Are you a new, normal coffee drinker who gets confused with the enormous amount of coffee jargon? If yes, don't worry, I am here to help you out. One of the coffees on a cafe's menu that you may find intriguing is called Peaberry Coffee. There is a particular mystery around peaberry coffee that fascinates coffee nerds. While the coffee industry is growing super fast with many new options available in the market, such as geisha and pacamara, peaberry is a relatively old school term. That's not to say that peaberry is not good enough. But its popularity has actually decreased over time. Are you debating whether you should try it or not? Let me guide you and make your decision a little bit easier!
What are peaberry coffee beans?
What makes peaberry brew unique? To answer this question, we first need to understand how a "normal" coffee cherry grows.
You are probably aware of the fact that an unprocessed coffee bean is a "fruit," more precisely known as a berry, called a coffee cherry. Generally, there are two seeds produced in each berry that rest against each other. If you open the fruit and see two green coffee beans in the center of the coffee cherry, facing each other, this is a sign that you are looking at a normal coffee cherry.
The way these seeds position themselves gives them a flat bottom and a rounded side. Once farmers have harvested and sorted the cherries, they roast them and then ship them off to coffee houses. Coffee makers then ground and brew them into delicious coffee. So what the difference is between peaberry coffee beans and regular beans?
The peaberry is an anomaly. Sometimes it occurs when a coffee cherry develops only one seed. Since there is no pressure on the side from the other seed in the fruit, it gives it a rounded shape similar to a berry or a pea. Hence it is called a "peaberry." These special beans are smaller in size, rounder in shape, and don't have a flat side. Because coffee growers can quickly identify them visually, they can easily separate them from the regular flat-sided bean by hand.
Did you know that under very rare circumstances, you may get three seeds developing inside the cherry? Mind-boggling, right? When this happens, coffee cherries grow into more of a triangular shape. I wonder how that would taste, but that's a topic for another day.
The coffee cherry is the fruit of the coffee tree containing the seeds. The seeds eventually turn into beans. You must be curious, why does this fertility problem occur in the first place? Well! Peaberries are the end product of a widespread genetic mutation in both the robusta and arabica coffee plants. Peaberries happen when one of the ovules fails to fertilize, or endosperm is not fully grown. No one has been able to determine the exact cause of this genetic mutation. It's not the ideal situation for Mother Nature, but advertisers have harkened peaberry coffee as superior to standard coffee beans for years.
Is peaberry coffee different than regular coffee?
Back in the day, peaberry was very popular among coffee lovers. You might be surprised to learn the logic behind peaberry coffee's popularity. People believed that it was a more concentrated and denser bean as it doesn't share its nutrients with the other seed. Ha! Those people certainly don't realize that a multitude of factors impacts the final quality of the product — altitude, variety, soil quality, and farming skills, to name a few.
However, in my experience, peaberry is neither superior nor inferior to normal coffee. It's just different!
How is peaberry coffee made?
Here is a little fun fact: Peaberries occur naturally in 5 to 10% of coffee. Sometimes percentages are even higher due to infertility issues. How do we harvest peaberries? Unfortunately, you can't tell by looking at cherries whether there is going to be a single raw seed or two regular seeds. Peaberries must be hand-sorted from the rest of the crop. However, you may get some underdeveloped dual- bean cherries that pass the screening process due to their small size. Similarly, If you are purchasing a bag of roasted coffee beans, there's a high likelihood that you will find some peaberries in it too, but most peaberries are sorted out from the mix and sold separately.
You may be familiar with Kenyan AA and AB categorization. If not, that's ok, it's not required. We'll cover it briefly here. This categorization is not based on quality, but instead on bean size. The reasoning behind separating them based on dimensions is to make roasting easier. If one bag of coffee beans has different sizes of beans, there will be a difference in their roasting time as well. The smaller ones will get darker while big ones will taste sour. So having the same sized beans will make life much easier for the coffee roaster. Due to the round shape of a peaberry, they tend to roast nicely and evenly. Since their size is smaller, they require less time in the roaster. So some bean growers believe that, unlike typical coffee, you won't get the slightly burnt or bitter taste while sipping Peaberry coffee.
But some coffee roasters have commented that it is a mere strategy by marketers to favor sales of peaberries. They are calling them out for manipulating the facts. Coffee roasters have been working with the standard flat bean for a long time, and they have vast experience in getting the perfect roasting despite imperfect shape. It might be easier to get peaberries roasted, but that doesn't mean regular coffee is going to be burnt or uneven. If anything, you can shop for green peaberries and try roasting some on your own. Brew a cup of peaberry coffee in your own home and share your experience with me in the comments below.
Does Peaberry coffee taste better?
If you think you will find some sublime superiority in the flavor profile of peaberry coffee compared to a normal cup of coffee, you will be disappointed. Most coffee addicts reveal that they don't notice significant differences in the taste. You are paying a higher price for the labor of separating peaberries from normal coffee beans, not to get a smooth and sweet flavor.
Then again, it's a very debatable topic, and every coffee distributor has a different take on it. Here are a few common responses;
- Some coffee lovers' comments suggest that roasted peaberry beans have better taste and aroma. People have compared its taste to honey. They claim that it tastes sweet and juicy with a medium body.
- Some say that all the nutrients and flavor become condensed in one bean rather than two hence making it "super berry." They consider it to be special and superior to the rest of the same crop.
- Because of their round shape, they are roasted evenly and taste better than their flat counterparts.
- These beans are hand-picked by workers, so there is no contamination by inferior beans.
In my opinion, they are regular split beans, with some of them tasting amazing and some of them not so amazing. It's a naturally grown harvest, so it is bound to have natural differences. But there is no denying the fact that it does have different taste profiles - maybe even a little bit sweeter. However, if you ask the same question to coffee producers, who are selling peaberries for several times more than standard beans, you will hear completely different comments. They will sing the exaggerated praises of peaberry beans to convince you that they can solve all of your problems, from cancer to global warming.
Tanzanian peaberry coffee
Tanzanian peaberry sounds like a very odd combination, right? On the one hand, peaberry is available everywhere, and on the other hand, Tanzania is producing excellent regular coffee. So what's the need for this strange combination?
They are brought together by fate through random historical circumstances. In Japan, coffee buyers were crazy about Tanzanian coffee. The peaberry was more of a leftover coffee that found its market in America. Back in those days, a coffee's origin was the basis for the coffee jargon surrounding the industry, such as Hawaii Kona, Kenya AA, Jamaica Blue Mountain, etc... Coffee marketers realized that regular Tanzanian was not going to work, but somehow "Peaberry Tanzanian" would do the job.
Does peaberry coffee have more caffeine?
Imagine having a rough night and going to work the next day with bags under your eyes and a sleepy mind. There's nothing like getting an energy boost from the first cup of java in the morning. The caffeine content in a cup of coffee depends upon two factors; the roasting of the coffee and the coffee bean itself.
According to a report, the Tanzanian Peaberry bean has a 1.42% caffeine content, which is relatively higher compared to any other coffee bean. For instance, Yemen Mocha Mattari bean has only 1.01% caffeine. (You can easily search these levels on the internet. Some coffee houses have started to mention it on their menu as well.)
Similarly, the roasting process makes a huge difference. Darker roasts are more caffeinated than lighter roasts. So, if you are caffeine-intolerant, you can still use peaberries. Just make sure to get them decaffeinated or go for a less caffeinated version, i.e., get them as French roast. In this way, you can still enjoy less caffeinated options, but with premium beans. Drink it during the day or after dinner without any worries of losing sleep.
Is peaberry coffee Arabica?
We've discovered in this article that peaberry is not a variety of coffee; instead, it is a single coffee bean. And it can appear within any coffee variety.
As a result, we get three kinds of peaberry coffee -
- Arabica peaberry
- Robusta peaberry
- Excelsa peaberry
However, in commercial terms, arabica peaberry and robusta peaberry are the two significant varieties.
Arabica peaberry: This natural coffee comes from the Arabica coffee cherry and hosts a smooth, delightful aroma and medium body.
Robusta peaberry: As the name indicates, it comes from robusta cherries, which are very bitter and strong. But its peaberry beans are even more bitter and highly caffeinated. One cup a day should be enough to keep you wide awake.
It is quite difficult to distinguish both because of their familiar outward appearance. Taking a sip would be enough to guide you, though.
Conclusion: Should you try it?
So it is fair to say that there are two kinds of people: peaberry people and non-peaberry people. Peaberry people are very enthusiastic about peaberry coffee. They claim that these beans are much sweeter and have more flavor. These people even get upset if cafes run out of peaberry coffee. A representative from Hula Daddy revealed that sometimes the situation gets so bad that they have to take peaberry coffees off of their menu. They only sell it when they have beans at the shop, via phone or email. In contrast, non-peaberry people have no idea why there is so much hype around peaberry coffee. They don't find it unique enough to pay the extra price.
If you are one of those individuals whose day revolves around coffees, you should try out peaberries if you have never tasted them before and experience them for yourself. Coffee lovers live for novelty and exquisiteness. Who knows, you might notice its sweeter and smoother flavor. And if you don't want to spend too much money, just get a bag of peaberries bean, roast it at home and make yourself a sweet nice cup. Let me know how it tasted. Does it meet your flavor profile or not?
If you want information about some other premium coffee, then check out my guide to the best coffees. Sign up to our email newsletter by entering your email address in the subscribe box in the footer, and make sure you also subscribe to our social media. Have an exciting experience with peaberry coffee? Leave your comments on peaberries in the comments section below.