Typica (also Tipica) forms the genetic backbone of much of specialty coffee today. The first coffee plantations grown in America and Asia were of the Typica variety and many of the most widely cultivated C. arabica crops today are descended directly from the plant.
The exact origins of Typica are difficult to substantiate, but most accounts have seeds being smuggled out of Yemen and into the wider world sometime in the 17th century. (The variety most likely developed in Yemen after coffee was brought there from Ethiopia, though this remains contested.) This C. arabica var. arabica was then moved to Sri Lanka and India and eventually to Java, Indonesia. From here, at least one plant made its way to a botanical garden in Amsterdam in 1706. Some theories suggest that today’s Typica population was formed out of a progeny of this plant, as seeds were taken direct from the Botanic Garden to Surinam and then to Guyana and on to Brazil by 1727.
Typica was further introduced to Brazil and other Latin American countries by colonial settlers throughout the late 1800’s, where it found suitable conditions to grow and develop. It is through this proliferation that Typica, and its close sister Bourbon, form the genetic base for much of C. arabica grown around the world today. Nonetheless, many of these types vary from country to country: for instace the Typica grown in Kenya may differ from the Typica grown in Kona, having been transported and transplanted via different routes and times. Typica also has a wide range of sub-types (Criollo, Arabigo, Kona, Pluma Hidalgo, Garundang, Blue Mountain, etc.) that can vary in appearance and cup profile.
In general, Typica is very similar in appearance to the Bourbon plant (of which it is a very close relative) although it has fewer secondary branches and the leaves are normally smaller than those of Bourbon. It is usually identifiable by its bronze leaf tips. The plants are tall (3.5 – 4m) and the berries have an elongated, oval shape.
Even though Typica has a relatively low yield it is known to produce coffee with high cup quality. It is, however, very susceptible to diseases and is becoming increasingly less common for this reason.