The majority of coffee exists within the limitation of two species: Arabica and Robusta. Whilst certain other species, such as Eugenioides, have become introduced at the high-end of the coffee market, the popularity of Arabica and Robusta force many to have the assumption that these are where coffee species end. However, there are in fact over 100 coffee species found globally, with 6 new coffee species found in Madagascar last year alone.
Published recently in the Kew Bulletin, co authors Dr. Aaron Davis and Dr. Frank Rakotonasolo state the six species of coffee are Coffea callmanderi, C. darainensis, C. kalobinonensis, C. microdubardii, C. pustulata, and C. rupicola.
Three of these species, darainensis, microdubardii, and rupicola were found only in the protected area of Loky Manambato in the Daraina area. A further two, callmanderi and kalobinomensis were only found in the protected area of Galoko-Kalobinono. C. pustulata was foudn across the northern forests of Madagascar, where humidity is optimal for species.
Madagascar is known and associated with a lot of things; however, coffee isn't usually one of them. Despite this, Madagascar is actually one of the most genetically diverse places on the planet when it comes to coffee. With these six new discoveries, Madagascar is now home to 65 species of coffee plant. To put this into perspective, there are 130 known coffee species in the entire world - meaning Madagascar is home to half.
Research will continue, with these six new species still largely unknown. One area of particular interest will be whether these species contain any qualities that make them more resilient to climate change, which could then be introduced across other species.
Dr Davis, part of the previous project, also recently uncovered a wild-grown species in Sierra Leone, Stenophylla. It's suggested that this species could become dominant if Arabica was to be wiped out, as a result of climate change.
Without any defined impact on the future of coffee, the discovery of these six species is exciting and has the potential to shake up the coffee industry. As these species are still unknown, we are still unaware of their potential benefits. Yet, some could become the cure to leaf rust, others the saviour of coffee from climate change. However, there's one thing we hope they are, and that's tasty!