Late last month, World Coffee Research released a new catalog of Central American coffee varieties at Re:co Dublin. The catalog, titled Coffee Varieties of Mesoamerica and the Caribbean, seeks to connect coffee farmers with better information about what varieties are available to them, the differences between them, and how they perform across a range of metrics.
WCR took on this project in the wake of the 2012 coffee leaf rust crisis, which affected nearly 600,000 acres of Central American coffee farmland. Nearly 300,000 farmers need to replant coffee because of it, but the farmers also need to make informed decisions about the plants they’ll use to rebuild their businesses. Trying to choose a plant without proper knowledge is extremely problematic, especially in light of challenges like the rust epidemic—farmers lack the tools to know whether a plant is resistant to rust, what its quality potential is, and if it’s adapted for their local altitude. Unlike other cash crops, this is a choice that can stick with farmers for decades. Recognizing the lack of quality information available to farmers in Central America, WCR began building a catalog of information to disseminate to farmers to help them choose.
The catalog includes thirty-four of the most common and most important varieties in the region. For each variety, information is included about the plant’s history, genetic description and parentage, yield potential, and susceptibility to disease. Details are included about the plant’s stature, bean size, leaf-tip color, nutritional requirements, growing density, and other characteristics. Icons and color scales simplify comparisons across varietals, making the catalog accessible and easy to use.
A print version of the catalog in Spanish will be distributed throughout Central American countries to técnicos, nursery managers, and others, with a total distribution of about 10,000. An electronic version, both in English and in Spanish, will be available as a PDF on the WCR website.
Coffee Varieties of Mesoamerica and the Caribbean brings urgently needed information to coffee farmers to help them decide which coffee is best for their situation. Making good planting decisions decreases risk of disease or pests, while improving the chances that the resulting cup will be the highest possible quality. The catalog equips farmers with information to best provide for future generations.
An interactive website accompanies the catalog, allowing users to browse varieties, or set filters to quickly find a variety that matches their needs. Each variety is presented on a clickable card that details the same information presented in the catalog. Users can filter varieties by specific altitude, quality potential at high altitudes, stature, and susceptibility to leaf rust. (WCR recruited Oof design studio to make the catalog user-friendly.)
The PDF version of the catalog is available for free download through the WCR website. It has been released under a creative commons license to encourage widespread use and dissemination. Any importers, roasters, non-governmental organizations, or other groups working with farmers are encouraged to download and distribute the catalog.
—Ellie Bradley is Fresh Cup‘s associate editor.