If you have a browse of our coffee shelves, you’ll see lots of evocative varieties like Red Bourbon, Catuaí, Caturra, and of course Geisha. Not all varieties are blessed with such tasty sounding names, but that doesn’t mean they’re not delicious! Take 74110 for example – it may sound like a postcode, but it’s actually an exciting variety from Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is the birthplace of wild Arabica coffee (Coffea Arabica), and it has a long and complex history when it comes to the different sub-species, or varieties of Arabica. Initially, coffee was harvested from wild trees, rather than plantations, and coffees were classified either by their region, or in some cases by the “mother tree” from which their seeds stemmed. Growing in the wild, there was free cross-pollination, meaning a strict delineation of varieties was simply impossible. This is why, even to this day, a lot of Ethiopian coffees are simply referred to as “Heirloom varieties”. This genetic abundance – the highest in the world – lends Ethiopian coffees their diversity and complexity.
There has been some work to better catalogue the different varieties in Ethiopia. In the 1960s, a coffee berry disease spread across Ethiopia, causing devastating losses for farmers who saw their yields slashed. This prompted the government to set up the Jimma Agricultural Research Centre (JARC), which began working on cataloguing the different varieties in Ethiopia and their traits, so that farmers could better plan what to plant.
In the 1970s, JARC undertook research on resilience and one variety – 74110 – was selected from a mother tree in the village of Bishari, located in Illubabor in the west of Ethiopia. The name refers to 1974, the year it was catalogued, and it displays resistance to coffee berry disease and a good yield.
Generally, disease resistant, high yield crops, while attractive from an agricultural point of view, suffer from a lower cup quality, and therefore attract a lower price. This is where 74110 is special. Not only is it a reliable, plentiful crop to plant, but it enjoys excellent cupping scores. Our Cup of Excellence lot of 74110 this year is a fantastic example of this, exhibiting notes of raspberry, red currants and blood orange.