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If you have your thumb on the pulse of coffee trends, chances are you have come across mentions of Peaberry Coffee. Or, perhaps you’ve simply seen it on recommendation lists or during your regular coffee browsing. Either way, with the amount of competing information available, it can be hard to determine what exactly is up with these “special” coffee beans.
Some people are claiming these beans are of the best variety you’ll ever encounter. According to these proponents, once you try them, your whole perception of coffee will shift, and you’ll be shelling out the extra $10-15 a pound without batting an eye.
On the other hand, more skeptical and jaded coffee fans are claiming that the whole peaberry industry is a hoax. This perspective maintains that you will taste little to no difference despite the premium prices you are paying for unnecessary sorting and exclusive roasting.
So where’s the truth between these extremes? And if you want to try for yourself, what should you be buying? That’s what we are here to find out. Read on to join us on the investigative journey and get to the bottom of the mysterious Peaberry Coffee.
What is Peaberry Coffee?
So, first off you need to know how coffee normally grows. Typically, coffee beans form in pair inside of the cherries of a coffee plant. That means each bean has a flat side and a rounded side as the two are pressed together at the center of the fruit. This formation is called a flat berry. However, that name isn’t typically used as it is form that the vast majority of coffee beans take.
But what about the other beans? About 5% of coffee beans have an abnormality that causes a peaberry to form instead of two flat berry. In this case, only one of the two seeds is fertilized, allowing it to form unhindered by the other. This creates an oval or “pea” shaped bean.
As a result of their unique formation, Peaberries are smaller and denser than their flattened cousins.
What Makes it Special?
One of the main reasons Peaberries began to be separated from other batches in the first place was because they roast differently. Their round shape and increased density means if they are roasted in the same batches as the flat berries, they’ll likely contribute to an uneven flavor profile.
When roasted on their own, peaberries reportedly roast more evenly because they are round. This shape allows them to roll about the roasting chamber with ease without getting caught by their edges or a flat surface. Additionally, the higher density supposedly improves heat transfer and roast quality.
The main factor that separates peaberries from other coffee beans is the fact that they’re are hand-picked form the batch. This selection process allows harvesters to throw out sub-par beans and keep only the best to go on to drying and roasting.
There are a few things that come as a result of this sorting process. First, 100% peaberry blends do in fact have a slightly different flavor profile than even the beans from the same tree. (More on that later). Secondly, and more importantly, this is the extra labor that ends up hiking up the cost of the beans in the long run.
The selective, hand-sorting combined with the separate roasting ultimately leads to a significant increase in price. Read below to find out if we think that cost increase is worth it.
We can’t deny that there is some taste variation between peaberry and flat berry blends. However, there is nothing to indicate that this variation tends towards any specific or consistent flavor profile. Other than vague assertions of lighter bodied brews with brighter or more intense tastes, there really aren’t any particularly notable or concrete trends.
What DOES affect the taste of your coffee are things like origin, climate, bean type, freshness, and brew method. So if you find you have a preference already, we suggest trying the peaberry variety (if it’s available) if you’re wanting to test it out yourself–more on that front below.
Best Peaberry Coffee
We know you are probably looking to try Peaberries yourself to determine if they are really worth the hype and money. So we’ve compiled a list of peaberry coffees from a variety of sources so you can choose one that aligns the most with your personal taste. After all, most of these are a pretty hefty investment, so we want to make sure you’re getting the good stuff.
Here’s a super simplified regional coffee guide to use as a rule of thumb if you’re unsure of what your tastes line up with:
If you’re looking for a fruity light roast, look towards African beans. For a medium roast, you’ll be looking at South or Central American blends. The former will have a more classic vibe while the latter presents the option for a more balanced cup. Dark roasts with bold flavor profiles vary seasonally, so you may have to hop around a bit to keep up your quality.
Tanzanian Peaberry by Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC
Our first Tanzanian coffee is a light roast with notes of lemon, peach, and black tea. Thanks to the light roast (and possibly magical peaberry properties) this brews a very clean, crisp cup. It’s harvested in Moshi from Mount Kilimanjaro.
This option has a pleasant, mild body and uses 100% Arabica beans, which is one indicator of a good batch. The company itself claims to have sustainable sourcing and low-carbon emission roasting processes.
Tanzanian Peaberry by Stone Street Coffee Company
This is another 100% Arabica option. It has a lighter acidity than other Kenyan coffee and boasts a smooth, full body with a rich flavor. Again, this will brew a nice clean and crisp cup thanks to the light roast.
Stone Street is a Micro-Roasterie in Brooklyn that has been roasting and selling coffee since 2009. Because they roast install batches with quality beans, you can count on receiving high quality beans.
Tanzanian Peaberry by Volcanica
Volcanica is one of our most frequently mentioned brands, so you know they’re putting out some high quality stuff. Of their Peaberry selection their Tanzanian is one of the fan favorites
Harvested from Mount Kilimanjaro this brew has a rich body, intense flavor and acidity. You may also detect some subtle winy overtones in the aroma. It’s also the only medium roast Tanzanian coffee here.
However, if that doesn’t strike your fancy, or you a fan of a different regional profile, Volcanica also offers peaberries from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and more. The Costa Rica bag is one of our favorites, so you’ll see it later on the list.
Hualalai Estate Peaberry Kona Coffee
If you haven’t already delved into the hype around Kona Coffee, check out our article on it here. This particular brand offers a flavor profile with slightly more spice than other options on the list. It also has less caffeine and acidity.
Kona Peaberry Coffee by Mulvadi
This is actually one of our top recommendations if you are just looking to try Kona Coffee. So if you’re looking to check out two trends with one bag, this is the choice for you.
This is a dark roast so it departs from the typical brightness of most peaberry options in favor of a more intense, strong profile. It is 100% Kona and !00% Peaberry. We recommend this one if you’re looking to make espresso or are just a fan things coffee with a more pronounced bitterness.
From Other Regions
Phase 1 Peaberry by Kimera Koffee
Phase 1 offers us another dark roast take on the the peaberry trend. However, they still sport a honey-sweet flavor with floral notes and aroma. The beans are sourced from a single-estate coffee plantation in the Dominican Republican. The estate has been run by the same family for over 40 years and the high altitude farm produces a rich, complex brew.
The company claims that their peaberry option will give you a higher caffeine boost and a smoother cup than the flat berry counterparts.
Costa Rica Peaberry Coffee by Volcanica
As we mentioned earlier, we have a soft spot for Costa Rican coffee and for these beans in particular. Volcanica really outdoes themselves with this one. Sourced from the Tres Rios region, these peaberries are shade grown and certified by the Rainforest Alliance.
This peaberry offering has an intense fruit flavor complemented by subtly sweet notes of citrus. It’s a medium roast, which allows you to enjoy a nice, balanced brew.
Frequently Asked Questions
What regions offer Peaberry coffee?
Because Peaberries are a natural mutation, they can occur within any coffee crop. However, not everyone is sorting them out of their regular batches. So if you are buying whole bean coffee from a region or brand that doesn’t bother separating them, you might find a peaberry in your regular bag of coffee.
However, the only two kinds of Peaberry Coffee you’ll generally encounter are from Tanzania in West Africa or Kona Coffee in Hawaii. You may even find some from other, well established coffee producing regions such as Brazil.
Tanzania coffee is primarily composed of Arabica beans and commonly has notes of black tea, kiwi, chocolate, lemon, and blackberry. The Peaberry Coffee from this region supposedly exhibits more depth of flavor in the form of rich black currant that develops into a more subtle chocolate.
Until recently, Peaberries were thrown out of Kona coffee lots because they were viewed as inferior. Due to their odd shape and size, they would roast differently if left in and thus reduce the overall quality and consistency of the rest of the batch. Now the sorted beans are being sold separately at a premium due to their rarity and the sorting process.
Compared to your typical Kona coffee, Kona Peaberry Coffee tends to have more intense citrus notes with a lighter body and more complex aromatic profile.
How are Peaberries harvested?
As you may have guessed, there is no way to identify a peaberry among flat berries before the fruit has been removed from the beans. So in order to create a batch of specifically Peaberry coffee, the mutated beans have to be manually separated from the rest of the batch. They are then roasted, packaged, and sold separately.
Just HOW rare are Peaberries?
Typically, a single coffee tree yields 1-2 pounds of roasted coffee per year. That means each tree is putting out 2,000 to 4,000 cherries a year, which is about 5-10 pounds before roasting.
Now, only about 5% of all of those cherries will have Peaberry Coffee beans inside. That is about 100 cherries or .25 lbs before roasting. And people are buying bags that are 1-5 lbs of roasted beans.
So, to put this even more into perspective. A 2-cup-a-day coffee drink will consume the annual harvest of 18 coffee trees in just one year. Thus, sustaining that on a bean type that is pretty rare hikes that number up astronomically.
Therefore, it can certainly be said that Peaberries are special. Though their taste might not be significantly different, their rarity definitely earns them that title.
This question is hotly debated. Peaberry fanatics claim that they are basically the the key to a coffee induced transcendence. On the other hand, nay-sayers claim it is just a marketing ploy for companies to get more money.
Honestly, we think the idea of a nutrient-hogging “super bean” might be a little far fetched. However, claims that the peaberries of a batch are brighter, juicer, or sweeter in flavor are pretty reasonable. Peaberries do tend to have a different flavor profile than their flat brethren due to the highly selective process we describe above.
Furthermore, we want to note that there are other factors that impact the quality of coffee beans far more than their shape and density. A bad roast or environment is going to produce subpar beans regardless of whether they’re peaberry or flat berries. If you like the profile of the region the peaberry is from and you know it’s a quality batch, chances are you’ll find it tastes pretty good.
In conclusion, peaberries aren’t necessarily better than other beans, just different. So if you find a brand of blend that really suits your personal tastes, then hooray! But don’t beat yourself up if you find there isn’t much (if any) notable difference between your got-to and its peaberry counterpart.
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