Brazil is the place of origin of many of the world’s most important coffee varieties, including Caturra, Mundo Novo, and Catuaí. After Brazilian farmers embraced the new, higher-yielding varieties that emerged in the mid-twentieth century, Typica and Bourbon became relative rarities.
Many more improved varieties have been developed in Brazil since then, but these traditional high-yielding varieties have remained the mainstays of Brazilian coffee production. According to agronomist Guilherme Salomão, nearly 90% of the coffee planted in Brazil to date consists of strains of Catuaí and Mundo Novo (AEAANP 2018).
Caturra, meaning ‘small’ in Guarani, is a naturally occurring dwarf mutation of Bourbon. Caturra, which first appeared in Minas Gerais in the 1910s, was developed into a variety by the Instituto Agronomico de Campinas (IAC) in 1937. It has had a huge impact on the coffee industry, contributing in the latter half of the twentieth century to the rise in high-density, full-sun plantations (World Coffee Research 2022).
Caturra’s dwarfism results from a dominant mutation in a single gene (Carvalho et al 1989), which is very useful for breeding. Dwarfism results in shorter plants, with shorter distances between branches and clusters of fruit (internodes). Dwarf plants can put more energy into producing fruit than into producing leaves and branches, resulting in much higher yields per tree. The dwarfing mutation also allows plants to be grown much more closely together and makes harvesting easier.
Densely packed cherries on a branch of Caturra. The variety’s small plant size makes harvesting easier.
Caturra is highly susceptible to rust, so it is best grown at high altitudes. It’s drought tolerant but needs fertilisation to reach its full potential (IAC 2017). Like its Bourbon parent, Caturra comes in both red and yellow varieties and has excellent cup quality.