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Coffee Varieties: Timor Hybrid

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Depulping coffees in Timor. [Photograph: giantpandinha on Flickr]

We've been chatting lately about the diversity that exists among coffee plants, and exploring a few major varieties. Ever wonder what those expensive Gesha beans taste like? Have you tried Bourbon coffees and Yirgacheffe? How much does coffee variety matter? Or is it really all about methods used in each growing region? Or the terroir itself?

Today we'll go clear across the globe to explore wacky interspecies hybrid coffee cultivar called Timor Hybrid.

The only one of its kind on record, the spontaneous mating of a Robusta and an Arabica plant bore Timor Hybrid on (you guessed it) the East Asian island of Timor. Since its appearance in the 1940s, it has become the parent plant for many modern man-made hybrids, as coffee botanists, scientists, and producers seek strains that are hardy, disease resistant, and productive.

Timor Hybrid (which is often called Tim Tim when grown in Latin America) displays the robustness of Robusta with some of the mellowing flavor characteristics of Arabica coffee. The plant's thick, sturdy trunk and droopy branches allow for nutrients to disperse efficiently, encouraging high cherry yields (which farmers naturally appreciate).

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Coffee workers in Timor. [Photograph: Karen Eliot on Flickr]

The variety's earthy, herbaceous flavor and lingering aftertaste are some of what comprise the most prominent flavors in many types of Indonesian coffees, and is the backbone of derivate types like Catimor and Sarchimor.

While it's unusual to see Timor Hybrid advertised as a main varietal component on a coffee bag, Catimor does show up, usually on bags of coffees sourced from Indonesia. The marriage of Timor Hybrid with Caturra (a dwarf Bourbon variety), Catimore tends to have a bit of a cherry-like sparkle on top of the mushroomy savory qualities that epitomize the flavors of Sumatra. You can taste Catimore (in a blend with other varieties) in Stumptown Coffee Roasters' Gajah Aceh. ($15.75 for 12 ounces)

About the author: Erin Meister trains baristas and inspires coffee-driven people for Counter Culture Coffee. She's a confident barista, an audacious eater, and a smiling runner, but she remains a Nervous Cook.

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