It’s coffee, but not as we know it Two long lost coffee species brought to light

Watercolour of Coffea stenophylla prepared for Curtis's Botanical Magazine 1896

Coffea stenophylla in Trinidad Botaic GardensI’ll be honest, I thought I was pretty savvy about coffee taxonomy knowing that there were two kinds, arabica and robusta. Not surprisingly, perhaps, a research paper about “Coffea stenophylla and C. affinis, the Forgotten Coffee Crop Species of West Africa” caught my attention. And of course, as I should have known, there are scores of different coffee species. What is particularly intriguing about C. stenophylla, however, is that in its day people considered it a very fine coffee indeed. A 1925 monograph recorded that “The beans are said, by both the natives and the French merchants, to be superior to those of all other species.”

So what happened to it? And what are the chances of a revival? Jeremy Haggar, of Greenwich University, told me.


  1. The original paper is Lost and Found: Coffea stenophylla and C. affinis, the Forgotten Coffee Crop Species of West Africa.
  2. As I mentioned at the end of the episode, I have a page of special, topic based collections. Coffee is one of them.
  3. Banner image is the original painting of C. stenophylla as reproduced in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 1896. The cover photograph is from Kew, and shows C. stenophylla growing in Trinidad. The man, we are helpfully told, is 1.72 m tall.

huffduffer icon   Huffduff it

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *