When I first told my husband about peaberry coffee, he thought I was referring to a new coffee shop. Well, it does sound cute and fancy. I would have thought it was an ice cream shop if I did not know any better.
Peaberry is not a coffee shop (though you can find shops named after peaberries) nor a type of berry that was dried, ground and brewed. It’s a type of coffee bean, a ‘special’ type if you want to call it.
What makes it special? Is it any better than regular coffee? You’ll find out pretty soon.
Peaberry coffee 101
A typical coffee cherry normally carries two seeds. Two halves of a peanut, if you imagine it. However, there are times when a coffee cherry contains just one fruit. This single-bean coffee cherry is called peaberry.
According to Serious Eats, 5 percent of total coffee production are peaberries. As a result, the peaberry coffee beans tend to be smaller, rounder, and denser. In fact, if you see a peaberry beside a regular coffee bean, the former looks cuter than the flat one.
Peaberry is often hand-selected by farmers out of the total production. You cannot easily tell if a cherry has one or two seeds from the outside. After the coffee cherries are harvested and processed, farmers personally select the peaberries and sell them separately. This is one of the reasons why peaberry coffee comes with a premium price.
The unique taste of peaberry coffee?
A normal coffee bean has a flat surface on one end and a curvy one on the other side. The flat surface is due to the pressure between the two seeds growing together inside the cherry. Since the peaberry grows alone, its shape is round and oblong. It also tends to be larger and denser than regular coffee beans.
The peaberry is considered a mutation. Most farmers ignore it because its difficult to roast together with the regular beans. If mixed with regular beans, it can alter the taste of the resulting ground coffee.
Historically speaking, peaberries are the ‘runts’ during harvest season. Considered as a wastage, there was no market for this seemingly ‘abnormal’ coffee bean.
However, technology came to the rescue for peaberries. Modern roasting methods allowed roasters to master the art of roasting peaberries. Because of its unique size and shape, farmers carefully select peaberries among the harvested beans and send them to roasters.
Roasters treat peaberries with care. They are roasted separately and in a special way. As a result, drinkers of peaberry coffee swear by the its distinct flavor. Some even say that it’s sweeter than regular coffee.
What makes peaberry unique?
According to Kona Coffee, there are three main reasons why many coffee lovers choose peaberry roast.
It can hold more flavor-creating particles than regular coffee beans. Whatever flavor your coffee has, the peaberries can hold more of it.
It yields better roasting. The flat shape of coffee beans means that when beans are turned or flipped, depending on the roasting methods, they can get stuck and cook unevenly. But not so with the peaberry, which moves effortlessly through the process for a more uniform result.
Roasting Magazine notes that peaberries need much more care while roasting to hit their “sweet spot”. Roasters watch over peaberry during the whole roasting process to ensure the coffee beans are roasted evenly and perfectly.
What are some of the best Peaberry coffee brands?
Not all peaberry coffees are created equal. Also, one cannot claim a single origin peaberry, since every region is capable of producing peaberry coffee. However, type of soil, water source, humidity, and weather conditions affect the taste and flavor of Peaberry coffee.
Other factors like freshness, washing, and roasting can yield a better cup of peaberry coffee.
Here are some of the popular brands of peaberry coffee:
- Koa Coffee Peaberry Roast: Smooth and full-bodied, you won’t think twice about pouring a second cup. Roasted fresh to order and ships the next day. $22.00 – 8oz. Bag
- Kona Brothers Coffee: Darker than most Kona coffees, but they wear it well. $24.95 – 8oz. Bag
- Hawaii Roasters 100% Kona Coffee: Great aroma, full-bodied with a clean finish. $29.95 – 16oz.
- Tanzanian Peaberry: Full body, delicious fruit peaberry coffee. $30.95 – 16oz. Bag
- Blue Horse Kona Peaberry Coffee: Sweet aroma, with a hint of citrus. $36.75 – 16oz. Bag
Good old regular coffee
Regular, or conventional coffee, is mass-produced coffee beans. It is readily available just about anywhere. You can find it at your local deli, in a nearby convenience store, in a vending machine and even in your cupboard, if you are someone who just grabs a pack of coffee from the supermarket.
One important feature of regular coffee is its affordability. It’s relatively inexpensive. Why? Because regular coffee is mass-produced.
According to Ethical Coffee, coffee farmers who harvest regular coffee beans often use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and insecticides to ensure the greatest number of harvested coffee beans. Pests can easily ruin a coffee farm. Using chemicals can ensure that the coffee farm is safe from potential harm and maximum yield is guaranteed.
Such practices expose the farmers to health hazards. The communities living near the coffee farm can also be affected by the chemical residues that mix in the air and the water resources.
Because of the demand for more coffee beans, some forests are cleared to give way to fields of coffee. Coffee production may increase, but at the expense of the natural ecosystem. Natural pest-deterrents like birds and lizards lose their home. Insects that eat coffee start to populate. As a result, farmers resort to chemical solutions to protect their fields.
Which is better: Peaberry or regular coffee?
For the longest time, hundreds of years before organic, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, and all those other labels and certifications came into picture, regular coffee was good enough.
If you want to wake up to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, you can easily get a scoop of ground coffee and brew it. You get your caffeine fix without thinking about the environment, the farmers, laborers, and everything in between.
Coffee is a matter of preference, a personal choice. Some want it black, others want it sweet, and some want it creamy.
But if you ask coffee experts and coffee connoisseurs, determining good coffee is an art in itself.
When it comes to peaberry coffee, renowned coffee connoisseur Kenneth Davids has this to say:
More often than not, peaberries produce a lighter-bodied, slightly more acidy, brighter cup than normal beans.
As times change, people become aware of coffee origins, standards, and certifications. They also become more conscious about their health and the environment they live in.
As such, the arrival of peaberry coffee was welcomed with open arms and excitement. There’s a growing number of peaberry patrons.
If you ask me, I would drink peaberry coffee in the morning. It’s brighter and lighter than regular coffee and goes well with my morning meal. It gives just right kick to give you a headstart for the day ahead.
However, for a mid-morning drink or an afternoon coffee break, I would stick with my regular coffee for a fuller and bolder drink.
How about you? What’s your preferred coffee? Share with us your favorite coffee. We will be happy to hear from you.