Updated: Nov 24, 2017
How many varieties of coffee are there?
What's the difference between Robusta and Arabica?
Why we prefer the taste of Arabica?
Botanists now recognize approximately one hundred species of coffee plant, but only one, Coffee Arabica, is the source of all of the world's most celebrated coffees.
The coffee species second in importance in world coffee trade is Coffee Robusta.
Robusta grows at lower altitudes than Arabica and is more disease and pests
resistant, and it is less fragile and has a longer harvest season. These factors help bring up the supply and lower the input costs for farmers to produce.
Robustas are generally considered to be of inferior quality compared to Arabica, green beans of Robusta is about half the price of Arabica green beans on the commodity market.
Robusta coffees are used mainly as constituents of the cheaper coffee blends. Most supermarket coffee and instant coffee are made from robusta beans. The focus here is all on price-the cheapest way to grow, harvest, and roast coffee.
One reason that the taste isn't as good for Robusta is that it has more caffeine compared to Arabica. Caffeine carries a bitter and harsher taste that’s often compared to burnt rubber which makes it an unpleasant drink.
Arabica beans, take about two years longer to come to fruit. They grow at higher altitudes, which means, generally, that they grow in mountainous areas where machine harvesting is often more impractical or difficult to do. So the coffee cherries are often harvested by hand.
Arabica coffee is used primarily in fresh coffee, it has more nuanced flavours than Robusta. Chocolaty, fruity, nutty, complexity, floral and other notes are found in Arabica coffees, but rarely show up in Robustas.
And Arabica contains almost 60% more lipids and almost twice the concentration of sugar than Robusta. This is probably why we prefer the taste of Arabica.
Be thankful that we are able to enjoy the sweeter, more nuanced coffees. It wasn't long ago that Arabica was harder to come by.
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