What is Arabica Laurina?
Arabica Laurina, also known as Bourbon Pointu, is an arabica varietal that naturally contains far less caffeine than other arabicas. You may have heard news about a naturally low-caffeine coffee called Laurina and wondered if it's a better alternative to decaffeinated coffee? It's a fascinating subject, but the answers are still emerging.
Laurina is a light, transparent coffee that in some ways seems more akin to tea. Its caffeine percentage is between 0.4-0.75% - compared to 1.2-1.6% in most other arabica coffees. Laurina is very sweet, with a fruity, floral aroma and is popular across Europe, particularly France for obvious reasons.
Laurina coffee is said to have a lighter-bodied, more delicate taste, and isn’t as versatile in the final cup than coffees you may be used to. Additionally, their naturally low caffeine content makes them less hardy plants in the field. The variety almost became extinct, but has seen a revival of sorts due to recent interest.
For this and other reasons, it's unlikely Laurina or other low-caffeine coffee varieties will replace decaffeinated coffee as the drink of choice for those monitoring their caffeine intake. Even though it's naturally less buzzy, Laurina still contains 1/3 to 1/2 the caffeine of traditional Arabica varieties, making it still too potent for the truly caffeine-sensitive. And with its delicate growing needs, the wide-scale production required to make it easily available (and affordable) is a long way off.
We're always excited to see such an interest in lower caffeine options, whether it's coffee that occurs in nature or half-caf offerings from skilled roasters or the chemical-free Swiss Water decaffeination process. We'll be keeping an eye on the popularity of these coffees while continuing to offer great decaffeinated coffee from both unique and favorite origins around the world.
What is the history of Laurina Coffee?
Laurina is a variety of Arabica that was first observed growing on Réunion Island, and is now grown in various world regions, including Central America and Brazil. It's still somewhat rare—and commands a very high price—but is an intriguing option in the world of specialty coffee.
It originates from Réunion, previously known as Île Bourbon, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar, and was discovered in the 18th century and soon spread eastwards. In the 19th century, however, its popularity steeply declined, in part because cane sugar became popular and it was more difficult to grow than other plants because its low caffeine content meant that it lacked natural insecticide, making it vulnerable and low-yielding.
Laurina is grown at an altitude of 1400ft in Réunion island and then hand-picked, pulped, and slowly dried. Laurina is a very sensitive plant and yields remain low, which is why it's so rare and expensive. It was revived in 2002 by the Doka Estate in Costa Rica, following the discovery of a lone Laurina tree by an agronomy undergraduate, Edgardo Alpizar, a member of the family who owned the estate.
Since then, other farmers have been producing small yields including a co-operative that opened in the south of Réunion Island at an estate called the Maison du Laurina, which produces one and a half tonnes of coffee every year. Historical circumstance has certainly lent Laurina a romantic sense of rediscovery, but its recent resurgence in popularity has more to do with being so difficult to grow, along with the fact that it tastes quite unlike most other coffees, as well as the fact that it is naturally lower in caffeine.