Coffee quality, in the present context of overproduction worldwide, has to be considered as a main selection criterion for coffee improvement. After a definition of quality, and an overview of the non genetic factors affecting its variation, this review focuses on the genetic factors involved in the control of coffee quality variation. Regarding the complexity of this trait, the different types of quality are first presented. Then, the great variation within and between coffee species is underlined, mainly for biochemical compounds related to quality (caffeine, sugars, chlorogenic acids, lipids). The ways for breeding quality traits for cultivated species, Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora are discussed, with specific challenges for each species. For C. arabica, maintaining a good quality in F1 intraspecific hybrids, introgressed lines from Timor hybrid, and grafted varieties are the main challenges. For C. canephora, the improvement is mainly based on intraspecific and interspecific hybrids, using the whole genetic variability available within this species. An improvement is obtained for bean size, with significant genetic gains in current breeding programmes. The content in biochemical compounds related to cup quality is another way to improve Robusta quality. Finally, ongoing programmes towards the understanding of the molecular determinism of coffee quality, particularly using coffee ESTs, are presented.
Coffea spp.; biochemical compounds; candidate genes; ESTs; genetic breeding; marker-assisted selection; quality