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Consider the Peaberry - Not a Pea, Not a Berry - What Is It?

January 19, 2011

Not all coffee cherries are alike. Oh, they look alike alright, but looks are only skin deep, as we say. Lurking inside 5% of those pretty red cherries is a different appearing bean. In fact, it’s a single bean that didn’t pair up like the other 95% of coffee beans. It develops into a smaller and denser pea-like seed - or bean - instead. But it doesn’t give away its secret until the shedding of the outer skin, just before the roasting process.

Serious Eats writer Erin Meister brought the subject up this week. She stated that some coffee lovers think that the peaberries, if separated out and roasted with other peaberries, deliver more tasty sweetness. Because of this, they’re willing to pay extra for the peaberry coffee. Knowing they can charge more for this delicacy, some roasters go to the trouble of having the peaberries picked out by hand. Others don’t think it worth the effort so they roast them right along with the normal beans.

It’s not known what exactly causes the mutation to occur in this small amount of beans. There is also much disagreement as to whether or not they really taste any different than normal beans. Some naysayers state that if you expect it to taste sweeter, it will taste sweeter. There is some truth to this.

But think about this for a moment and take the logic a step further. If thinking something will taste better makes it so, why not just think the cheapest sale coffee will taste sweeter?

To really find out, it might be fun to do a blind taste test. Make two batches of coffee exactly alike, but make one peaberry coffee and one with regular beans. Pour them in identical mugs (don't forget to mark one of them on the bottom) and mix them up. See if you can taste a difference. Then write us and let us know.

To get you started, ROASTe has several peaberry coffees - http://www.roaste.com/search/node/peaberry+coffee. Have fun!



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