The Interesting History and Renewal of Yellow Bourbon Coffee

Widely known for its yellow fruit in the mature stage- a sharp variation from the cherry reds of every other coffee variety- the Yellow Bourbon stage- has become a pride for Brazil.

The variety has witnessed major recognition from coffee buyers and roasters across the world for its distinct, high-quality flavor attributes, and also due to a collective obsession with distinct varieties for the sake of differentiation.

The Origin of Brazilian Yellow Bourbon

Yellow Bourbon as a coffee variety has been cultivated in the fields for almost a century. Many researchers believe that the Yellow Bourbon is a mutated version of a natural Red Bourbon variety.

But First, Why Yellow?

Formal studies of Yellow Bourbon were conducted in 1942 by the researchers of the Agronomic Institute of Campinas (IAC), including Carlos Arnaldo Krug.

The yellow colouring stems from the gene pairing of the genes Xanthocarpa, from the Greek Xanthus (yellow), and carpus (fruit).

Generally, plants with the dominant XcXc gene pair produce red berries while plants with the recessive xcxc gene pair produce yellow berries. In rare instances, plants with one dominant gene and other recessive Xcxc plants produce orange-ish berries. As for yellow berries, the substance expressed by these genes is luteolin, a type of flavonoid that is also present in parsley and broccoli.

Features of Yellow Bourbon

A mature Yellow Bourbon tree can reach up to a height of 2.8 meters and has early ripeness. But due to its low-medium yields and relatively proneness to coffee leaf rust, Yellow Bourbon needs more attention and care than other varieties. Yellow Bourbon generally exhibits its quality potential when grown at 1000MSL OR ABOVE, and in areas where the harvesting and post-harvesting processes are done correctly.

The sensory attributes of Yellow Bourbon are perceptible in the cup- particularly its sweet flavour, striking aroma, and very distinct citric acidity flavor. Other common flavour notes include ripe fruits and raisins.
Recently researchers found some association between sucrose content and the presence of some fatty and organic acids with the quality of Yellow Bourbon. Yet until now, no direct link between luteolin (the yellow-maker) and quality has been established.

A New Spotlight on Yellow Bourbon

In their early research, IAC had focused on productivity, plant health, and vigor in pest- and disease resistance and not on coffee quality. In 2005, with renewed efforts to study the variety, the attention was turned to the cup.

The 30 trees which formed part of the earlier research were collected again along with 16 plants with scores above 85 to trace the ideal lineage. The IAC continues its research under the eminent leadership of Professor Gerson Giomo. In a 2017 Cup of Excellence competition, under the Pulped Naturals category, a Brazilian Yellow Bourbon scored a 92.33. The bags went on sale for a whopping USD 126.00 per pound at auction, 100 times the C price prevailing at the time.

Yellow Arabica cultivation in Ethiopia

Kerchanshe Trading has invested heavily in Yellow Arabica in their Gelana Farm. The efforts have paid off with the harvest of the variety for the first time in the history of Ethiopia.

For more details, please contact Kerchanshe at:

Kerchanshe Trading PLC
6th Floor, Africa Insurance Building
South African Street
P.O. Box 19891
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Phone: +251-11-3716370
Mob: +251-962414141