You have likely heard of peaberry coffee, or peaberry as a part of the blend or flavour of a coffee, but what is it? Well, knowing what it is is about the only simple part of the story it seems. The rest is made up of myth, legend and more than one assumption.
“Peaberry” is the common name of a coffee bean that develops alone within a coffee cherry (also known as caracol or caracolillo, “little snail” in Spanish). These beans are considered an abnormality and can occur in coffee of any origin. Essentially it happens when only half of the coffee cherry is fertilised, allowing one bean to fully develop in the cherry, making it round like a pea.
So what is all the fuss about? While peaberries only develop about 5% of the time, their round shape has given them a special place in what could be seem as the early marketing of “specialised” coffee. Some people see them as a phallic symbols, or the runts of the little, or a better fully developed bean and often as a bean that will produce a different flavour than the rest of the harvest that it came from. In truth it probably comes down more to what you want to believe than any proven distinction.
What can be shown however is that due to the perceived difference, peaberry beans are often separated from the rest of the harvest and sold separately, in most cases commanding a higher price. In some cases peaberry coffee can have brighter notes and a lighter body, however this is not always the case. Whether it is lighter or darker in taste, the peaberry is often marketed as having a superior taste with a more concentrated flavour than the traditional two bean cherry.
As to what knowledge can you take away with you? Well the peaberry is likely going to be more expensive and sold to you as a superior feature of the coffee. It may or may not taste any different than the rest or the harvest it came from. Unless the coffee is being roasted in a flat pan model, the round shape likely won’t provide much more benefit than the traditional two bean variety.
So avoid the assumptions if you can, and take the roast for what it is…. hopefully… a damm good cup of coffee.