As mentioned, liberica is a coffee plant species that has entered the spotlight recently, with its deep root systems allowing for greater access to deep water - a potentially key climate-resilient characteristic not shared by either arabica or robusta.
Accounting for just 2% of the world’s coffee consumption, liberica is known as an ‘heirloom’ species (effectively an old cultivar of a plant grown for food), and is native to Western and Central Africa. Delivering a rich, smokey, floral flavour once roasted, liberica is particularly popular in the Philippines where it's known as Kapeng Barako.
Like robusta, liberica has long been considered inferior to arabica. But today, like with robusta, liberica is starting to emerge from the shadows, with coffee innovators recognising the climate-driven issues surrounding the future of arabica by starting to consider alternatives. Speciality-grade alternatives, of course, with excelsa - said to be a particularly flavourful variant of the liberica coffee plant species
- one to watch for up-market coffee roasters.
While traditionally expensive to buy due to its scarcity, long ripening time and labour-intensive upkeep; excelsa is known for its complex and nuanced taste, namely a unique combination of fruity and nutty flavours, with hints of tartness and a mild acidity, and its low caffeine content. Being a liberica species, it is climate-resilient, is able to thrive in a plethora of environmental conditions, and even requires little water to grow.
Commercial viability could well be round the corner for excelsa, with food tech-driven advancements in growing techniques or even hybridisation potentially the key to unlocking broader product opportunities.