What is Maragogipe Coffee? An Elephant in the Cup

I was recently introduced to a type of Arabica coffee I’d never heard of before. We won’t find this coffee on the shelves of our grocery store. And we probably won’t even find it in the majority of specialty coffee shops. It’s called Maragogipe, and it’s the rarest coffee I’ve personally had the good fortune to taste (to date, anyway). Exactly what is Maragogipe coffee, and why is it so rare? Read on to learn the story of this unique coffee bean.

A Mention of Maragogipe

I first learned about Maragogipe (also spelled Maragogype) coffee from the knowledgeable and gracious owners of Red Oak Roasters in Rickman, Tennessee.  My husband and I had stopped in on a Saturday so I could buy some of their freshly-roasted coffee beans — truly some of the best coffee I’ve ever enjoyed.

I’m sure it will surprise no one that, as we sampled their offerings of light to dark roasts, we were all soon chatting away about our favorite brew.

Mr. and Mrs. McCurdy, the owners and roasters at Red Oak Roasters, are super-friendly people who don’t hesitate to share their love for and expertise about coffee. Talking with them was, honestly, a little bit heavenly for me. They took the time to tell us all about their business and their coffee.

Coffee with a Personal Touch

Red Oak Roasters imports their beans from Matagalpa, Nicaragua, a place they have lived and to which they frequently return. The beans they bring to their roastery in Tennessee have been shade grown, hand-picked, and naturally processed by friends and family they know personally. According to their website, their Arabica beans  are most often of the Caturra or Bourbon variety.

But as Mrs. McCurdy treated me to an aromatic visit to their roasting room, she mentioned the limited quantity of Maragogipe beans they had recently imported. She told me that not many coffee farmers in Nicaragua grow Maragogipe plants. So having any at all in their shop is quite the rarity.

She graciously offered me a small sample packet of roasted, ground Maragogipe coffee to take home to try.

Then she opened up one of the large burlap bags near the roaster and showed me what whole Maragogipe beans look like.

The Elephant in the Bag

The most immediate and notable difference between a Maragogipe coffee bean and the majority of other Arabica coffee beans is the size. Maragogipe beans are much larger. As in almost double the size.

Which is why Maragogipe coffee beans have earned the nickname Elephant Beans.

Now one would think a much-larger coffee bean would be a great thing. One might presume that a double-the-size coffee bean would produce twice the coffee for the same amount of picking and processing as smaller beans.

But then one might remember that this is coffee we’re talking about.

In the weird, wacky, wonderful world of coffee, few things are ever as straight-forward as one might expect. And the large- yet-rarely-cultivated Maragogipe coffee bean is just another example of this. Let’s take a closer look at why.

Maragogipe Coffee Plants

Development

The Maragogipe coffee plant is named after the place it was first discovered late in the 19th century: Maragogipe, Bahia, Brazil.

The Maragogipe coffee plant seems to have come about by spontaneous mutation of other Arabica coffee plants growing in the region. No one can really explain why this happened, only that it did. But it did create a coffee plant with some unique properties that sets it apart from its Arabica cousins.

Characteristics

The Maragogipe coffee plant is larger and grows taller than many of the more commonly cultivated Arabicas. It can also thrive at lower elevations and in colder temperatures than many other coffee plants.

All of which, again, would seem to make Maragogipe a prime candidate for mass cultivation.

But the Maragogipe coffee plant has a fatal flaw: low productivity.

While the coffee beans of the Maragogipe plant may be twice the size of their Arabica counterparts, significantly fewer of them are produced per plant. Meaning, of course, that the farmer has less coffee to sell overall, and must demand a higher price for his limited offering.

Which would be quite a boon for the farmer, provided coffee drinkers found Maragogipe worth a premium price. But, typically, that is not that case. A closer look at the characteristics of the Maragogipe coffee bean will explain why.

 Maragogipe Coffee Beans

As noted, Maragogipe coffee beans are much larger than nearly all their Arabica counterparts (Pacamara beans, a Maragogipe hybrid, is the most well-known among a small handful of exceptions). Coffee processing equipment, however, is designed to accommodate the more-commonly-cultivated smaller Arabica coffee beans. Which means that, when keeping in mind the overall lower plant yields, Maragogipe coffee farmers must work harder to process fewer beans to get them ready for market.

What’s more, Maragogipe beans are also much more porous than their smaller, denser Arabica counterparts. Which basically means they can be a real pain to roast. Maragogipe beans require a diligent roaster with real finesse to extract the best the beans have to offer without turning them into a scorched mess.

The Real Problem

If we’ve learned anything here at A Thing for Coffee, though, it’s that coffee drinkers are a pretty devoted lot. If a coffee bean produces a great experience in the cup, demand will be high. Coffee aficionados as a whole won’t quibble over paying a higher price per pound to cover the costs of more-involved processing or temperamental roasting…as long as the coffee is exceptional.

And therein lies the real issue with Maragogipe coffee beans: they tend to  produce a mediocre cup of coffee.

Besides the “fatal flaw” of low productivity, the bean of Maragogipe coffee plant is also highly susceptible to variations of flavor based on the quality of the soil in which its grown. Too often the result in the cup is flat, thin, and relatively flavorless.

And those are the kinder descriptions.

Exceptions to the Rule

That’s not to say that there’s no such thing as an exceptional cup of Maragogipe coffee. As recently as November 2018, in fact, Coffee Review devoted a cupping (tasting) to “big bean” coffees exclusively, and a Guatemalan Maragogipe landed in their top nine.

For the most part, however, it appears Maragogipe beans are simply too fickle and troublesome for the majority of farmers and roasters to bother with. The demand does not support the added cost and effort it takes to grow, process, and roast Maragogipe coffee beans, so they remain rare.

Which, as I’m sure you can imagine, only made me all the more excited to be able to taste Maragogipe coffee for myself!

My Maragogipe Experience

Appearance

Once roasted and ground, the Maragogipe “Elephant Beans” look the same as any other roasted and ground coffee. Richness of color will depend on the level of roast. The particle size will depend on the grind.

The Maragogipe I received to sample came out of the bag looking like this:

ground maragogipe coffee

 

Aroma

The aroma of the just-opened package of Maragogipe coffee was the first thing to set it apart from the Arabica coffees I normally purchase.

Coffee-drinkers reading this know what “that coffee smell” is all about. And that familiar scent was present in the Maragogipe. But there was also something more.

I like to experiment, so I buy a lot of different types of coffee. In most of them I pick up aromatic notes that can be described as “nutty,” “chocolaty,” or  “citrusy” depending on the coffee’s origin and level of roast.

The Maragogipe, however, I would describe as more “woodsy” with a faint, underlying pungency. In the days after I opened the bag, that pungency gradually became more sour.

So let’s just say the Maragogipe I sampled did not really entice me with its scent.

Taste and Feel

Thankfully once the Maragogipe was brewed, however, it tasted much better than the slightly off-putting aroma led me to believe it would.

While I did find it to be a rather thin-bodied cup, it was also smooth and light with no discernible aftertaste.

It did not really appeal to me as my morning coffee, however. The brewed Maragogipe lacked the bold richness I desire when I’m starting my day.  Instead I discovered that it made a pleasing post-lunch coffee that gave me a bit of an energy boost for the afternoon.

What I found most interesting, though, was that the Maragogipe was the first coffee I have ever enjoyed drinking black. I don’t use sweeteners, but normally I like the richness a bit of added cream gives my coffee. The Maragogipe was just smooth enough and sweet enough on its own, however, that I didn’t fell the need to bother with my usual dollop of dairy.

Kind of a Big Deal in my little coffee world!

Final Thoughts

It was great fun tasting one of the harder-to-find coffees of the world. I heartily thank Red Oak Roasters for not only enlightening me about Maragogipe coffee but also for providing me a sample to try.

So the big question is: will I buy more Maragogipe?

In all honesty, probably not immediately.

Because of the peculiarities of growing, processing, and roasting the beans that we’ve covered in this article, the cost per pound of Maragogipe is higher than it is for a lot of other fine Arabica coffees. I’m not sure my limited “afternoon only” enjoyment of it justifies the expense for me.

For the time being, I will continue to focus on trying different coffees from different regions so I can expand my knowledge and share what I learn with all of you here at A Thing for Coffee.

Somewhere down the line, though, I anticipate I’ll pick up another Maragogipe, given the chance.

Do I recommend you try Maragogipe if you find it?

Absolutely!

If for no other reason than to say that you, too, have tasted one of the rarer Arabica coffees in the world.

I would caution, however, that you only purchase Maragogipe from a reputable, trusted source. Because a poor-quality Maragogipe that isn’t properly roasted is definitely not going to create a positive and pleasurable coffee-drinking experience.

But a high-quality Maragogipe? That might become your new favorite.

With coffee, you just never know.

woman holding red coffee mug

Have you ever had Maragogipe coffee? If not, would you like to try it? Let me know in the comments section below!

30 Comments

  1. sanjay

    Recently I came to know about Maragogipe coffee,  and to be honest I want to taste it right now, I am a coffee lover and really fascinating about how coffee contest and smell differently according to their type and places they are grown. Thanks for sharing lots of interesting facts about this coffee I would definitely drink this coffee soon and share my experience here.

    • Cheri

      Isn’t it great how many different coffees there are in the world, Sanjay? So many beans, roasts, flavors and aromas…really something unique to appeal to all of us and our different tastes. I’m so glad you found the post about Maragogipe interesting and informative, and I do hope you’ll get to taste it and then will let me know what you think. I’d love to hear about your experience with it and whether you enjoy it or not. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting!

  2. Seun Afotanju

    Thanks for this informative review, although i have only had a taste of this coffee twice, This coffee had a very smooth earthy flavor that I almost want to describe as chocolaty or maybe even nutty…it had a lot of different layers. It was so unique that it’s hard to describe, but it was delicious. Thanks for this interesting review 

    • Cheri

      It’s so great that you’ve gotten to taste Maragogipe too, Seun. I would definitely agree with the earthy, nutty flavor you experienced. I didn’t pick up the chocolate tones in the beans I had, but that’s not surprising given how much one harvest of Maragogipe can differ from another. It does make for a very unique cup though, that’s for sure. Thank you for letting me know about your Maragogipe coffee experience. I appreciate it!

  3. Emmanuel Buysse

    Very good post and very informative.

    I never heard about this, until now, and I enjoyed reading this.

    I will show this to my wife, because she loves coffee, and I’m pretty sure she will want to taste this.

    So because of this, thank you very much for sharing this with us!

    And I’m pretty sure she will love it!

    • Cheri

      Thanks for commenting and for sharing the article with your wife, Emmanuel. I hope she will enjoy it and find it educational, too. And I hope she’ll be able to find some Maragogipe to taste if she’s interested. 🙂

  4. Liz

    This was a very interesting explanation of Maragogipe coffee….never heard ofit before. I’ve been educated and will have to share with a relative who is coffee crazy. I loved hearing about  where the coffee comes from.

    I really liked the info  where you said it may bethe first one for black coffee as you like the dairy in yours. I am the same. I don’t like coffee black but maybe I could try the same maragogipe black too….if ever I find it. 

    Red Roasters also sounds like a delightful place to visit! Lol…

    • Cheri

      Thank you so much for your kind comments, Liz! I’m glad you found the article informative, and I hope your coffee-loving relative will find it interesting also. If you find some Maragogipe to try, I’d love for you to let me know what you think. You are right…who knows, you might enjoy it black, too, even though that’s also not your preferred manner of drinking coffee. And as for Red Oak Roasters, I truly feel blessed to have such friendly, knowledgeable coffee people nearby who not only share wonderful stories but roast some of the best coffee I’ve ever enjoyed. And all in small-town Tennessee, no less! If you ever end up in Rickman, TN, I definitely recommend looking them up. Thanks so much for visiting!

  5. Hollie Rose

    I’ve never heard of Maragogipe coffee before but now I really want some! I have always loved tasting different coffees, its one of my hobbies! However, reading how rare it is I doubt I will ever get a chance to taste it:( I wonder if I can get it here in the UK. For now, I can only dream! 

    • Cheri

      It’s great to meet another “coffee adventurer,” Hollie. Now that you know about Maragogipe, too, it might just turn up somewhere. Sometimes awareness is half of it…because if I’d seen Maragogipe before, I probably would have overlooked it as something unfamiliar and “strange sounding.” If you find some and get to try it, I’d love for you to share your opinion about it with me. It’s always fun to “compare notes” with other avid coffee drinkers. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. Happy sipping! 

  6. Gracen

    Hi Cheri! Wow, the Maragogipe coffee beans are indeed large judging from the picture. I must say that this is the first time I am hearing about Maragogipe coffee. It is interesting how thee Maragogipe coffee plant came about. I am a coffee freak and will really love to taste the Maragogipe coffee, but judging from your own experience, I don’t really think you enjoyed the brew so much, but the euphoric feeling of having tasted one of the harder to find coffees made you feel great.

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity of knowing that this species of coffee beans exist.

    • Cheri

      You are right, Gracen…I really enjoyed trying a lesser-known coffee, but I definitely discovered that I like other types of coffee much better than the Maragogipe. I still encourage any coffee lover to try it if they come across it, though, both for the fun of it and because, well, one never knows. We all have different tastes, and what isn’t so wonderful to me may be the best coffee ever tasted by someone else. I’m really glad you learned something new from my post. It was new to me, too, and that’s what made it great fun to share. I appreciate your taking the time to comment, too. Thank you!

  7. Stratos K

    Nice article. Even for something as common as coffee there are so many things we don’t know about or that we will never know. You give so many information and analysis that you really made me curious to try it out. Unfortunately where I live can be a problem but I will keep in mind if I ever have the chance. Thank you for informing us.

    • Cheri

      Coffee is pretty amazing, really…so much more varied and with so many more factors, both environmental and human, that influence what we drink than most people realize. I find it especially fun to come across a coffee as rare and unusual as Maragogipe. But yes, it is very hard to find. I feel fortunate to have been introduced to it as even I don’t know if I’ll ever find it available again! Should you ever have the opportunity to give it a try, I hope you’ll let me know what you think. I always enjoy hearing about other people’s coffee experiences. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Stratos. 

  8. Kehinde Segun

    Nice and really wonderful article. I really enjoyed reading your article about the origin about of the coffee beans and the history behind the megagogite coffee. So so interesting. Thought I’m a coffee drinker which i certainly like my coffee but i think I like that gourmet coffee club. But notwithstanding, I think i have seen my favorite coffee site. Thanks so much

    • Cheri

      I’m glad you found the article interesting and informative, Kehinde. I’m with you…I would stick with that gourmet coffee club. It’s great fun to try new coffees, but they aren’t all worth having on a daily basis. Thanks for visiting!

  9. arnaiemhasan

    Hey,

    Wow, this is an excellent article . I love this coffee very much . Maragogipe is a variety of Arabica Coffee , it is also known as Elephant coffee beans . This is a very large size coffee bean in comparison to other Arabica coffee beans . We specialize in Arabica Maragogype which is an extra large Arabica bean of very high quality considered one of the best beans in the world . It was very informative . I enjoyed how you discussed the origin of the coffee bean . Thanks for sharing this article . 

    • Cheri

      I’m glad you found the article fun and informative. From my research I have to say, though, that the claim that Maragogype is considered “one of the best beans in the world” is rather vigorously contested. A lot of coffee experts consider it one of the worst! But that’s the thing about coffee…everyone’s taste is different. Thanks for visiting.

  10. Dapoach

    This post is eye-opening! i have never heard of Maragogipe coffee before.This Arabica coffee as you have described would definitely be scarce because even the countries you mentioned that are involved with the coffee bean aren’t that popular (Matagalpa and Nicaragua). I like the fact that Maragogipe coffee beans is nicknamed as Elephant bean due to its larger size as compared to most other Arabica beans.Also considering that it can thrive in cold weather conditions than many of the other commonly cultivated Arabica counterparts makes me fall in love with it.Thanks so much for this post. it has been very beneficial.

    • Cheri

      I’m so glad you found this article informative, Dapoach. Coffee is so much more varied and interesting than most people realize. So many plants, so many varieties…and they all give us a difference coffee-drinking experience. Thanks for visiting!

  11. Danny Barley

    I enjoyed reading your article on the Maragogipe Coffee Bean.  It was very informative.  I enjoyed how you discussed the origin of the coffee bean, the history behind the Magagogipe bean, and how scarce it really is.  I thought your article had a great layout and it was an excellent read.  I am wondering what your keyword(s) are.  Is it “Maragogipe Coffee?”

    I, too, am a gourmet coffee drinker and I love my coffee.  I am a member of a gourmet coffee club which allows me to pick out various coffees produced around the world.  My subscription allows me to pick from a wide variety of coffees from country producers such as Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Guatemala, a few other South American countries and various countries within Africa.  I can get a pound to two pounds each 6 weeks. 

    I love my coffee.  And this is why I find your article so fascinating.  It was a great article and I am intrigued by it.

    • Cheri

      Hey Danny…thanks so much for commenting and sharing your love of coffee. I’ve been intrigued by those gourmet coffee subscriptions. They sound pretty awesome. For now, though, I’m fortunate to have a lot of local shops and roasters who bring in a variety of coffee from around the world, so I get to “travel the world” with my coffee while still supporting local business owners (something else I’m rather passionate about doing when I can). 

      As for the keyword…it was actually the key phrase What is Maragogipe Coffee…but I didn’t really stick to that. I think it’s pretty obvious what the article is about, and there aren’t a lot of them out there about this particular coffee. It was one of the tougher posts for me to research for that reason. I’m so glad the proprietors of Red Oak Roasters were able to give me as much insight as they did on the Maragogipe coffee. I hope my article will enlighten a lot of other coffee lovers about this rarity.

      I rather doubt Maragogipe will turn up in your gourmet coffee selections, but, if you ever get the chance to try it, I’d sure enjoy knowing what you think of it. It’s always fun to compare notes with fellow coffee lovers! Take care and happy sipping!

  12. Jermy

    Wow!!! Very nice article am a lover of coffee in which I drink it when ever I can, but being a jamaican I drink our blue mountain coffee mostly with no idea there are other coffee out there that may taste even better, the maragogipe coffee first hearing of it but it sound very taste, plus this amazing article tell us where it was found and how it got the name this was well written and I hope to try this maragogipe coffee. Thanks for sharing this

    • Cheri

      Thanks very much, Jermy. I hope you get a chance to try Maragogipe coffee one of these days, though I’m willing to bet it will not be more tasty than your Blue Mountain coffee. What is the norm for you is a special coffee for me where I live in the middle of the U.S., and I hate to admit that I haven’t had the pleasure of trying true Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee as yet. My understanding is that it’s truly one of the very best coffees in the world…and the prices I see on it surely support that, too! lol  So, until I find a good source I know I can trust to give me a true Blue Mountain experience, I hope you will enjoy an extra cup for me. 🙂  Thanks for visiting and commenting. I enjoy hearing from you.

  13. Theresa

    Oh, my, I think I just found my new favorite website! I LOVE coffee and I enjoy experimenting with different types and flavors. For the most part, I do not enjoy overly-sweetened or black and bitter coffee that is served in coffee shops so I do most of my coffee drinking at home.

    It was interesting reading about Maragogipe coffee which surprises me because most of the time if coffee tastes good, I don’t think about where it came from as much as making sure I know where to get more. There are several coffee roasters in my area and now that you have piqued my interest, I think I will look at them more closely.

    For now, I must go. There is more to discover on your wonderful website.

    • Cheri

      Thank you so much for your kind comments, Theresa. It’s great to meet another coffee enthusiast, and I’m so glad you like my site. I’ve had the absolute best time creating it and sharing all I’ve learned, and it’s just the best to know someone else thinks it’s kinda neat too…haha. 

      I used to do a lot of my coffee drinking at Starbucks when I lived in Florida. There was one close enough to walk or ride my bike to, so that’s what I often did. Now that I live in rural Tennessee, however, the nearest Starbucks is an hour away. All my friends teased me as I moved, asking me how I would live without it. BUT…what I’ve found is that, without the competition of that big chain on every corner, independent shops and roasters absolutely thrive in its place. So I’ve not only experienced some of the best coffee ever, I’ve met people who are deeply passionate about coffee and have so many stories and so much knowledge to share. It’s been quite awesome!

      So yes…definitely check out those local roasters in your area. I’m quite positive you will not regret it!

      I hope you’ve found some other articles of interest at A Thing for Coffee. Please visit often and let me know if you have any questions. It’s always a pleasure to make another coffee-loving friend! 

  14. Tommy Diependaal

    I really enjoyed reading this article related to the Margogipe beans. I live in Laos where the also produce coffee and I did start a coffee shop years ago with a friend of my who is a real passionated roaster here in Laos. The Margogipe beans look almost like a Robusta bean which is also slightly larger then Arabica beans. I really love the coffee from Laos in a dark roast and yes I drink it black. I would love to try out this Margogipe bean, but as I understand it will be hard to find some for sale.

    • Cheri

      Tommy I have to say I envy you a bit, living where coffee is grown. And how awesome you had a coffee shop. I hope that was a good experience…though I’m sure, like any other business, it had to have had plenty of challenges. Seeing that you definitely know coffee, I hope you’ll find and get to try some Maragogipe coffee one day, just for the fun and experience of it. I guess, like Robusta beans, the Maragogipe doesn’t produce the very best cup of coffee overall, but it can still be enjoyable. Thanks so much for visiting. It’s always great to hear from a fellow coffee lover!

  15. Favour

    I have heard of Maragogipe coffee before but has never tested it, it’s also known as elephant bean, its bigger than a regular cofee. I love the fact that you enjoyed it in your first time of taking it , I think I would try it if made available, I know it’s very scarce

    • Cheri

      You are right, it is scarce, and that made it extra-fun to get to try. It wasn’t all that bad, but I can surely see why it’s not more readily-available. There are much tastier coffees available for a lower price.

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