LIBERICA OH LIBERICA
When it comes to coffee, Coffea arabica is always touted as the best coffee beans, no wonder the production of these beans account for nearly 80 percent of world production. Coffea liberica, which originated from Liberia only accounts for 1 percent of the production. Repulsive bitter taste, pungent aroma and high caffeine content are synonym with this coffee. Such label is unjust because there are arabica beans that are unpalatable, and then there are gourmet liberica beans. These delectable beans are considered rare and exotic gems; only known to a handful of people who gets to enjoy the boldness and its multifaceted exquisiteness.
Although Coffea liberica came from Liberia, the current world biggest producers of this species of coffee beans are Malaysia and Philippines. The almond-shaped beans are bigger than robusta, let alone arabica, and asymmetric, with jagged furrow. The sheer sized of the bean caused it to be nicknamed as ‘elephant bean’. The trees are quite tall too, reaching up to 30 feet in height. While liberica is actually a lowland coffee species, depending on high temperature and a lot of water to survive, there are some that thrives on high mountain ranges, mostly on volcanic soil. The best liberica is comparable to best arabica, but there a few who even thinks they are the superior beans.
In Malaysia, liberica can be found both in the Peninsular and in Borneo. The Peninsular produces low altitude liberica coffee where the beans are cherished for their robust, nutty, malty mouthfeel and lingering chocolate and slightly tart aftertaste. Since the artisanal people in this country dark-roasted their liberica beans, the acidity is low and the coffee impart hint of smokiness. The brew they produce is ebony and satiny as the oil from fats and proteins inside the beans dissolve under long period of intense heat and coat the beans. When the beans are grounded and brewed, the oil is evident on the surface. The beans from Borneo are from mountainous region. Just like its counterpart in the Peninsular, it is full-bodied, nutty and robust but with a surprising tangy aftertaste.
“Kepeng barako,” the local name for baraco coffee, is a famous high altitude Coffea liberica found on the inactive volcanic Malarayat mountain ranges, Batangas; a town that was once famous as “coffee capital of the Philippines” and the place where the barako originated. This coffee used to be enjoyed by the hard-working workers of sugar cane plantations in the area. Now, coffee aficionados in and out of Philippine get to discover the bold, nutty, fruity and chocolaty tones and acidic aftertaste of the exceptional coffee. Apart from Malarayat, another place in Batangas where “Kepeng barako” liberica beans can also be found is near the active Taal Volcano. The volcano and its lake supply fertile soil for the coffee to grow. Outside Batangas, this bean can also be found on Mount Banahaw and Mount Halcon.
Savoring a cup of liberica is different from enjoying an arabica. This coffee is not for the faint hearted. Everything about the coffee just screams bold. Although this coffee can be harvested throughout the year, the number of places that grown and produce liberica coffee are still limited. Sipping liberica coffee is like embarking on a new adventure –venturing along a road less traveled, but truly rewarding experience nonetheless.
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