The Liberica Story

Nic Walker

Over the years we at Ona have found that the most interesting, valuable and long lasting innovation generally comes as a result of an open mind, an inquisitive spirit and a fearless dedication to sharing flavour. From the biggest moments of the World Barista Competition to the early morning dial in at the local café, we understand that no matter the setting the most important thing is a great team. This is the backdrop to our recent collaboration with Jason Liew at My Liberica, Malaysia and Cloud Catcher. The excitement of developing a previously underrated, underutilised and distinctly delicious coffee species Coffea Liberica has revolutionised our ideas around blend construction, tactile quality and sweetness in coffee.

When our Head of Coffee and WBC mainstay Hugh Kelly took an interest in Liberica, it was with a healthy sense of caution. Liberica was after all, not new and as such its reputation as being ill-suited to specialty coffee had preceded it. However, innovation occurs where creativity and necessity collide and with a boldness characteristic of these two coffee obsessed, Howard Hughes-esque characters, the experimentation began.

Examining Liberica as it was, Hugh could see that amongst the heavy, rough, unrefined flavours there was potential for spectacular tropical qualities, intense sweetness and coating, incredible tactile attributes. With some improvements in processing, Sasa and Hugh concluded that there was an opportunity to rehabilitate Liberica as a secret weapon. Liberica could be used as a showcase coffee, a blend component and an innovation in coffee trends, paving the way for new opportunities and new markets. So with this in mind, the team at My Liberica, the Liew family and the Ona team went to work. 


Coffee processing was relocated from a third party processing facility, to a precise, controlled, modern facility operated by the Liew family. This shift in practice was possible largely due to the vision and expertise of Project Origin (PO), sister company of Ona Coffee and leader in transformative coffee innovation worldwide. The significant investment made by PO allowed the Liew family and My Liberica to build climate controlled processing facilities, including rooms designed for meticulously accurate fermentation and drying.

Liberica production continues to develop and evolve. Each harvest, we at Ona envisage new applications for Liberica amongst our extensive selection. We have seen Liberica take centre stage as a single origin filter option in late 2023, showing intense stone fruit and berry characteristics in the cup. It also saw use as a blend component in special releases, where it contributes thick, sweet characteristics and a certain hard to define class to the blend. As a filter option, Liberica garnered positive and enthusiastic feedback from our clients, who considered this evolution to be exciting and thought provoking, begging the question; “What might be next?!”. We see our experience with Liberica as being a wonderful demonstration of collaboration, innovation, vision and expertise. This historically underappreciated species has undergone a transformation which, driven by relationships and passion, has allowed it to foster enduring links across the world and an incredible, deliciously versatile coffee.

Author Bio

Nic Walker