Finding the best peaberry coffee may not be the top priority on even the most avid coffee drinkers’ lists, but that may very well be changing.
Coffee, just like nearly any other food or beverage that has an entire culture surrounding it, goes through many trends, some lasting and some fleeting. For 2019, there’s an expected continuation of trends from the previous year, with a few subtle differences. Coffee is growing in popularity among younger audiences, with a recent study by the National Coffee Association finding that 44 percent of coffee drinkers are millennials.
Other trends are equally expected, in part propelled by a younger group of coffee consumers. More and more demand is expected for sweetened specialty drinks, ready-to-drink and instant coffees that cut back on the preparation time, and milk alternatives for add-ins.
There’s even increased demand for specialty drinks with more innovative trends such as buttered coffee, coffee cocktails, and nitro coffee, a drink made by combining coffee with nitrogen gas for a very strong and bold coffee.
But there’s also a demand for better coffee in general, perhaps propelled by the most serious coffee drinkers. Gourmet coffee is not just about taste; it’s about quality. There’s an increasing demand for fair trade coffee, sustainably-grown coffee, and specialty coffee from regions around the world.
But even with these trends, there’s still a new one emerging, one that matches the demand for gourmet options, and more options in general:
Peaberry coffee, and the best variety available.
What’s behind the peaberry coffee trend?
Peaberry coffee really took off this past fall, as one of a series of coffeehouse trends sweeping the nation.
Peaberry coffee was named among the ten best trends for the previous year, and signs point to 2019 only seeing a continual rise in popularity for to coffee. While coffee production overall has decreased, the value of coffee has increased. From Dunkin Donuts to Starbucks and even grocery store favorites like Folger’s, nearly all coffee Americans are purchasing is becoming more expensive.
Part of that is because, due to rising average global temperatures and a series of devastating natural disasters, it’s simply becoming more difficult to grow coffee. In fact, the value of coffee as a tradable product is only second to petroleum. And Brazil, as the largest coffee producer in the world, has suffered setbacks from droughts. Brazil is responsible for a third of all coffee produced in the world, so it makes sense that changes and fluctuations to its weather patterns would have a sizable impact on the coffee industry overall.
But what does all of this have to do with peaberry coffee?
It’s an admittedly loose correlation, but as coffee becomes more expensive as a whole, it’s possible that more casual drinkers are decreasing, and those that still drink coffee on a regular basis want the most bang for their buck. That, along with increasing interest and concern for sustainability, fair practices, and even just a desire to try new cultures and flavors may be leading in part to a pull away from mass-produced coffee and more towards highly specialized coffee, like peaberry coffee.
The Gourmet Coffee Trend: Before we delve too deeply into the peaberry coffee trend, we should examine the gourmet coffee trend in general. Over the past, almost two decades, the trend of coffee consumption has been very much in favor of gourmet coffee. As of 2017, well over half–59 percent of the coffee consumed a daily basis was considered gourmet, which in fact marked the first time that specialty coffee was more in demand than non-specialty coffee.
That is also connected to another, deeper trend: third-wave coffee. Third-wave coffee distinguishes itself from specialty coffee in that the concern is not only about taste, but the overall quality, and general production. Instead of simply desiring specialty coffee, third-wave coffee is gourmet coffee that pays attention to:
specialized brewing methods
the complexity of flavor and aroma
direct trade process
ethics and actors in the entire production and distribution process
While coffee labeled as fair trade or organic falls under the concept of third-wave coffee, third-wave coffee really is about demanding not only gourmet coffee but coffee that is gourmet in multidimensional ways.
Whether or not you ascribe to all of those principles when it comes to finding the coffee of your choice, the trend itself leads to more choices becoming more widely available, ones that until now we may not have heard of.
What even is peaberry coffee?
First things first: peaberry coffee is not some fancy specialty drink, like the colorful and slightly over-the-top Unicorn Frappuccino at Starbucks, or the bizarrely elegant charcoal coffee trend from 2017.
In fact, peaberry coffee refers to a specific type of coffee bean, or rather, a mutation of one. Curiously, unlike other popular coffee beans, peaberry coffee is in fact what would be considered to some to be a “mistake” but is, in fact, a mutated variation of either Arabic or robusta beans where only a single bean is produced by the coffee cherry.
Normally, a coffee cherry produces two seeds, which mature within the center of the cherry; those beans are normally referred to as ‘flat beans’. But when only one bean is produced, it is referred to as a peaberry.
The name refers to the fact that unlike when there are beans, which are mostly flat (hence the name) a peaberry is like a pea in size and shape and more rounded. Peaberries are admittedly pretty rare: under fifteen percent of coffee beans are peaberries.
Why are peaberries so expensive?
One of the first things you’ll notice about peaberry coffee is that it’s notably more expensive than regular coffee. That makes sense at least from the standpoint that they are rare. But the price increase is also due to the actual labor involved, as peaberries are not usually seen until they are sorted during coffee production. And not only that: in fact, peaberries usually have to be hand sorted during the process which takes up a good deal of time, a valuable resource in any industry, but especially an industry as busy as coffee production.
How expensive peaberry coffee is, of course, depends on the original coffee bean. While peaberries themselves are already rare, they become even rarer if you’re trying to buy some coffee bean that is already rare in the first place. El Injerto Peaberry, a variety of peaberry coffee grown in Guatemala, costs a shocking sixty dollars per pound and is among the most expensive coffee in the world. Luckily, there are some more affordable versions, but the bottom line is that if you want peaberry coffee, you’ll have to pay a premium.
What’s so special about peaberry coffee? Peaberry coffee, as we mentioned, is unique in that it is the result of a genetic mutation where one instead of two pods are produced, but why would anyone be seeking this kind of coffee out?
Though there are certainly mixed opinions about peaberry coffee, those who consider it among the best coffee in the world have their reasons. For one, they tend to be denser, and those for love peaberry coffee it is more flavorful and sweeter than typical coffee beans. More fruity and floral notes also distinguish some peaberry coffee, but since peaberry coffee is found in all regions of the world, all of this can vary.
Keep in mind that some coffee drinkers do not agree and claim they cannot taste the difference, while others claim peaberry coffee is the best coffee they’ve ever had in their life. Your best bet, if you can, is to either try a sample or buy a very small quantity first to see if you like it.
Results vary, but some reviewers note that peaberries tend to produce lighter-bodied, brighter, and slightly more acidic cups of coffee than typical coffee beans. This gives the cup of coffee more lift and more flavor without being overpowering, and even the most disappointing cups of peaberry coffee tend to produce better coffee than an average to the poor quality bean.
How do I find the best peaberry coffee?
It is a myth, however, to assume that all peaberry coffee is equal. Select poorly, and you too may be claiming that there is nothing special about peaberry coffee.
The key to finding the best peaberry coffee is to first start by finding a quality coffee bean itself. Here are some musts for peaberry coffee in general:
Buy whole beans.
If you are purchasing something as expensive as peaberry coffee, you want to make sure it tastes as fresh as possible. Whole beans, tightly sealed, are going to give you a better result than already crushed pods. But there’s an even better reason to buy the whole: that way you can really confirm you’ve gotten peaberries. Simply inspect the beans themselves. If they look normal–as in they are flat–then you aren’t really getting peaberries. As we mentioned, they should be rounded like a pea.
Go for a darker roast.
While preferences vary, based on reviews, it seems like darker roasts may give you a better result. Perhaps that is also because peaberries already tend to add some sweetness and lift to the coffee, and darker roasts will do more to enhance that flavor combination.
Know where, and how it was sourced:
If you can, try to find out how the coffee was sourced. Though it won’t taste better inherently, for instance, fair trade coffee at least, in theory, means the overall production was held to higher standards. If you want to go for organic coffee, consider that too. Some organic drinkers claim that organic coffee tastes fresher than conventional–but do keep in mind both will make the coffee even more rare to find, and thus, even more expensive. What you do want to make sure you do, no matter what, is find out the country, and even better, a region of origin. Single source coffee is also a better bet for peaberry coffee, if at all possible.
Ethiopia, Kenya, Columbia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Honduras round out the top six places to grow coffee–meaning that these regions are well-practiced and accustomed to coffee production. Many highly prized coffee bean varieties come from these countries.
Brazil, Jamaica, Hawaii, India, Mexico, and Tanzania also are considered among the tops regions to purchase the best coffee from.
Look for a mention of how it was sorted:
While not always listed, the best peaberry coffee should mention that it was hand sorted during the production process.
Be on the lookout for brewing directions:
Selecting a high-quality coffee bean is only half of the equation for your best cup of coffee. If you’re buying something prepackaged, make sure it has some directions for optimal results. If you happen to buy from a specialty store, ask, and while you’re at it, ask all the questions you can about roast type and origin.
Check the processing method:
The best peaberry coffee should have been wet-processed, as opposed to natural or dry. The reason for this is that wet processing tends to lead to a cleaner taste and a brighter punch of acidity, both essential components for the best cup of peaberry coffee as possible.
Pay attention to flavor notes:
as you would for any coffee bean. Keep in mind the peaberry coffee will run you a little sweeter with a little more acidity, so you may not want to go for a coffee bean that is usually especially acidic or extra sweet, to begin with, unless you really want to enhance that.
Be wary of gimmicks:
As you can imagine, not all peaberry coffee is the same, so while it is likely rare, it is possible to be sold something that is not really peaberry coffee. Try to buy the whole bean, research what that bean usually looks like, and also comparison shop. Here, you actually don’t want to look for the very best deal possible, but rather want to get a sense of a typical price point for peaberry coffee. If it’s very low cost, chances are something may be wrong. In other words, since you already know that peaberry coffee is expensive, certainly don’t spend what you can’t afford, but you should make an effort to invest more than you would for regular coffee beans.
Look for evidence:
Chances are high you may be purchasing peaberry coffee online unless you live near a specialty store that just so happens to sell peaberry coffee to your liking. Of course, there are a few drawbacks to purchasing online, not the least of which is being able to sample the coffee beforehand. If at all possible, seek to only purchase peaberry coffee with customer reviews. You can also seek out featured reviews, which are especially helpful in terms of understanding the aroma and flavor notes of different peaberry coffee. Make sure that behind each rating is a reason, and make sure the ratings come from an external source.
Get started with this list:
Even with all of these tips in mind, it can be difficult to find peaberry coffee. Get started with this list of top-rated peaberry coffee that you can purchase online:
This coffee was the recipient of the 2018 Kona Coffee Culture Fest’s cupping contest, is of single-origin, and comes in whole beans. It also notes that it is produced with sustainable farming techniques. While it does not yet have reviews, there’s at least a lot of promise. We recommend this if you’ve already tried something like it.
Peaberry Coffee Connoisseur Gift Box, Kona, Costa Rica, Colombia, Kenya, Whole Bean, Fresh Roasted, 4 x 16-ounce Bags by Volcanica Coffee:
This clever sampler by Volcanic Coffee gives you a little taste of a few varieties, boasts a 4 and a half star rating, and features whole beans that were packaged immediately after roasting.
Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC, Green Unroasted Tanzanian Peaberry Coffee Beans, Bulk 25 Pound Bag by Fresh Roasted Coffee:
If you’re up for a challenge, this highly-rated Tanzanian peaberry coffee might be up your alley. This is green coffee meaning it comes unroasted–while it can be challenging to roast coffee beans if you’ve never done so before, it does mean have more control of the roast you’ll be getting.
Tanzanian coffee tends to dominate the peaberry market, so we love there’s an option for single-origin Hawaiian coffee. Plus, it comes at a smaller package size than some, making it less of a commitment financially. It’s not optimal that it’s ground, but the taste is described as ‘smooth and spicy’.
It’s hard to find peaberry coffee with many reviews, so we’re pleased this one has just under seventy and still holds an average of four and a half star rating. This single origin, Costa Rica coffee also features a vacuum seal, one-way degassing valve for the freshest coffee possible.
Brazil Peaberry, Roasted Coffee Beans, Highest Quality, Some of the Best Whole Bean Gourmet Coffee by Rising-Sun:
Brazil is the world’s dominant country for coffee bean production, so it would be surprising if no peaberry coffee from Brazil made it on this list. Described as rich, nutty, and sweet, these are whole beans that feature over a hundred mostly positive customer reviews and they happen to be affordable too. These combined factors make it our number one pick on our list.
Gordon is seriously addicted to coffee. He also likes to write. Match made in heaven? Yes. After years of boring casual coffee drinkers to death with bean origin stories, he took to writing publicly here at 2Caffeinated.