For some, the best coffee varietal and the most colorful is the Catuaí varietal. This variety can be found throughout the Americas and thrives at different altitudes. In Costa Rica, it is common to see yellow coffee cherries in the high mountain coffee fields such as Tarrazu.
Yellow Catuaí is a dwarf coffee tree that has its origin in the Instituto Agronômico de Campinas, (IAC) São Paulo State in Brazil.
Indeed, this varietal was artificially developed in 1949 by crossing Caturra Amarelo IAC 76-11 and Mundo Novo IAC 374-19.
This crossing resulted in 2 types:
a. Catuaí Vermelho ( red ) IAC 15; IAC 24; IAC 44; IAC 51; IAC 72; IAC 81; IAC 99; IAC 144
b. Catuaí Amarelo (yellow ) IAC 17; IAC 32; IAC 39; IAC 47; IAC 62; IAC 74; IAC 86; IAC 100
The end result was the transferring of the dwarf characteristics of the Caturra to the Mundo Novo coffee tree varietal.
This cultivar was launched for commercial use in 1972 in Brazil and after that it spread throughout the Americas.
The origin of the name is very peculiar. It comes from the Tupi-Guarani South American aboriginal language and it means "Very Good"
This coffee tree varietal has a high yield capacity and the plant is very strong, presenting a compact feature. The coffee beans ripe late in the harvest season and coffee cherries mature unevenly. Catuaí has a lower response to pruning than the Mundo Novo variety but it has a good tolerance to drought.
Plant height ranges from 2.0 meters (6.5 feet) to 2.4 meters (7.87 feet). Crown diameter of 1.7 meters (5.57 feet ) to 2.1 meters (6.88 feet). It presents short internodes and abundant number of secondary branches.
Suitable for large and dense spacing; medium to low elevations, high adaptability to different regions and growing conditions.
My own experience with this varietal is that this coffee cultivar thrives in high elevations such as the Tarrazu mountains of Costa Rica. We have cultivars at 1300 meters above sea level and plants are always healthy at areas where the sun shines to the east in the mornings. I wouldn't recomment Catuai for lands that do not receive enough direct sunlight in the morning. The Yellow type tend to grow bigger coffee cherries, but is more sensitive to rain fall which is detrimental when harvest occurs in rainy season. The Red Catuai coffee cherries tend to be more resistant to rainfall. Picking yellow coffee cherries is a joy, it is easier and softer to pick and the basket seems to fill quicker that the other varieties.
Reference: Empresa de Pesquisa Agropecuária de Minas Gerais (EPAMIG)