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Comparison of bean biochemical composition and beverage quality of arabica hybrids involving Sudanese-Ethiopian origins with traditional varieties at various elevations in Central America

Bertrand B., Vaast P., Alpizar E., Etienne H., Davrieux F., Charmetant P.. 2006. Tree Physiology, 26 (9) : p. 1239-1248.

DOI: 10.1093/treephys/26.9.1239

For buyers of Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica L.) in Central America, elevation and variety are important indicators of quality. We compared coffee produced by three types of varieties established in various trials at elevations ranging from 700-1600 m in three countries (El Salvador, Costa Rica and Honduras). Arabica hybrids resulting from crosses of Sudanese-Ethiopian origins with either traditional varieties or with introgressed lines derived from the hybrid of Timor (C. arabica x Coffea canephora Pierre ex Froehn) were compared with traditional cultivars (TC). Effects of elevation and variety on bean biochemical composition (caffeine, chlorogenic acid, trigonelline, fat and sucrose) were evaluated by predictive models based on calibration of near-infrared (NIR) spectra and by chemometric analysis of the global NIR spectrum. Beverage quality tests were performed by a panel of ten professional cup-tasters. Experiment 1 was carried out on the slopes of the Poas volcano (Costa Rica) with the traditional cultivar 'Caturra'. Experiment 2 compared the three varieties in a network of trials established in three countries of Central America. Significant linear regressions with elevation were observed in Experiment 1 with Caturra and in Experiment 2 for the traditional cultivars, and trends were established relating variation in biochemical compounds and cup quality to elevation. Convergence or divergence of the new hybrids in relation to these trends was observed. For the traditional cultivars, elevation had a significant effect on bean biochemical composition, with chlorogenic acid and fat concentrations increasing with increasing elevation. For the Arabica hybrids, elevation explained little of the variation in chlorogenic acid concentration and none of the variation in fat concentration. Nevertheless, Arabica hybrids had 10-20% higher fat concentrations than the traditional varieties at low elevations and similar fat concentrations at high elevations. The samples could be discriminated according to elevation based on MR spectra; however, the spectra of the TC varieties were more strongly modified by elevation than the spectra of the hybrids. Nonetheless, this analysis confirmed homeostasis of the hybrids for which bean biochemical composition was less affected by elevation than that of the traditional varieties. The organoleptic evaluation, performed on samples originating from high elevations, showed no significant differences between Arabica hybrids and traditional cultivars. The new hybrid varieties with high beverage quality and productivity potential should act as a catalyst in increasing the economic viability of coffee agroforestry systems being developed in Central America.

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