In this blog, we are going to dive into various questions surrounding coffee varieties. Are there different species of coffee altogether? Does that matter to us as a coffee consumer?
The answer to both of those questions is YES.
There are over 120 coffee species out there. The four most popular coffees that are- widely produced and sold are Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa coffee beans. However, only Arabica and Robusta coffee beans are the most popular in terms of production and consumption.
If you are a true coffee aficionado, you will want to note the difference in the types of coffee beans and their flavours.
How do Robusta Coffee or Arabica Coffee differ? Significantly! These roasted beans are almost different in all ways, including taste, growing region, and price.
What is Arabica coffee?
Arabica coffee is the most highly produced species of beans. It comes from the plant Coffee Arabica and is often considered superior in taste, despite containing less caffeine than the other variety – Robusta. It makes up almost 70% of the world’s coffee production, making it the most popular variety of beans.
Based on the appearance- the Arabica bean is slightly taller, slender, and follows the instantly recognizable ‘S’ shape running down the middle.
Arabica has roughly half as much caffeine as Robusta; it tends to have a sweeter, softer taste, with tones of sugar, fruit, and berries. Its acidity is higher, with that winey taste that characterizes coffee with excellent acidity.
Growing conditions for Arabica coffee
Arabica, the hardier of the two coffee species- grows at a higher elevation.
An Arabica shrub grows up to 15 feet (5m) tall but is usually pruned to about 6 feet (2m) to make it more commercially feasible. Extreme weather conditions, which are far more common at higher elevations, slow down the- beans’ rate of maturation. This allows more complex sugars to develop, resulting in a much sweeter and tastier bean.
Unlike Robusta plants, Arabica plants are sensitive to disease and climate change, which makes them more challenging- to grow. This high-quality coffee plant prefers the temperature of 15-24 degrees Celsius and high altitude (600+ meters above sea level).
Thus, it mainly grows in countries of South and Central America. But the best quality beans are found in Africa and Asia.
Arabica coffee price
Since Arabica plants are more susceptible to disease and climate change than Robusta plants, they are- more difficult and costly to grow.
It has less yield per hectare than Robusta, which makes it taste better and leads to higher demand. Hence, Arabica is more expensive than Robusta.
What is Robusta coffee?
Robusta coffee bean comes from the coffee Canephora plant, the origins of which are in Africa. Robusta coffee tends to have higher caffeine content than Arabica, making it excessively bitter. It is used usually in instant coffee, espresso, and as a filler in certain blends of ground coffee.
Robusta coffee makes up approximately 30% of the world’s coffee production, making it the second most popular variety of beans.
When it comes to appearance, Robusta coffee beans tends to be smaller, rounder, and thicker.
Robusta plants grow many leaves and cherries, and their coffee beans only have a small share of nutrients. This somewhat leads into a lower flavour quality than Arabica.
Robusta beans are much bitter than Arabica because of high caffeine and chlorogenic acid (naturally occurring antioxidants). It tends to have a woody, earthy, and even burnt rubber-like flavour profile.
Growing conditions for Robusta coffee
Robusta plants are considered to be resilient because of their resistance towards disease and climate change.
Robusta coffee beans come from a resilient plant that can be- grown at low altitudes of 200-800 meters. Robusta beans are not easily susceptible to pests and damage, and they produce more finished products per acre and require relatively low production costs.
They produce fruit much more quickly than the Arabicas- which need several years to come to maturity.
Robusta is exclusively grown in the Eastern Hemisphere, mostly in Africa and Indonesia. Vietnam is the top producer of Robusta coffee.
Although Robusta coffee plants are very easy to farm- coffee drinkers would pay half of what they would pay compared to- Arabica coffee.
Arabica VS Robusta. Which is better?
As we discussed, Robusta and Arabica coffees both have their benefits, but Robusta coffee is often considered undesirable due to its bitter taste.
Although Arabica is more expensive, it is worth having a cup of joe that is rich in taste and gives floral and fruity notes.