How many times have you seen the word "Caturra" attached to coffee brands all over the world? Amazingly, many people do use the term without being aware of the origin of the word. I have done a little research in the matter and here is what I have found.
This is a quite interesting origin for a coffee varietal. Indeed, Caturra in Portuguese refer to the Parrot bird species. In Spanish it would translate to "Cotorra" or "Perico".Thus, most likely, it refers to domestic birds of the calopsita or Cockatiel species. In street language, it means a difficult person, who likes to contradict and argue for nothing. In Spanish, a "Cotorra" can also mean someone who is very talkative and noisy.
These are the main agronomic characteristics of the Red and Yellow Caturra varietals:
1. It is the of small size, of reduced length of internodes, leaves and side branches, providing compact appearance to the coffee shrub.
2. This is the first naturally occurred coffee mutation found, with small size and high yiel capacity
The Caturra cultivars were responsible for profound changes and improvement in the coffee industry worldwide.
3. They have excellent quality in the cup because they have virtually 100% of the Bourbon coffee in their genetic makeup.
4. the conditions in which they were planted in Brazil to cultivate Caturra showed low hardiness and
consequent lack of vigor after a few harvests, which led to the premature depletion in yield.
These cultivars has not been adequately studied in Brazil.
However, In high altitude locations and fertile soils located in other Latin American countries, they are planted using, in some cases, dense planting systems and shade.
In Colombia, Red Caturra represents about 70% of the occupied area with coffee, and in Costa Rica, more than 80%.
In Brazil, in places of high altitude and fertile soil, these cultivars are present in dense planting system. Another feature of this varietal is the excellent quality of the cup, since it is a 100% arabica Bourbon.
This coffee varietal was developed by the Alcides Carvalho Coffee Center ( Centro de Cafe ) of the IAC, Instituto Agronomico of the Sao Paulo State in Brazil.
Here is a little history of the Institute:
The Agronomy Institute (IAC), in Campinas: The Agronomy Institute (IAC), in Campinas is a research institute of the Agency Paulista Agribusiness Technology
of the Secretariat of Agriculture of the State of São Paulo, and is headquartered in Campinas. It was founded
in 1887 by Emperor D. Pedro II, and received the name of Agronomic Station of Campinas. In 1892 it went to
the administration of the São Paulo State Government. Its performance ensures the food supply to the population and raw materials for industry, cooperating
to food security and the competitiveness of products in domestic and foreign markets. Its staff has
161 scientific researchers and 319 support staff. Its physical area of 1,279 hectares of land
is home to the headquarters, Central Experimental Centre and 11 research centers distributed
among Campinas, Cordeirópolis, Jundiaí and Ribeirão Preto, with greenhouses, laboratories,
other adequate infrastructure in its work.
The extensive program of genetics and breeding of coffee that has been developed at the Agronomic
Institute has generated a large number of cultivars that have been launched and recommended for
planting in various regions of the state of São Paulo and Brazil. It is estimated that 90% of more
than 4 billion arabica coffee trees in Brazil come from cultivars developed by IAC . And some are
the basis of coffee also from other countries , although no longer be planted on a commercial
scale in Brazil. This is the case of coffee Caturra Vermelho IAC 477 and IAC 476 Yellow caturra ,
that were selected in the IAC from 1937. Several other coffee varieties originating
from the IAC , although currently they are no longer recommended , had remarkable importance
in the history the national coffee production .
In 1937, IAC received Seed samples of genetic materials originated on the border of the states of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo ( click here to see map ). It was from Red Caturra and yellow Caturra cultivars. These two cultivars originated by natural mutation of Bourbon Red, originally a tall coffee shrub, found in the Serra do Caparaó , which is now a mountainous National Park north east of the city of Rio de Janeiro.
Seeds of these plants were introduced in IAC of Siqueira Campos, state of Espirito Santo in 1937 , but it is likely that this natural mutation had occurred at least 22 years before being introduced in the IAC.
It was selected and released by IAC in 1949, eventually reaching Colombia and Costa Rica later on.
It is necessary to emphasize that its origin is a natural mutation from 100% Bourbon varietal thus explaining the high quality in the cup. It is of early coffee bean harvest and is perfect for higher elevation regions above 1000m. This variety is aimed at producing specialty coffees due to its excellent organoleptic qualities. It is recommended for dense plantations and fertile soils.
Caturra trees are a very important variety in the specialty coffee industry. Coffee farmers, coffee traders, baristas and coffee fanatics in general should be able to explain with accuracy what Caturra means, the geographic and genetic origin, and its main characteristics. Next time you enjoy a Caturra coffee cup, give thanks to the Caparao Mountains in Brazil and the IAC scientists.
The Agronomy Institute (IAC), in Campinas, SP, Brazil: