the coffee market.

We hope this blog has been insightful to you.

If you’ve ever had the chance to relish coffee made of either of these two types, do share your thoughts in the comments.

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