Peaberry, lol.

Peaberry, lol.

red and yellow coffee berries on branch
Photo by Daniel Reche on

Nothing natural is simple, let’s get that straight from the get-go. As with most things in the natural world, coffee is complicated. It is fragile, susceptible to disease, reactive to changes in temperature, altitude, crop rotation, handling, and (very literally) everything else under the sun. The sheer genetic possibilities of coffee gives us robusta vs. arabica, it gives us Caturra, Catuai, Bourbon, Typica, and so many more.

In this post, we’re chatting about one of those little genetic oddities that makes coffee so damn interesting: peaberries. To be clear, peaberry coffee has not a single thing to do with peas, aside from the general shape and size. I’m not sure who ran PR for these delicious little beans, but imho, they need a solid rebrand. I can guarantee, without fail, that at every single pop-up where we’re stocked with our Tanzanian Peaberry, someone is going to shoot me a puzzled look. It’s about time for us to set the record straight.

To understand what makes peaberries so interesting, we’ll need a quick anatomy lesson: no parental permission needed for this one. If you’re here, I’m sure you know this already, but for those who unintentionally stumbled here: when you’re drinking coffee, what you’re drinking is water passed through ground-up coffee seeds. These coffee seeds, which we call “beans” for reasons that….honestly idk, are the center of a bright red (or yellow, or pink, or orange – yay genetics!) fruit which grows on a coffee bush.

The standard coffee bean grows with a flat-face

The coffee bean usually grows in two flat-facing halves, each of the two seeds within having been fertilized. They grow flat because they are pushing against one another as they grow, post-fertilization. In the case of a peaberry, only one of the two seeds is fertilized. That one half grows unrestricted by its other half, leading to a more rounded shape than a ‘normal’ coffee bean (ugh, what is ‘normal’ anyways?).

Peaberry coffee beans grow unrestricted by a second seed, hence the rounded shape

Peaberries can, in theory, grow in any crop. They are usually picked from the crop in the harvesting/drying phase, and separated into a peaberry lot, which is marketed and distributed to coffee roasters around the world as a unique varietal. They are more commonly associated with Tanzanian coffees, but peaberries can come from anywhere coffee is grown.

So what makes the peaberry any different, from a taste and flavor perspective? Great question, me!

It’s commonly believed that, because only one of the two seeds is has been fertilized, there is no need to split the nutrients between two seeds. Many, myself included, believe that this preferential nutrient-absorption situation yields to a brighter, more complex coffee bean (flavors which will come through in the cup). There’s not a lot of research on the peaberry, so its tough to say whether or not that is actually the case. It may be that the farms themselves have more ideal growing conditions, or that my experiences with peaberry have been with high-quality lots. In either case, there is something special about these clever little defects.

But don’t take my word for it! Head to the shop page and grab yourself a bag of our Tanzanian Peaberry to see if it stacks up.



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