If you’re a die-hard coffeholic, chances are you have heard of peaberry coffee and wondered what the fuss is all about. Or perhaps you’ve come across peaberry coffee during coffee-browsing at a specialty store and were surprised at how expensive it is.
Peaberry has been the subject of considerable debate and contrasting opinions by avid coffee-lovers. On one side of the spectrum, people are all praise about its unique taste and distinct aroma, whereas on the other end the tasters did not find any justification for its steep price and prized image at all.
Let’s take a detailed look at what makes peaberry coffee so unique, how it’s processed and why it is so expensive.
What is Peaberry Coffee?
The name peaberry may make you think of berries that can be added to your breakfast cereal or baked into pies, but in reality this variety of coffee is far from it.
Coffee, as some may not realize, is a fruit wherein the beans or seeds are formed in a pair inside the fleshy part of the fruit, referred to as cherry. These fruits are ultimately picked, processed and roast into the coffee beans that we grind and brew for our cherished morning cuppa.
The regular variety of coffee bean has one rounded side and one flat side, as the two seeds are compressed together at the center. These are called flat berries, but aren’t commonly known by this name as 85-95% coffee bean varieties are characterized by this shape.
Alternatively a peaberry coffee bean is a result of a primary genetic mutation, wherein instead of two seeds being formed alongside, only one of the seeds is fertilized. This allows the coffee bean to acquire an oval form, similar to a pea, and hence the name ‘peaberry’. Their unique structure renders peaberries rounder, denser and smaller in size as compared to their flatter counterparts.
How Does a Peaberry Coffee Bean Develop?
The reason behind this distinctive genetic mutation remains unconfirmed as of yet, while researchers suspect that environmental factors and incomplete pollination could be responsible. Yet only 5-15% produce of entire yield of coffee beans will be of peaberry variety, making them quite rare.
Almost all coffee cherries can potentially result into formation of peaberries. On the outside, peaberry beans look similar to regular coffee beans which have two seeds, and are difficult to identify at a glance. Peaberry beans are usually discovered after coffee beans are picked, during the sorting and processing stage. Due to their smaller size, they can be easily sifted from larger beans after harvesting and drying, to be roasted and packaged later.
Where Does Peaberry Coffee Originate From?
Peaberry coffee beans are usually discovered where there is a better facility for them to be sorted and processed with additional attention, which typically includes countries which are well-known for their coffee production.
Some of the famous peaberry varieties originate from Kona and Kauai in Hawaii, Costa Rica, Brazil, Tanzania, Kenya, India and Indonesia.
What Makes Peaberry Coffee so Special?
Peaberry beans need to be sorted by hand, since this is the most favorable method that ensures optimum yield. The laborious and time-consuming nature of manual sorting is one of the reasons behind the premium cost of peaberry coffee, not to forget their rare nature.
While peaberry beans are treated in the same way as regular coffee beans through sorting and processing, their dense nature mandates a careful roasting process with specific attributes regarding roast grade, temperature and time. Only the most expert roasters choose to undertake this process for peaberry coffee beans, which is another reason why they are expensive.
Acknowledged by some as the “champagne of coffee”, peaberry has a distinct flavor profile compared to normal coffee beans. These are believed to possess a light-bodied, more buoyant, and brighter taste. However, others point out that peaberries lack a trademark aroma and that the flavor isn’t noticeably different from normal coffee beans.
Why is Peaberry Coffee so Expensive?
- Rarity – Only 5-15% of coffee beans will develop into peaberries, which means a limited yield per harvest cycle.
- Hand-sorting – While some coffee farms use advance machinery for sifting peaberries from the usual coffee beans after harvesting, peaberry beans are mostly sorted by hand, which is more resource-consuming process. A normal batch for roasting usually requires 2-3 hours of sorting, thus adding to the costing.
- Roasting – Due to their denser and rounder nature, peaberry coffee beans take longer time to roast, and roasters need to undertake extensive trial and testing process to arrive at an optimum roasting profile for each peaberry variant.
- Taste – Purists believe that since the single peaberry seed receives all the nutrition by the coffee cherry that was originally intended for two seeds, peaberries are tastier and more aromatic than their two-seeded counterparts. Peaberry beans are generally richer in caffeine content as well.
Does Peaberry Coffee Taste Better than its Regular Coffee Counterparts?
Both coffee experts and consumers are divided on their opinion about these special beans. Some peaberry fans claim that the exquisite taste makes all the difference between a normal and exceptional cuppa, and that they would willingly shell out the steep cost.
In contrast, other coffeeholics are more skeptical and tend to shrug away the claims about peaberry coffee being superior as clever marketing. These individuals maintain that the entire ordeal behind sorting and roasting these beans separately is unnecessary and that it makes no difference to the taste and feel as you sip a peaberry brew.
Is Peaberry Coffee Worth the Cost and Hype?
This is a highly debated topic, and each coffee-lover who has tried a peaberry coffee brew has a different conclusion in this regard. While fanatics hail peaberries as be the most superior variant that takes the coffee-drinking experience to a whole different realm, nay-sayers dismiss the peaberry industry as nothing more than a smart marketing ploy.
However, most people agree that the mutation that results in formation of peaberry bean does result in a unique, light-bodied flavor profile which can perk one’s spirits up instantly. If you decide to try it for yourself, we recommend that you compare notes on the origin, batch quality and roasting profile of different peaberry coffee variants, and zero upon the suitable one according to your preferences and needs.