Have you ever seen a litter of, well...anything—cats, dogs, pigs, etc? Most of the time, there's a runt in the litter. It's usually the little one that gets stepped on by its siblings and shunned by the mother—the underdog (no pun intended).
In the coffee world, peaberries are the runt of the crops. It wasn't so long ago that farmers were sorting out and discarding peaberries from their harvest, just as they would treat other damaged and undesirable beans. Though, once shunned as defective goods, peaberries are pulling a 180, winning over more fans than ever. So, what exactly is a peaberry?
Also known as caracolillo, peaberries have earned the nickname the "Caviar of Coffee" in some circles. Accounting for a minuscule 2-10% of all coffee cherries harvested worldwide, rare peaberries are distinguished by their unique shape and size. Much smaller than common coffee beans, peaberries are rounder and have only one developed bean per cherry, instead of two. These little beans can be found in every kind of coffee, even the famous Hawaiian beans, as with Aloha Island Platinum Peaberry Kona Coffee; but the most widely recognized peaberries are usually associated with Tanzania, like J. Martinez Tanzania Kilimanjaro Peaberry.
Like the saying goes, "Good things come in small packages." Peaberries have been known to pack more of a punch than their counterparts, with higher concentrations of flavor and aroma. All the oils and minerals, spread out over a greater surface area in normal coffee beans, have been condensed into jam-packed peaberries. The result is a cup of coffee or shot of espresso that could really be considered a delicacy.
Experts believe that peaberry coffee has a distinctive taste that stands out, even compared to regular beans harvested from the same tree. They are said to be lighter bodied, ever-so-slightly more acidic, and brighter than their full-sized siblings. A hint of chocolate is also believed to be present in peaberry coffee.
Have you had a chance to try peaberry coffee? If so, what were your impressions?
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