June 23, 2017 Posted by

To Peaberry or not to Peaberry

Pictured above: Top row are standard coffee beans of the Pacamara varietal. Bottom row is our Guatemala Hunapu Peaberry. 

For those interested in the details of coffee horticulture, “peaberry” is a term that rings out as something special, something unique. Peaberries can pop up within any coffee varietal, within any country. Every coffee shrub is likely to have a few here or there, and although once considered and undesirable defect, peaberries are nowadays often associated with quality. Part of that is due to the scarcity, or perhaps intrigue of this natural mutation occurring in only about 5% of the world’s coffee. But like any other coffee bean, so much has to do with careful selection of each cherry, meticulous processing, and the benefit of qualities that come from ideal altitudes and other climate factors. 

“Typically, if the quality of the coffee is good, the peaberry will be as good or better,” says Metric Coffee’s Head Roaster Alex Burbo.

A coffee cherry typically hosts two seeds that face one another. Think of a sphere cut in half, and that would be pretty close. But occasionally, a natural mutation occurs through which there are not two seeds, but one. This seed grows as one united sphere-ish bean. It is typically smaller, rounder, and denser than traditional flat beans, and is thus aptly named “peaberry.”

“The idea is that all of the nutrients from the cherry will go to just one bean instead of two,” says Burbo. 

Often, the result is a cherry that is sweeter and more acidic than other cherries on the same plant. Because peaberries grow on the same coffee plants as flat beans and are indistinguishable on the branch, they are processed with all the other cherries and sorted only after drying. Part of peaberry’s good reputation may be attributed to the careful sorting that is applied. For Metric’s Guatemala Hunapu Peaberry, there is yet another layer of quality assurance in the name itself. Hunape is a kind of branding used by the Bella Vista Mill to signify select beans of a certain quality. That makes releasing this lot to the public all the more exciting to us. It’s an opportunity for folks, including ourselves, to taste a unique coffee. It is a bean grown with every advantage, and then rigorously processed, picked, and dialed in to showcase the best of the berry.