A roaster’s guide to eugenioides coffee

Josephine Walbank
June 8, 2022
A roaster’s guide to eugenioides coffee

Coffea eugenioides is a species of coffee which has recently risen to the centre of the international coffee stage. 

Notably, eugenioides dominated the 2021 World Barista Championships, when it was used by three national champions, including winner Diego Campos. In terms of lesser-known species, this popularity level among competitors has not been seen since Gesha coffee rose to stardom.

The sweetness of eugenioides coffee has quickly made it the talk of the specialty coffee sector, as well as the fact that it is said to have a naturally lower caffeine content. Eugenioides boasts vibrant and unique flavour characteristics, such as sesame snaps, toasted marshmallows, and lemon drops.

In the cup, it is well balanced with a high sweetness and low acidity and bitterness. Additionally, it has a smooth, silky mouthfeel with a rich, round, and lingering finish. It is these characteristics that make eugenioides a coffee competitor’s dream. 

Read on to find out more about the recent rise of eugenioides coffee and the best way roasters can approach it.

Female hands holding out ripe, freshly picked eugenioides coffee cherries

A brief history of eugenioides coffee

Coffea eugenioides is a species of coffee distinct from the more well known Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta

The latter two are the most widely grown species in the world, with numerous varieties between them.

Eugenioides evolved in East Africa’s mountainous regions, in countries including Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Western Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Today, however, it’s most commonly grown in western Colombia, particularly at the renowned Finca Inmaculada farm.

Eugenioides is an extremely rare varietal. Some even refer to it as an abandoned species. This is because, for much of its existence, it has been virtually unknown in the coffee sector.

However, after its remarkable success at the 2021 World Barista Championships, there is talk of eugenioides coffee becoming the “new Gesha”. 

Gesha is a variety of arabica that has consistently received incredibly high scores, topping 90 points at the 2020 Guatemala Cup of Excellence (COE). The finest Geisha has historically been produced in Panama.

Eugenioides’ most significant claim to fame is its celebrity child. It is eugenioides which, along with robusta, produced the arabica coffee species. 

Researchers believe this crossbreeding successfully created what is now the world’s most popular coffee species.

While arabica currently represents 60% of the world’s coffee supply, the industry is beginning to realise that it may not necessarily be the coffee of the future.

Extensive research is being undertaken to predict how climate change will impact coffee production. The most alarming findings reveal that by 2050, around half of the land used to grow high-quality arabica coffee will have become unproductive. In Latin America, this number could end up being as high as 88%.

Climate change has made the search for more resistant coffee species more important. Thanks to its recent success and genetic history, eugenioides is being brought up in conversations around preserving the industry.

Expanding into new species is essential in finding viable solutions to the predicted coffee crisis. However, from the perspective of coffee producers, taking a chance on a species that they haven’t grown before is a huge risk.

At this stage, little research has been done on the optimal growing conditions, especially for different regions. Essentially, eugenioides is still considered to be an experimental crop. 

Furthermore, eugenioides is still susceptible to leaf rust – a fungal pathogen that infects coffee plants. However, it has been shown to be resistant during dry periods.

Birds eye view of V60 with filter paper and spoon brewing eugenioides coffee

What are the characteristics of eugenioides coffee?

Reports from 2021 World Barista Championships imply that eugenioides effectively stole the show.

During the competition, eugenioides received extensive acclaim from both judges and contestants. Campos’ competition coffee was grown in his home country of Colombia, and he described it as “one of the most surprising and fascinating coffees” he had ever tasted.

When Dan Fellows, the current World Coffee In Good Spirits champion, first took a sip of US Barista Champ Andrea Allen’s eugenioides competition espresso, his reaction said it all.

This just tastes like a cup of sunshine,” he is reported to have said.

What is it that made eugenioides such a stand-out entry? Experts point to its sweetness. Some have suggested that its high sweetness level derives from the crop’s naturally low caffeine content, meaning it doesn’t strike the same bitter notes as some other coffees.

Additionally, eugenioides’ smooth finish, low acidity and full body tend to appeal to many modern coffee consumers. 

These somewhat unusual notes present a welcome challenge for coffee championship entrants and roasters. They’re now being pushed to find roast profiles and brewing methods that release the full potential of these unique beans.

However, such rapid success comes with a unique challenge: demand for eugenioides coffee is now extremely higher than supply. 

This is a particularly rare coffee crop, which is only produced on a few select coffee farms. Notably, this means it comes with a premium price tag. 

This has led some to question whether eugenioides coffee will ever be available to the masses. At this stage, the answer remains unclear. In fact, the only two options that are currently available to the public – from Onyx Coffee Lab and Gardelli Coffee – are sold out.

For many roasters, eugenioides may be difficult to source. That said, trends during the Covid-19 pandemic have shown customers are willing to pay more for premium coffees.

This bodes well for the future of eugenioides. If previous trends are anything to go by, there’s a good chance that eugenioides coffee could reach the renown of Gesha coffee in the next few years.

Ultimately, however, it depends on whether or not coffee farmers are willing to take a chance on this variety. This is a simple issue of profitability, as producers need to be assured their efforts will be rewarded.

Close up image of tangential roaster roasting coffee beans

Roasting eugenioides coffee

For most roasters, the top priority when roasting eugenioides would be to highlight its unique characteristics to their full potential. 

Both Onyx Coffee Lab and Gardelli Coffee use natural processes for their eugenioides coffee. This is done to enhance the species’ natural sweetness.

Beyond this, the international coffee competitors that have used eugenioides have predominantly focused on the same thing. The focus is on choosing roast profiles that enhance what nature has given, rather than adding anything new to the mix. 

However, careful experimentation with eugenioides roasting profiles is expensive, which is perhaps why roasters stick to lighter roasts. That said, as the coffee becomes more widely available, this is likely to change.

Coffea eugenioides is a genuine source of excitement in the specialty coffee sector. Not since the arrival of Gesha has there been such demand.

With beans of this calibre, preserving freshness will be paramount. In order to lock in the flavours and freshness of this costly, aromatic coffee, roasters will need to choose sealed packaging that is airtight and has a one-way valve. 

Furthermore, whether roaster’s choose to go with eye-catching packaging to celebrate the exclusiveness of this coffee, or decide to go the minimalist route, the material used will need to be as premium as possible.

Male Caucasian hand swirling black filtered coffee in glass coffee pot, with yellow and blue multilayer kraft paper coffee bag in background.

At MTPak Coffee, we can provide roasters with a range of sustainable packaging options made from sustainable materials such as kraft and rice paper, and polylactic acid (PLA). Our high-quality multilayer packaging offers protection from oxygen, heat, moisture, and light, while also showcasing a commitment to the environment.

For roasters experimenting with roast profiles, we also offer a range of low minimum order quantity (MOQ) options across three different bag structures.

These can be produced using fully recyclable materials, and can help keep costs to a minimum. Our use of digital printing allows roasters to change their packaging designs without the need to pay for a whole new print run.

For more information on high-quality sustainable coffee packaging and design, contact our team today.

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