#49: Beyond Heirlooms & Hybrids: Breaking Down the Coffees of Ethiopia & East Africa | Expo Lectures 2018

World Coffee Research (WCR) and Counter Culture have both independently been working on better more up-to-date reference guides on the coffee varieties and research that has been done, and currently being done, in Ethiopia and East Africa. Counter Culture will present on their newly published material, that for the first time consolidates over 50 in-depth descriptions on the varieties of Ethiopia. In this episode, WCR presents on their newly published African Variety Intelligence Report outlining the varieties and research of coffees from Kenya and other East African countries. This unique collaboration hopes to be for people a much needed missing puzzle piece of information, on some of the most beloved and misunderstood origins in the world.

Join moderator Hanna Neuschwander (WCR) as she leads a panel of Dr. Benoît Bertrand (CIRAD), Christophe Montagnon (WCR), Getu Bekele Gedefa (Counter Culture Coffee), Jeff Koehler, and Timothy Hill (Counter Culture Coffee) in this fascinating discussion!

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Table of Contents

0:00 Introduction
2:00 Introduction to the topic and the panelists
6:00 Jeff Koehler, author of Where Wild Coffee Grows, on the story of Arabica coffee in Ethiopia’s forests
12:15 Benoît Georges Bertrand on what is a variety, especially in the context of Ethiopian coffee
20:00 Getu Bekele on what Ethiopian coffee growing looks like today
30:45 Timothy Hill on how he navigates the genetic complexity of Ethiopia’s coffees as a green buyer
35:00 Christophe Montagnon on the variety landscape across Africa generally
46:45 Benoît Georges Bertrand on what global breeding work is taking place using coffee trees from Ethiopia
53:00 Timothy Hill on how he, as a green buyer, buys and markets coffees
55:45 Where are we now in understanding coffee’s genetic varieties and what we can look forward to in the future?

Audience Questions

1:07:40 If a farmer has two stable populations of a particular variety and are close enough to each other to cross, will these varieties cross genetically by themselves naturally?
1:12:00 How confident are we that there are different varieties of coffees in different Ethiopian coffee forests?
1:16:30 How participatory was the Ethiopian government when it came to creating the books on Ethiopian coffee varieties
1:18:20 Outro

Episode Transcript

0:00 Introduction

Heather Ward: Hello everybody, I’m Heather Ward, SCA’s Senior Manager of Content Strategy and you’re listening to the SCA Podcast. Today’s episode is a part of our SCA Lectures series, dedicated to showcasing a curated selection of the extensive live lectures offered at SCA’s Specialty Coffee Expo and World of Coffee events. Check out the show notes for relevant links and a full transcript of today’s lecture.

As we’re taking some time to work through our 2019 lecture recordings from Expo, we thought we’d take this time to share some absolute gems from 2018 that haven’t yet been released. Also, for more information on the upcoming World of Coffee lectures in Berlin this June, visitworldofcoffee.org.

World Coffee Research and Counter Culture have both independently been working on better more up-to-date reference guides on the coffee varieties and research that has been done, and currently being done, in Ethiopia and East Africa. Counter Culture will present on their newly published material, that for the first time consolidates over 50 in-depth descriptions on the varieties of Ethiopia. In this episode, WCR presents on their newly published African Variety Intelligence Report outlining the varieties and research of coffees from Kenya and other East African countries. This unique collaboration hopes to be for people a much-needed missing puzzle piece of information, on some of the most beloved and misunderstood origins in the world.

Moderator Hanna Neuschwander of World Coffee Research leads our panel: Dr. Benoît Bertrand of CIRAD; Christophe Montagnon of World Coffee Research; Getu Bekele Gedefa of Counter Culture Coffee; Author Jeff Koehler; and Timothy Hill of Counter Culture Coffee.

Also, I will jump in occasionally to help you follow along in the podcast.

Take it from here, Hanna!


2:00 Introduction to the topic and the panelists

Hanna Neuschwander: Hello, everybody. This is beyond heirlooms and hybrids breaking down the coffees of Ethiopia and East Africa. Thank you for being here with us. My name is Hanna Neuschwander. I am the Communications Director at World Coffee Research and we’re going to try to have a pretty free-flowing conversation today with a number of folks who know quite a lot about African varieties but we’re also going to try to leave time for you to ask questions.

I’m going to be your moderator today. As I said my name is Hanna. I am the Communications Director of World Coffee Research and I am joined here by five amazing, incredible expert panelists. I am going to tell you very briefly who they are and then we should have an opportunity to hear more from them in the coming minutes. Sitting right here to my right is Timothy Hill. He is the Green Coffee Buyer for Counter Culture Coffee. He has been buying coffees from Africa for a very long time and brings a really, I think perspective that’s going to be interesting to all of you as a buyer of coffee.

To his right we have Getu Bekele who is a former breeder from Ethiopia, knows about as much about Ethiopian coffee varieties as anyone. He used to work for the Jimma Agricultural Research Center in Ethiopia. Then we have Christophe Montagnon. He is the Scientific Director of World Coffee Research. A coffee breeder for many, many, many years who has worked in all regions of the world. Lived for a long time in Cote D’Ivoire, was a Robusta breeder and knows about as much about coffee varieties. Is anybody that I know. You guys have no idea how star-studded this panel is when it comes to varieties. It’s amazing. So, make sure that you seek them out after the lecture to ask more questions if you have them.

Next to Christophe is Benoît Bertrand. He is a coffee breeder with CIRAD which is a French Research Institute that has done quite a lot of work in coffee variety development over the last few decades. He was formerly the Chief Breeder at World Coffee Research, which is how I got to know him and he himself is the breeder of many very famous coffee varieties, especially that are available in Central America but has been doing a lot of work using Ethiopian genetic material in creating new F1 hybrid varieties. So, we’re going to talk about that.

Next to Benoît, we have Jeff Koehler. Did I say that right? Okay, who is the author of “Where the Wild Coffee Grows? It is a totally amazing new book about the wild coffee forests of Ethiopia and the people in the economies that exist around those forests. This is the place where coffee evolved first. Arabica coffee evolved first 10,000 years ago and it’s a book that’s meant for regular people. It’s not a science. It’s not a book for scientists specifically although our scientists love it so, I really highly recommend it. I don’t think it’s available at the SCA store, but it is available at any bookstore and it’s truly remarkable if you want to learn about the story and the history of coffee.

So, that’s who we are, and I think we’re just going to get started so that we have time to have as much conversation as possible. The way this is going to work is that I’m going to ask our panelists to reflect on some of their work in their expertise and we’re going to kind of move the conversation around.  I’m a fan of free-flowing conversation so, if you have a really urgent, burning question about something do raise your hand and if it makes sense and if it’s possible in the flow, I may try to call on you, but we will also try to reserve questions for the end. Does that sound good? Everybody’s on the same page. Alright, here we go.


6:00 Jeff Koehler, author of Where Wild Coffee Grows, on the story of arabica coffee in Ethiopia’s forests

Hanna Neuschwander: We’re going to start with Jeff and the reason we’re going to do that is because the work that he’s done in writing this book about wild coffee for us, it takes us back to the beginning of Arabica coffee and you can’t talk about breeding and varieties and the development that’s happened over the last hundred years in Africa without looking at where coffee originated, where it came from in the first place. So, Jeff, you were able to spend quite a bit of time traveling around to some of these forests in Ethiopia where wild coffee still grows and I’m not sure wild is exactly the right term for it because it is also tended by people or picked. I guess harvested by people working and living in the forest. Can you give us kind of a quick overview on the story of Arabica coffee starting in these forests, and I’ve got a couple photos here that I might pull up as you talk.

Jeff Koehler: Sure, despite its name the center of diversity and the origin of Arabica coffee is actually Ethiopia, and it’s in the cloud forest predominantly in the southwest of the country, a couple hundred miles from Addis Ababa and it was in these forests here. These are in Kaffa, these cloud forests. Every morning the clouds push down. Where Arabica began, it spread around the globe and that began by people going into the forest and actually taking seeds or saplings and planting them around their house and that gradually spread. But the first place that cultivated Arabica on a wide scale was actually the Arabian Peninsula. Precisely when it went from those cloud forest as in the photo here to modern-day Yemen is unclear but by say 1550 when the Ottoman Empire took control of the area it was being grown on a commercial level.

The Ottomans increased production and planting and they’ve had throughout two centuries kind of complete control of the market from the airport in Mocha, but, you know coffee became too popular not to spread cultivation and by the early 1700s, the first seed was smuggled out of Yemen first by the Dutch planted in Java and that became the Typica variety and then a little bit later by the French to Bourbon or now the Island of  Réunion which became Bourbon and Arabica spread easily and it grew rapidly and in the right conditions thrived and within three decades it was growing on five continents and today it’s growing in about 40 countries in this Equatorial band between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic Capricorn. The main Arabica varieties are coming out of these two groups, Typica and Bourbon and we’re probably going to hear lots about those today. So, it’s a very brief overview of its spread.

Hanna Neuschwander: Here’s a map that sort of shows how it left Ethiopia, went to Yemen and then from there has spread around the world. I’m going to go back real quick to just a couple photos. Just to give you a feel for, has anybody here ever been to a coffee farm? Raise your hand.  Whoa, that’s like everybody almost. I was not expecting that. Does this look anything like a modern coffee farm? No, but this is how coffee evolved. This is the environment in which coffee evolved. These trees look totally different than the way that we are used to seeing them on a coffee farm because they evolved in these deep forested understories. So, the trees had to be tall and gangly to get up to the light, to get energy to keep growing and it’s really important to keep that context in mind as we talk about the development of varieties and the development of coffee breeding because humans have done a lot to change the coffee plant over the course of these many centuries of selecting plants that have the traits that work best for us in a farming context. I just want to show you a couple more photos because they’re really cool. So, Jeff, can you just tell us really quickly a little bit about..?

Jeff Koehler: This is actually in the Mankira forest and this is in Kaffa which is an area, the heartland of the wild coffee forest and these are just going and foraging for coffee. I mean, they go in and they go kind of quite deep into the forest and just foraged for the wild coffee. They’re taking things. I think there is another photo of the beans. They’ve taken yellow, green red. They’re not only getting the right kind of maroon cherry because there’s no guarantee that they’re going to be there when they come back. They’re very popular with certain birds, with the monkeys so they tend to kind of take everything and that’s certainly one thing you see when see the foragers and they’re gathering them in their baskets of fruits. There you go. These are what they’re taking. So, this is this is unlike a lot of coffee farms I think when you see those perfectly, everything is ideally kind of crimson in the forest. It’s better everything. So, they go quite deep into the forest. You have a right of harvesting or foraging certain areas and they just kind of go in and collect from their area.

Hanna Neuschwander: This is, I don’t know. I just find this really fascinating because there are people today that are still cultivating coffee in the way that coffee was cultivated. Basically, when it was first understood to be something special to humans and that is pretty exciting and one of the things that the folks that are that are doing this work are doing, whether they’re fully aware of it or not is tending to this storehouse of genetic diversity that exists for coffee. So, Typically for a plant or really any living being the place where it evolved tends to have the highest amount of genetic diversity in the world and then as it moves around the world you lose some of that genetic diversity because not every plant gets up and walks away to a field in Colombia or gets up and walks away to a field in Brazil.


12:15 Benoît Georges Bertrand on what is a variety, especially in the context of Ethiopian coffee

Hanna Neuschwander: In fact, most of the cultivated coffee around the world comes from just a few trees originally, going back a few hundred years. So, it’s what we call a genetic bottleneck. I actually want to ask you to reflect on this a little bit Benoît. This is a question that I actually get a lot as the communications person for World Coffee Research. As you start delving in a little bit to this question of is it this variety or is it that variety or what about this? You begin to quickly get back to this more fundamental question which is what is a variety? What makes one type of plant distinct from another and what does wild actually mean. So, if we’re talking about Ethiopia wild coffee, cultivated coffee. Can you reflect on that a little?

Benoît Georges Bertrand: Concerning the varieties, what is a variety? For breeders variety is something very clear with juridical aspects because we eventually can put a patent on variety. So, there is low that defines clearly what is variety. Variety is something that is a group of individuals that are distinct from other homogenous and stable. We must authenticate the variety. That means that we have to discriminate the variety from other plants or from other variety already existing first. Homogeneous that means that all the individuals are more or less the same. or is a small, small variation and stable that means that each generation we are able to reproduce and propagate the same varieties, exactly the same characteristics that we have. For botanists it’s something different. Variety for botanists is a group of individuals in a certain place where you have some characteristics, but there is for example, if you know in Robusta Canelo could be considered as a botanical variety but not a variety in such because in Canelo there is some variability, and in Canelo you can generate varieties for breeders. Is it clear enough?

Hanna Neuschwander: Yeah to give you an example that might be something you recognize if you’re familiar with Pacamara, this is a relatively famous what we in this room would probably think of as a variety from El Salvador. It doesn’t meet the thresholds that Benoît just described to be considered a variety in the sort of official breeder sense because it’snot fully stable and fully homogeneous. When you take seeds from Pacamara and plant them in the ground you will get variation and it’s enough variation that you can’t really consider it a fully homogeneous or stable variety. It doesn’t mean that a farmer can’t grow it and that a roaster couldn’t market it as Pacamara, but it would be very difficult to protect it in the legal sense because it doesn’t meet fully meet that distinct uniform and homogeneous and stable definition.

It could over time. So, one of the things that a breeder does and what’s reflected on this graph to some degree is observe plants that have characteristics that we like and that could mean many things. It could mean it tastes amazing. It is tolerant to drought. It has a really high yield. Whatever your particular set of traits is that you’re interested in, you recognize them and then you select the plants that have those traits and you take the seeds from them and you plant them and then when those babies grow up, there’s going to be some variation. You take the ones that are the most close to what you like, and you plant them, and you select them and over time you end up with distinct, uniform and stable varieties that are genetically quite different maybe from where they originated. A quick question, Yeah.

Attendee 1: How long does this process take?

Hanna Neuschwander: Traditional breeding for Arabica

Benoît Georges Bertrand: 20, 25, 30 years to produce a variety without the traditional way that is genealogical selection. technical terminology.

Hanna Neuschwander: Yeah, so one of the things we’re going to talk about today, is how that process has unfolded in Africa. We’re going to focus a lot on Ethiopia because we have the benefit of some expertise there but also on some other countries as well and look at what some of the breeding and variety development has looked like and I think one of the larger of points that we hope you walk away with is that while we might think of coffee from Ethiopia in particular but even coffee from Kenya, SL28, SL34 as being “heirloom” varieties. In fact, they’re the product of a very intentional process where breeders were doing this selection and looking for particular traits that were going to benefit the farmers that they worked with and for and so I guess with that, that’s a nice transition for you Getu.

Benoît Georges Bertrand: Sorry Hanna, I have to..

Hanna Neuschwander: Oh yeah.

Benoît Georges Bertrand: Yes, about the wild. If coffee is wild there is Ethiopian Arabica, Ethiopian wild coffee that we can name wild coffee. It is a very important issue for scientific community. In fact, we don’t know that because as Jeff said human has for many, many years ago has picked some seeds in the forest. People have harvested seeds and have grown the seeds in some places in Ethiopia. We don’t know for the moment if there is what we name domestication syndrome in coffee. That means that is it for example in wheat there is a clear domestication syndrome because if you are able to see the ancestor of the wheat, you see just weed and

Hanna Neuschwander: It looks nothing like the cultivated varieties

Benoît Georges Bertrand: Yes. For coffee is not so clear. So, we prefer for the moment to say that there is landraces. It means that these landraces could be considered as the difference between a black, white or [17:01inaudible] people more or less. This is no more than that. There are very little differences. So, we are speaking more about landraces and wild coffee?

Hanna Neuschwander: Yeah, this is really important terminology for scientists and breeders. But it’s also useful I think for people in this room to understand that as Benoît was saying if you look at like the wild relative of wheat or a watermelon, it looks nothing like the cultivated varieties. Coffee, it’s not so clear and the term landrace is the scientific jargon term that we use in order to distinguish between a variety that meets that definition distinct, uniform, stable and something that is closer to wild. But it could mean that it’s cultivated by people. It could grow in a garden, it could grow in a forest and be tended by people, but it doesn’t fully meet that definition. Kind of makes sense. It’s good to have a shared terminology when you’re talking about this stuff.


20:00 Getu Bekele on what Ethiopian coffee growing looks like today

Hanna Neuschwander: So, thank you. So yeah, with that Getu I’d like to turn over to you and have you talk a little bit about the breeding program in Ethiopia and what some of that work has looked like. Maybe painting a picture of what Ethiopian coffee growing looks like today. What are growers planting in the field? Where did those plants come from? How did they come to be?

Getu Bekele: Thank you Hanna. Yeah, most of you know that yes, Ethiopia is the center of origin and genetic diversity for our coffee. So, like the country grows different types of coffees in different parts of the country. So, we have a very diverse agroecology when you going to the east, west, southwest and the extreme west then you can find like different coffee landraces denomination. So, the combination of the presence of this genetic diversity and other ecology brought a great, great opportunity for the country to produce different coffee types in different parts of the country. So, to paint a good picture about Ethiopian coffee, maybe starting what kind of production systems are there in the country. We have the first coffee production system, which is most of the same. People mention that part like wild coffee. Yeah, so it should be more clear about wild coffee. When we are talking about wild. There are wild relatives of Arabica coffee, which is Coffea Canephora, and Coffea Eugenoides which are now basically coexisting with their progeny Arabica like in Ethiopia. These species are existing somewhere around Madagascar if I’m not mistaken.

Hanna Neuschwander: Just to say really quick and jump in on that. So, there’s 125 species of coffee in the coffee family. We only drink two of them basically, Arabica and Robusta. So, when we’re talking today about coffee and variety development, we’re talking just about Arabica. These are the higher quality coffees that we drink. In the specialty industry Robusta, the species name is Canephora, but you guys know what Robusta is so really we’re talking just about one species.

Getu Bekele: Yeah. Exactly, so we’re talking about the wild Arabica coffee. We call it wild because it’s growing in a wild forest where it grows naturally without any interference by human being. So, all the breeding, evolution exists without the interference of human beings. So, that is the first coffee we have in Ethiopia. So, that’s one of the production system. As coffee buyers it’s possible to get coffee harvested from this production system. The second one is something for us where there is the presence of wild Arabica coffee intercropped or planted with improved coffee varieties. Farmers, they can bring in their new improved varieties and bring it on the farm and they can produce the wild and improved varieties in this production system. The third and the largest percentage of coffee production system is the country’s is the garden coffee, which is very dominant like in the south, in the southwest. Not in the Southwest basically it’s a waste and in the east part of the country this kind of production system is really very dominant and the last but not the least is the big farms, which is owned by big investors. These are like around 200 hectares of coffee farm even somewhere in the southwest they can be around 500 hectares of coffee farm which exists in the country. So, these are the four different production systems.

So, with this production system, we have different coffee types growing in the system. So, to start with maybe what kind of breeding strategy is followed in the country. It’s 40 years of experience about Ethiopian coffee variety development. So, the modern coffee breeding program started back in the 1970s, the early 1970s after the outbreak of coffee berry disease and I know that, just most of you, if you’re traveling to the origin you can better understand what coffee berry disease is. So, that’s a kind of very devastating disease which happened back in 1970 in the country. It’s really devastated the whole industry. So, the only option at that point was to intervene with the use of chemical fungicide but that was not really sustainable. Then breeders decided to get into the forest and find a naturally resistant coffee variety that can be very sustainable.

So, breeders, they went to the southwest forest because [23:13 inaudible] has genetic diversity for Arabica coffee. It is possible to find different varieties for different traits. It’s possible to find a variety which is drought tolerant. It’s possible to find a variety which is disease resistant and possible to find different varieties for different breeding interests. So, at that point in 1970s the interest was to develop naturally resistant coffee varieties and as a result, in 1978 breeders developed around 13 different coffee varieties which are resistant to coffee berry disease. So, the strategy was at that point, developing a variety in the southwestern part of Ethiopia and distributing these varieties all over the country. The strategy was developing a wide adapting variety. That means tested in one area and distributed all over the country. Immediately, after two or three years of distributing these varieties, like most of the varieties failed to adopt outside of their own original regions. That is the southwestern parts of the country.

So, for example, a very good example of adaptation failure was in the East. If you ever heard of Harar coffee. So, this is the eastern part of the country where water is a big issue. It’s like a semi desert area where water is a big issue. So, most of the varieties which were developed is a southwest couldn’t just adapt and perform well in this area. Then breeders are start to think about updating their breeding strategy. Then, at this point they decided to develop coffee varieties for each region by collecting local landraces or genetic materials within each region and develop a variety respect to these areas.

So, starting 2004 the Jimma Agricultural Research Center where I used to work. We started developing local landrace development program. We went to each area, collected different genetic material, we experimented on the varieties and we developed local landrace varieties. These varieties are called specialty coffee varieties these days. So, in 1970s the strategy was to develop a wide adapting varieties, but back after 2004 the strategy was to develop specific adapting coffee varieties. So, as of today I can say most of the farmers in Ethiopia, they produce improved coffee varieties. These are the varieties developed by Jimma Agricultural Research Center. As of today, we have around 40 improved coffee varieties

Hanna Neuschwander: 40.

Getu Bekele: Yeah 40. So, these varieties are already distributed in different areas of the country and the same time farmers have their own solutions, their own varieties. So, they are producing own local landraces, their own varieties, and they are producing improved coffee varieties released from JCR.

Hanna Neuschwander: Yeah, so I’m going to hold up something. What you see here on the screen is, many of you are probably familiar with Counter Cultures variety map that they’ve made in the past. So, they’ve now made a new one that’s just for Ethiopia based on some of the work that Getu has done and that it’s summarized in this new beautiful book that Counter Culture just published called “Reference Guide to Ethiopian Coffee Varieties” and I think, for those of us who maybe even like myself kind of love Ethiopian coffee, but tend to think of it and relatively simplistic terms like, ” Oh it’s Harar or oh it’s maybe from this one particular washing station because that’s how it’s been marketed in the past.”

We may have a much more sophisticated understanding and vocabulary for varieties from other parts of the world. Like, “Oh, I know what SL28 is, I know what Pacamara is.” Ethiopia has that same complexity and in fact a much deeper complexity because they have this amazing genetic diversity to work with and over the last 40 years the Jimma Agricultural Center has done a tremendous amount of work to select an adapt, to take from that storehouse of genetic diversity and find varieties that are going to work for very specific localized environments.

There is no other coffee producing country in the world that is able to do this and that has the ability to breed in this way because Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and does have this genetic diversity to work with. So, it’s super complex and I think this book and this awesome. graphic are just the beginning of helping the specialty coffee world develop a more sophisticated vocabulary around Ethiopian coffee varieties and some of this diversity because it’s not just one thing. It’s not just Ethiopian coffee or wild coffee or heirloom coffee. It’s all of these things. So, every one of these little nodes represents a distinct homogeneous stable variety for the most part so it’s pretty impressive.


30:45 Timothy Hill on how he navigates the genetic complexity of Ethiopia’s coffees as a green buyer

Hanna Neuschwander: Let’s see Tim, I want to ask for your perspectives on this as a coffee buyer. How do you for one thing, I mean why did you want to do this and how do you process all of this?

Timothy Hill: Yeah, so I mean to me like probably just even listening to this you’re torn between these two worlds of Ethiopia has been developing these coffees for 40 years and photos of growers picking coffee in the forest and so,  the coffee bar, the term Heirloom has always been kind of how we’ve marketed and talked about these coffees and when you started traveling, you started seeing this and you had farmers and you would ask them what variety you’re growing and they would say a name and it’d be like, “Oh, that’s interesting. What does that name mean?” It’s like, and then you look into it more and it’s like, “Oh there’s a number and it’s 7 4 1 1 0. What does that mean? Is it heirloom? Is it improved? Is it wild? Where do these coffees come from?”

The more and more I dug in the more and more the complexity becomes more clear and then it becomes less clear again and so the whole initiative is to just look and figure out how these things work together. What is the truth behind that and how do you have better conversations with growers, producers, researchers on what these coffees actually are. How do we taste these things? How do we figure out what the potential? And that’s where this came from. It was this idea of what is really happening and then how do we take it to the next level because just talking about heirloom isn’t going to take us to the next place in Ethiopia, isn’t going to take us to the next place in other research around there.

Me and Getu were in Ethiopia not that long ago and I had this very crazy experience that drove everything home for me which is we’re on a farm with a grower and I was like, “Oh what variety are you growing?” and he says [30:28 inaudible] which is this old landrace kind of name based on a based on a tree in Ethiopia and it’s super compact, tends to be a variety I like. I’ve heard a lot of farmers talk about it they like it and then I was like, okay interesting and the trees look really new, the plot looked perfect. I was like, “What number is that?” And he’s like, “74112.” I’m like, “Oh, okay, so you’ve just added a whole nother layer of complexity to that, which is you’re using an old landrace name for an improved selection.” This is actually a variety that came from the southwest of Ethiopia. It was output 40 years ago and there’s a lot of information about it. It’s one of the most popular varieties in the country. It’s probably producing hundreds of thousands of pounds of coffee in the country and just no one really knows that that exists. So, that’s kind of where all this came from.

Hanna Neuschwander: Just to follow up on that. I mean situationally the way that Ethiopia’s coffee market is structured and how coffee gets bought and sold. I’m presuming it’s not so easy. Let’s say you have your book in hand and you have this at the ready and you’re like, oh that looks interesting. I want to buy some whatever. It’s not really like that right now in Ethiopia. You’re not buying single varietal coffees on the market.

Timothy Hill: Yeah. It’s a tough balance because you know Ethiopia has this very rich gene pool. It’s very valuable to the world. I think Ethiopia has tried to release; I’m assuming in research the goal is how do you bring Ethiopia into the equation. That can really be a huge benefit to the world of coffee research, knowledge and Jean material for what’s happening out there. I’ve seen like maybe a few variety specific coffees out of Ethiopia and even those are murky at best. It’s what they exactly are but I’ve also had the experience of going to a farm and saying, “Oh, what are you growing?” They’re like, “Oh, yeah, we work with the Jimma Agricultural Research Center and we’re growing 100 hundred hectares of 74110and it’s like, “Oh, you are growing a single variety and you have multiple, multiple containers of it.”

So, it is very fascinating. I think the goal is how do you, in the world of Gesha‘s and all these interesting coffees. How do you, what is the next Gesha? Where is it going to come from? It’s probably going to come from Ethiopia and how do we how do we make that happen?


35:00  Christophe Montagnon on the variety landscape across Africa generally

Hanna Neuschwander: Thank you. So, I want to turn a little bit away from Ethiopia to some of the rest of Africa and talk about another really cool resource that’s new. This is the World Coffee Research Arabica Coffee Varieties Catalog. This in and of itself is not new. This was originally, the project was started a couple years ago, but it’s not only a print document. It’s also an online totally free resource. So, definitely encourage you to go check it out. It’s hold on right here, but it’s a living document. So, one of our big projects at World Coffee Research has been to help produce resources for coffee farmers, but also for all of you to help you understand the differences between these different varieties that are grown around the world because they are not the same and especially important for farmers, they really can have significant differences in their agronomic performance.

So, that means what do they do on the farm? Do they produce super high cup quality or are they resistant to disease or both and depending on what farm you have where you are those questions matter a lot. Cup quality is not the only thing driving a farmers decision about what to plant. In many cases it’s the last thing driving that decision and that it really matters to understand that about how coffee producers are running their businesses. This last year we had the opportunity to expand the catalog to include 11 new varieties from six countries in East Africa. So, those are now available on that website and through here as well and we have with us Christophe who is the lead author of that expansion and I just want to ask you Christophe to reflect a little bit on some of what we learned in the process of pulling this catalog together about the variety landscape in Africa in general. Kenya is covered in the catalog Malawi, Rwanda. What are these varieties that are growing in these countries besides Ethiopia and how did they get there?

Christophe Montagnon: Thank you Hannah. We learned a lot because we really went through the history of coffee varieties in East Africa and the first thing that is obvious now, but that was like a shock is that all the Ethiopian, Yemen, Indonesia, Bourbon, America thing was in the early 18th century and Kenya and East Africa which is just nearby Ethiopia. The really first coffee growing in those countries was in the early 20th century. So, you have a two centuries difference between Ethiopia, Yemen, India, Indonesia for Typica and Yemen, Bourbon, America. This is number one and two centuries after that you had the first coffee growing in East Africa just nearby Ethiopia. So, that was the first thing that we realized that. We knew that somehow, but we just realized that.

Hanna Neuschwander: Just to make sure I totally understand. So, even though Kenya and Tanzania are right next door basically to Ethiopia. The coffee didn’t come there for the most part from Ethiopia. It went out to all these other places in the world. To the Americas, to these islands, to Indonesia and eventually made its way back into Africa via these other places.

Christophe Montagnon: Yes.

Hanna Neuschwander: Yeah.

Christophe Montagnon: Two centuries later. So, as you can see on this slide you had different entries introduction in East Africa from Bourbon Island, the French missions because it was through the French missionaries. You have also very important and often overlooked the genetic material from India when out of Yemen, there was a stop in India before it reached Indonesia with the Dutch. So, India is very important place for the early genetic diversity out of Yemen.

So, there’s a lot of varieties like Kent, Jackson, Korg that were introduced in East Africa. Then you have back from America, some Typica from Jamaica that were known as Nyasaland which was the former name of Malawi and then that way through Africa and ended up in Uganda, for example known as Bugisu. So, this is a Typica that came from Jamaica and also back from America some Bourbons that are known as, for example Bourbon on Mayaguez in Rwanda and Burundi and also some few, very few from Ethiopia. Very few and I can cite two of them that went out of Ethiopia like in the 30s. One was one was 3040s, one was Rume Sudan and the other one is the famous Gesha.

Okay, so all those ones came together in East Africa in like a few decades. That’s what we then ended up to call this place the Melting Pot. East Africa became a Melting Pot and it is very interesting to see the difference between a one variety travel around the world, Typica Bourbon and in East Africa, a Melting Pot or very different origins back to East Africa.

Hanna Neuschwander: So then starting in like the 1910s, 1920s you see countries like Kenya and Tanzania in particular beginning to both bring in new material from these other places like going to farms and India and finding things that look drought-resistant and bringing them into and then also developing local breeding programs.

Can you say a little bit about, I’ve pulled up here a slide that shows a couple of the predominant varieties in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi The Jacksons, the SL series, maybe you could say a little bit about SL coffee since people know it.

Christophe Montagnon: Okay, the Indian varieties that came it was actually because they were rust resistant at that time. The only place out of Ethiopia at that time where you could find some rust resistant varieties was in India because, in other places of the world, it was only Bourbon or Typica and they were susceptible to rust. So, this first germplasm in India was really important and so  they were brought into East Africa and there were two main let’s say breeding centers, one was Scott Laboratories that is the ancestor of the Ruiru Coffee Research Institute right now in Kenya and there was another breeding center very important at the foot of Kilimanjaro in the Lyamungu which is now the place of the Tanzanian Coffee Research Institute and what happened for those varieties that, as a Melting Pot you had a lot of population.

They were a mix, most of the mix was natural. Not a lot of controlled pollination but all put together and basically the breeders, they look at some trees and say, “Hey this tree is good,” and those trees became the SL Series in Kenya and in Tanzania the [41:04 inaudible]. So, those were trees that were looking good out of some natural mixes between different populations and just to finish which is very difficult for the Breeders today is that to find the very reference of, let’s say SL34, let’s say that one. It was selected in the 30s.

Who knows exactly the traceability? Who knows what happened between the time it was named SL34, one tree and what today we know as SL34. Is it the same name? Is it the same reference? We don’t know but what is clear is that we have a reference that what is known today as SL34 we can name it, whether it was the exact initial tree that was called that way. It’s sometimes difficult to know.

Hanna Neuschwander: So, when Tim said it was unclear and then it started getting clearer and then it got more unclear. That’s the case with varieties often. I just want to highlight two themes that I’ve heard mentioned a couple times because I think it’s really important to understand. Christophe mentioned going to India and looking at these trees and seeing that they were resistant to rust and saying oh that’s important. I’m going to bring that back to Kenya. Getu mentioned as well that some of the what drove the establishment of the Ethiopian coffee breeding program was the emergence of an epidemic of coffee berry borer.

So, we in this room are, was that right? Disease, sorry, coffee berry disease. So, you know, we in this room are thinking about how a coffee tastes. A coffee Farmer and the research institutes that are supporting those coffee farmers are thinking most, and as they should be about what is going to help these farmers continue to be able to grow the trees on their land without them dying and there was a huge epidemic of coffee-berry disease in East Africa around that time that actually drove a lot of breeding that began happening in the 70s both in Ethiopia, but also Kenya, Tanzania.

You see now after the coffee leaf rust epidemic that happened starting in 2012 and Central America, a real resurgence in global interest in breeding. Because you realize when these sort of huge epidemic tragedies happen just how fragile this whole ecosystem is and that if coffee producers are losing 50% of their crop for multiple years in a row to disease they’re not going to continue to be coffee farmers for very long. This is really one of the main aims of breeding programs around the world. It’s to help farmers protect against these kind of losses. Quality matters a lot and we know that it can help farmers improve their profitability and stay in the game, but coffee is very far from being tomatoes is maybe an example. I’m a gardener in Oregon. If you go to the local nursery near my house, there’s 1000 kinds of tomatoes. They have green stripes, there’s like a purple one. They’re different sizes. They taste, all of those that vast kind of array of difference has been created by breeders for people like me who are like, I want a green tomato. I want a zebra stripe tomato.


46:45 Benoît Georges Bertrand on what global breeding work is taking place using coffee trees from Ethiopia

Hanna Neuschwander: We’re not at that level yet in coffee where there are lots of breeders working on these very specific quality focused origins. We are getting there, we’re beginning to get there, and I want to turn to that now a little bit Benoît because ultimately all Arabica coffee originates from Ethiopia so, in a way you can say all Arabica coffee is Ethiopian. We’ve come to associate certain varieties with the places they’re more widely grown like Pacamara in El Salvador or Catuaí in Brazil, but some Ethiopian coffees are not grown anywhere outside of Ethiopia. Some of the stuff that you’ve worked with us and Tim that you describe in your book.

We’re just beginning to be at a time now in the history of global coffee breeding where we’re looking at some of those Ethiopian varieties that have not traditionally grown anywhere outside Ethiopia and beginning to draw on them to do new breeding and create new coffee varieties. Can you talk a little bit about the global breeding work that’s happening now to begin to use some of that material.

Benoît Georges Bertrand: Maybe something that it was not so clear on what we explain for the moment is that in Yemen people do without knowing now but they do clear adaptation of coffee to the draft condition that exists in Yemen. In Yemen’s the rainfall is very, very low. The quantity of rain is this not rainy country. So, they adapt the coffee to this situation and when the Dutch people, French people, British people pick some seeds from Yemen and they export the seeds to Latin America and in Latin America people do new varieties.

New varieties as Bourbon, Typica, Caturra, Mundo Novo, Catuaí and until maybe the 80s, 90% of the production in Latin America was done by, was originated from maybe three varieties, Caturra, Catuaí, Mundo Novo and those varieties were highly susceptible to all diseases but highly productive and very well adapted to the condition of Latin America. But doing that they create a genetic base very homogeneous and when we try to cross these genetic base with Ethiopian landraces, we obtain new varieties.

The name is F1 hybrid, cross that is originating from crossing Ethiopian landraces by the genetic base in Latin America and those F1 hybrids really demonstrate the high vigor and it’s European coming from the collection that we in the 70, 60 and 70. We have created a collection of bigger germplasm in Costa Rica in Colombia and in Brazil with Ethiopian Acquisitions. So, right now we have put maybe 20, maybe 10%, 20% of the genetic diversity that exists in Ethiopia is representing in Latin America and we can cross with those Ethiopian [48:29 inaudible] with the Latin American varieties to obtain those new varieties.

Hanna Neuschwander: So, you remember the graph with all the dots on it and there was like the blue circle of the varieties we cultivate and then the big one with all the dots? For the first time breeders are beginning to take from each of those groups and cross them together to make these new varieties called F1 hybrids and they’re performing really well. Benoît used the word vigorous, is the word. Very few of these varieties have been released for farmers yet. But there’s a lot of active breeding happening.

So, over the next 10 years, you’re going to start seeing more and more and more varieties that are the result of crossing the existing widely cultivated varieties with the Ethiopian more genetically diverse materials and seeing them coming into we think probably very widespread production around the globe because they’re performing so well for farmers. They produced more coffee; they have high cup quality potential. Some of them are very highly tolerant to diseases even if they’re not specifically resistant to them so they might have a little disease on them, but they’re not like crippled by it if that makes sense. So, this is really exciting, because this is opening it up, an entirely new frontier in varieties for coffee.

So, we’ve had these kind of waves. The coffee leaves Ethiopia. You have Bourbon and Typica spreading around the world. That’s the first wave then you have more intensive breeding happening in the 20s and 30s in places like Colombia, Brazil, East Africa, that’s giving us the Mundo Novo‘s, the Catuaís, the Caturras, a lot of the varieties that we know by name and now you have this new wave happening. There’s been continuous breeding happening in the interim time. I don’t mean to suggest that there hasn’t, but this is a whole new approach to breeding and it’s bringing in new genetic diversity that we’ve never really had outside of Ethiopia.

So, of course Ethiopia, has and will continue to have and will continue to produce some of the best coffees in the world because of the genetic diversity that they have available.


53:00 Timothy Hill on how he, as a green buyer, buys and markets coffees

Hanna Neuschwander: So, that’s trying to paint a picture I think of what has happened in Africa with variety development over the past depending on how you look at it, 10,000 years or a couple hundred years. Just before we move to audience questions and in closing. I’m going to ask people to reflect on a couple things. Tim over the course of writing this book. I know that you revised your thinking a lot about what does variety even mean. What does it mean to me as a buyer? How do I think about varieties in terms of the way that I buy coffee, the way that I market the coffee that we’re selling. Can you talk a little bit about how what you’ve learned has changed your approach?

Timothy Hill: Yeah, so I mean, I don’t know if you can pull up the Kenya one real quick and I’ll talk a little bit about Kenya in the context of this. Ethiopia, like I said was very unclear. I thought it became a lot more clear and then it became unclear and you got to sort through that. You got to keep going through that and how do you get the best coffee out of Ethiopia? How do you understand these coffees? Is this Yirgacheffe, this old heirloom variety or is this really an improved CBD resistant variety that is grown everywhere in the country and actually tastes really delicious. Maybe that’s a really good thing to promote and so, it’s kind of got those discussions going with a lot of farmers on what they’re growing, what they actually have and how to proceed in the future.

So, we’re trying to describe those coffees a lot better trying to talk to farmers about what that what that means and how we market that and how we talk about it with people that maybe don’t have the understanding. But Kenya was a really interesting one, too. So, we’re developing the same information on Kenya, which is this place that looks really clear on the surface. There’s less than a handful of varieties that we know and probably only three that we really put on a bag and talk about but this idea of like Ruiru 11 is this I don’t know roaster hated variety out there, but then when you look at the research and like what Ruiru 11 actually is. Which according to different people is about 66 different siblings of Ruiru 11. Some of those siblings could be really impressive and some Ruiru 11s I’ve tasted over the last few years have been really impressive and that changed my opinion about what I promote and market and how I work with farms and gets rid of some of the bias that maybe I had against varieties and Batians the same story. Batian is really three different distinct lines of Batian and how that was created and exactly what it is. I think we all come to the table with a lot of bias and a lot of impressions about what we’re purchasing and what we’re thinking about and what we want, but a lot of times that’s based on incorrect information and things that we should probably understand a lot better before making biases.


55:45 Where are we now in understanding coffee’s genetic varieties and what we can look  forward to in the future

Hanna Neuschwander: I’m going to throw an open-ended question out there and if no one wants to pick it up, that’s fine, we’ll just move but basically a similar question but for the researchers at the table. We’ve come a long way over the last 100 years the way that we think about coffee breeding now is different. It used to be entirely just walk into a forest, look at a tree that looks like it’s got good qualities, take it out. We’re now using genetic screening in order to create varieties. The process of developing varieties looks different. The landscape of varieties looks very different. Would anybody like to reflect a little bit on where we are now and what you see coming in the future and especially the parts of it that are exciting to you. Do it. Do it.

Christophe Montagnon: Yes. So, to me there’s a lot of very exciting things coming in. The plant breeding is entering a very exciting era of molecular breeding and it’s not, of course genetic transformation. You know that while coffee research is not working on GMO, but we are working on molecular breeding which is a way to speed up the traditional process. The traditional process as Benoît was saying to breed a variety you need like 25 years. So what molecular breeding is going to do is help us decrease this time maybe to 10 years. When we are looking for some traits like resistance to diseases or like some very specific qualities for example or chemical composition we will be able very soon to be able to tell from the nursery. In fact ,as soon as a plant has some leaves we are going to be able to look at the DNA of that leaves and we will be able to predict with some probability and statistics, but we will be able to predict whether this one will be resistant or not to disease, whether this one will be a given volatile compound that is important to quality yes or no> So, that will help us really either be more much more efficient and screen a lot of things. I would say altogether we are going to screen a lot of different materials very easily, cost-effective and to save a lot of time to go to new varieties.

So, that molecular breeding that is coming is very important to us. It’s not a silver bullet. We’re not going to solve everything. We are not going to solve yield with molecular breeding. This is not true because it is too quantitative, too much genes in that very quantitative. When I say quantitative, depending on a lot of different genes. But for those traits that are depending on few genes this molecular breeding will help us save time and money in our breeding progress.

Hanna Neuschwander: Yeah, Getu.

Getu Bekele: I want to add something on maybe the application of genomics in the coffee industry then. Yeah, we are in a very advanced stage for genomics in crops but the application of genomics in coffee is still lagging behind. For example, Ethiopia has got a very great untapped potential for improving the coffee industry around the world.

But, the point is Ethiopia is almost closed for having partnership with different institutions around the world. But when Ethiopia sets these strict regulations not to move coffee genetic resources outside of Ethiopia, the world coffee industry should think the way how we can collaborate with Ethiopia, maybe bringing in different facilities. Ethiopia is very developing still, quite poor in terms of science and technology. We don’t have the right infrastructure for the application of genomics in the country in the country.

So, bringing all these kind of facilities infrastructure down to the country and exploiting the great untapped potential may safeguard like the future coffee industry. Climate change, the big interest and demand from the specialty coffee industry. The industry is really changing very fast and requesting and demanding for very specific coffee varieties. That is a trend. We are moving on right now. So, how we can exploit, how we can just respond to this kind of demand.

So, this should be kind of platform where we can let Ethiopia participate in the global coffee improvement efforts. So, for me, there has been different moves from different authorities around the world to bring in Ethiopia in the system, but the regulation has been there maybe for 400 years. The country doesn’t want to get out its own varieties outside of Ethiopia. This is something which I really appreciate as an Ethiopian, but to safeguard the global coffee industry where is the possibility? Where is another dimension of thinking? We can start thinking and bring Ethiopia into the system.

So, I’m also working on genomic prediction. I know that we should have a very robust strong genomic prediction where we can use a model to predict the future genetic potential of a specific variety. A variety resistant that is drought tolerant, a variety with high quality. So, we don’t need to go into the field and plant varieties and wait for 20, 25 years just only taking the leaf, sequencing the DNA, having a guild prediction model and make the prediction and select a variety. So, there is a huge material sitting in Ethiopia and there is great knowledge and great expertise outside of Ethiopia. But, we need to have a win-win approach where we can use our knowledge and with that resource and safeguard the convenience tree around the world.

Hanna Neuschwander: Thank you. Benoît, you have a…

Benoît Georges Bertrand: Just a few words to finish on this theme, maybe to have a global overview. There are some problems in the future for coffee that is dramatic l global change. Global warming and the disease’s epidemics. For example, rust, CBD we talk about it and maybe other new disease like Xylella fastidiosa, that is a bacteria that is really a problem not only for coffee but for all the other crops and all of that, we have to design farming systems more adapted to this global change.

So, there is an agroforestry system right now in Ethiopia, for example in the majority of the country that are cultivating coffee is under shade, under trees but there is also big producing country as Brazil that are producing in full sun system and for each of these farming system we have to design varieties adapted to those farming system. It’s not the same thing to design variety for mechanizing farming system that for example, the system we see in the in the picture. So, we have we have this challenge.

This is a big challenge and in the future we can imagine maybe to cultivate coffee in the North or in the South as occurs in California for example. We will be able maybe with a global warming to cultivate coffee in greenhouses. So, we have to think right now to all those possibilities and to design the varieties for the future because to design your variety, the time is more or less 20 years to have a good variety adapted to a farming system. So, right now we are thinking about what effort we have to do and just to finish. Yes, we are doing also, and we will publish in my lab. We will publish soon. The technique of genome editing on coffee, for all the crops, all animals we use this technology. CRISPR-Cas9 is a new technology and it is functioning on coffee. So, in the future, in the near future, we will have all the possibility, all the tools to create new varieties but the difficulties it will design for what kind of farming system.

Hanna Neuschwander: So, in a way what you’re describing Benoît is trying to do for the world what Ethiopia began to do about 20 years ago where rather than they have a single approach, a single or a small group of varieties really a huge proliferation of varieties that are tailored to the different needs of farmers, the different environments that they’re growing coffee in. We can look at a graph like this and it’s like “wow that’s a lot more varieties than we than we realized even existed in Ethiopia.” We look at something like this for Kenya. There should be as many nodes as there is for Ethiopia and Kenya and all over the world. What we need for coffee is a lot more varieties that are specifically tailored to the needs of farmers and the needs of the environment.

So, I hope that if we gather here again in 20 or 30 years because this takes a long time that resources like this will be four or five or ten times the size that they are now because that’s what coffee producers need. It’s also what you need because one element of the diversity and perfusion of variety development that we need is stuff that’s very specifically tailored for quality. We’re not at that point yet for coffee where we can design a variety to have a very specific cup profile, but we will get there, that’s coming.

So, I just want to re-highlight, if you’re interested in coffee varieties in general, but especially African varieties, you have three amazing new resources here. The book of Jeff that tells the story of how coffee moved out of the forests of Ethiopia, this incredible reference guide to Ethiopian varieties. Nothing like this has ever been available before in coffee especially for this community and this living document that continues to expand and grow and help coffee producers know about the varieties available to them.


1:07:40 If a farmer has two stable populations of a particular variety and are close enough to each other to cross, will these varieties cross genetically by themselves naturally?

Hanna Neuschwander: I want to thank my panelists and invite folks to come up and ask questions. We have about 10 minutes to get a couple questions in.

Attendee 2: Hi, clearly, the role of the breeder is extremely important to Arabica coffee. So, for some context if a farmer has two stable populations of a particular variety and they are close to each other enough to create a natural cross. What percentage or how much without the interference of the breeder could a farmer expect to see what kind of crossing, does that make sense?

Hanna Neuschwander: Yeah, so if you have on a coffee farm two stable varieties that are growing close together. Will they will they cross; will you get out crossing basically is the question.

Christophe Montagnon: As you know, Arabica is can self-pollinate.

Hanna Neuschwander: But that means it has sex with itself. It does not need another plant in order to sexually reproduce

Christophe Montagnon: Yes.

Hanna Neuschwander: Sounds fun. We should all go be Arabica coffee plants.

Christophe Montagnon: But it can also outcross. So, when it is, and we think that there is like 25 to 30% of outcrossing so it is very possible that you get outcrossing with your two different trees. Now, the big question in your question is what you see as different. Is it really different from a genetic point of view because sometimes you’ve got some shade, you can’t tell for sure that two trees that are looking different are genetically different. But, if they are you might well have some natural crosses. It is happening much more than we think.

Timothy Hill: I actually have a question as a kind of follow-up to that which is, so from my understanding which is very low at this point, but it would be the seed of that if you are having those natural crosses. So, it’d be an F1 seed which means that would it make sense for farmers to like try to propagate more seed from their Farm to see what kind of crosses and what kind of genetics they’re getting because sure, it could cross but all that seed is going to buyers.

Christophe Montagnon: Maybe I will leave it also to Benoît but not every cross is a F1 cross.  To have a F1 cross you need two main conditions. The first one is that the parents, the two parents are very high homozygous. That’s one of the first conditions for being called a F1 hybrids and the second is that you need genetic distance between the two parents. So, that means that F1 hybrids or crosses are very specific. Not any cross is a F1 hybrid.

Hanna Neuschwander: Just to follow up just a tiny bit on this. So, the genetics of a plant or of any living being interact with its environment and there may be observable differences that you see in the plant like a different, I’m just throwing out a bad example, but a different color of the leaf or a different color of the fruits that do not correspond to differences that are baked into the genetics and I think fruit color is actually a good example of that. So, right Benoît. So, you can have Orange Bourbon and Red Bourbon and they’re not genetically different. They are not distinct from a genetic point of view varieties people. You can refer to them that way and farmers could select and have a little filled with only orange ones but if you look into the DNA, they’re not. Yeah, just to say in case you couldn’t hear.

So, I think sometimes people think like, “Oh Orange Bourbon or Yellow Bourbon and Red Bourbon they are different, and they have different flavor profiles. Color of fruit is controlled by one or two genes. Flavor is controlled by the interaction of hundreds of genes. So, from a genetic standpoint you’re not having a strong correlation there between color of food and flavor. Go ahead.


1:12:00 How confident are we that there are different varieties of coffees in different Ethiopian coffee forests?

Attendee 3: My question is more about what extent have these varieties been mapped genetically to where, in the Counter Culture project and the World Coffee Research Project, are we sure that these are actual individual varieties and not the buyer coming to the farm and saying what do you have? Oh, it’s different and to what extent is that confident that we have these different varieties?

Christophe Montagnon: So, yes, yes, the short answer is yes. We have mapped, not in the sense of genetic mapping more of genetic diversity. We have mapped the different varieties and we are able to tell for maybe 90% of the world coffee Arabica. We are able to tell that this is this variety. This is Gesha, yes for sure. But, there is one issue that is very important and that we are facing. It is sometimes like a scientific challenge is that it most of tomatoes or that Hanna was saying there is a very clear reference.

The breeder has the basic seeds of the variety and you can refer that as the very reference and in coffee, as I was saying it’s not easy to find the very reference that tells you if this is this fingerprint then it is SL34. So, we tend to force. In some cases, it is very clear. In some cases, we rather talk about a cluster or universe that, for example, you will have a given variety like Pacamara that is covering a given part of the genetic diversity. So, it is not one point, but it is a small are like a region of the genetic diversity that is covered by the camera.

Hanna Neuschwander: If you were going to think about dots on a map. If you had a Bourbon that was exactly matching the reference for Bourbon, they would be exactly on top of each other, the two dots would. For Pacamara, if you had 100 leaf samples from 100 different trees they might be kind of just right next to each other. They’re not like right on top of each other if that makes sense. Tim, I think I know that you have a good point you want to jump in on.

Timothy Hill: So, if you want to bring up the Kenya map and so that the work that WCR just released kind of shattered what I conceptually thought of a lot of Kenyan varieties, especially the history of the written history of a lot of these varieties, So, you’ll get SL34 and the literature from the 50s always associated to like a French Mission Bourbon selected from this variety and who knows. Maybe that reference doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe that’s what it originally was. But, according to the DNA that WCR ran, it’s not. It aligns more to a Typica and, to be honest, in the field it looks more like a Typica. So, that’s not super surprising and there’s a lot of varieties that I think just mapped out like that. That’s very true in [1:13:02 inaudible] from Burundi and 39 from Tanzania. Kent which I think I was always told as a coffee buyer was a Typica did not map out that way under the DNA that they ran. So, I think there’s a lot that we’re learning on what is it true reference.

Hanna Neuschwander:  Really quick because we’re going to run out of time here. I just want to follow up on what Christophe said. We have the capacity to see what varieties are now. We can we can look and take a leaf sample and say, “Oh, yep. It is Gesha, oh yep, it’s Bourbon or it’s close. That is not the reality on the ground. If you’re a coffee producer, you may think that you know that you have Bourbon. It’s very unlikely that you actually know what you have and that’s not through any fault of your own. It’s because of that Melting Pot aspect. Coffee has just been moving around in people’s back pockets, in their suitcases, blowing across the field hand to hand to neighbors for hundreds of years. This is not an organized system. Very few coffee producers we now have the capacity to test and you send us some leaves and we tell you what it is. We’re finding that as people do that, very few people know what they have and it’s either closely related or in many cases like with the SLs, it’s totally different. We just had no idea. Colby, you want to ask really quick and then we’ll…


1:16:30 How participatory was the Ethiopian government when it came to creating the books on Ethiopian coffee varieties

Attendee 4: A question regarding the book. One, as a coffee buyer I’m super, super excited about actually all the research that’s going down and as a geographer also very excited. But, I was just curious. How much the Ethiopian, either government was either participatory or involved in it or if there are stoked. Spending some time in Jimma Agriculture Research Center I know it’s pretty closed doors and formal. So, I’m wondering if this is information they’re going to get to use or if it was more like you guys just trying to consolidate information that was sort of there.

Timothy Hill: So, I also spent a very small time originally when I first met Getu. We went to JRC and to be honest, they were pretty open with the information that they said. I couldn’t actually see any of the trees that they were talking about. They wouldn’t show me the trees and the breeding of the coffee, but they’re pretty open with the information and, if you look hard enough the information for everything JRC has developed is out there but it’s super scattered. It’s in research documents all over the Internet and the numbers that make sense and the histories and there’s a 100 page manual about the CBD breeding in Ethiopia in the 70s. So, basically this isn’t a lot of new research. There’s things that we learned when we traveled and talk to people, but this is just a compilation of documents over the last 40, 50 years

Attendee 4: That’s awesome.

Timothy Hill: and JRC was peripherally, we talk to them, but they did not participate in the definitions.

Hanna Neuschwander: I’m going to jump in here and thank all of you for coming to learn more about this. I invite you to come ask questions of our panelists and really thank our panelists for their time today. Thank you.



1:18:20 Outro

Heather Ward: That was Timothy Hill, Jeff Koehler, Getu Bekele Gedefa, Christophe Montagnon, Dr. Benoît Bertrand and Hanna Neuschwander at Expo in 2018. Remember to check our show notes for a full transcript of this lecture and visit worldofcoffee.org for tickets to our next run of lectures!

This has been an episode of the SCA Podcast. Thank you for joining us!

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