Is it a coffee bean? Or is it a pea? Or is it pea bean?
Whatever you may call it, this is a highly-prized coffee bean that may be an Arabica or even a Fine Robusta.
I first came across the peaberry when it was touted to be a Tanzanian peaberry. At the time I thought all peaberries came only from the African country where Mt Kilimanjaro is located. As I learned more about coffee, I found out that every coffee tree had peaberries or beans that do not divide and they ripen as a round berry. Experts says they roast evenly as opposed to beans that divide into two and have flat sides. But since they are rare—only about 5% of every tree’s harvest could be a peaberry—they are very special.
My firsthand experience was in Benguet State University’s Highland forest farm just a few years ago. Professor Val Macanes and I were checking the different trees during harvest time. I plucked one fruit and put it in my mouth to taste the sweet flavor of the coffee mucilage. As I opened another “cherry”, this time with my forefinger and thumb, out came the surprise—one round bean! It’s a peaberry! What are the odds? That’s five in a hundred fruits! I felt so blessed!
That made my curiosity about peaberries even stronger. Now I look at peaberries of Robusta as well. Princess Lala of Sulu has taught her Women coop members to sort their beans and look for peaberries.
In Benguet we have trained the women of Atok to also sort the beans and look for what they locally call “pea beans”. Why women? They have the patience to separate the chaff from the grain, so to speak.
Thus, it’s not just in Tanzania. It’s also here in our coffee-producing country. It’s in every origin where coffee grows and find their one batch of peaberries.
I asked a popular hotel to try it out. Voila! They now only order peaberries from the Benguet origin.
It’s specialty coffee made even more special. It’s all sorted by hand as sieves or screens may not detect its round shape.
So, is it a pea bean, a berry, or a pea? For me, it’s great coffee. And like a macapuno to a coconut, you will never know when the next fruit will be one.
I like discovering these surprises in coffee. Next time I may chance upon a Barako or Liberica peaberry. Who knows?