6 Unique Differences between Robusta and Arabica Coffee
Are you new to the world of coffee or an experienced coffee lover who wants to know more about your favorite beverage? Well come around then and let’s explore the differences between robusta and arabica coffee, two of the world’s most important beverages. Why only these two coffees out of the hundreds of coffee bean varieties in the world, I can hear you asking. The reason is that they are the only two main coffee beans that are widely cultivated as beverage.
In fact, robusta and arabica coffee beans make up 99% of coffee sold around the world. So it is surely certain that you must have had either one of them. But I bet you don’t know how different these two coffees are. Without much further ado, here is a peek at the unique differences between robusta coffee and arabica coffee.
To start this article, I am going way back, back to the very beginning. Okay all reference to the Lion King aside, let’s go. Arabica coffee is extracted from the seeds of Coffea arabica. A plant that was first discovered in Ethiopia, a country in East Africa.
So why is it called arabica coffee? Is this an ancient form of cultural appropriation? Not really!
Ancient Ethiopians merely ate the beans as a stimulant by crushing and mixing it with fat. The Arabs, however, were the first people to recognize its use as a beverage. Ancient Arab scholars even detailed how the drink kept them up for several hours. Hence the name arabica coffee. Got it?
As for robusta coffee, its roots can be traced to Western and Central Africa. This coffee is extracted from the seeds of the Coffea canephora plant.
2. Place of cultivation
You can find robusta plants thriving primarily in Indonesia and different parts of Africa. Vietnam is the world’s leading producer of robusta beans. On the other hand, arabica is mostly cultivated in South America but you can still find it growing in Papua New Guinea and Africa. Brazil leads other countries in its production.
The taste of arabica coffee is not limited to one particular definition. It has a wide range of taste that goes from one end of the spectrum to another. Depending on who you ask, arabica coffee taste can be described as either being sharp and tangy or softly sweet.
The raw arabica coffee bean has a smell similar to blueberries. And when it is roasted, the blueberry smell changes to one with fragrant fruit notes and some hints of sugar. Gosh, I sound like a wine snob there.
In sharp contrast, robusta coffee has a taste that ranges from harsh to neutral. Some people compare its taste to that of grains, particularly oatmeal. In its raw form, it has the scent of peanuts but when it is roasted, it smells just like burnt tires. Now you know your weird neighbor does not burn tires every morning in his apartment, he is just having a cup of robusta. Lame jokes aside, let’s move on.
If you are one of those who love coffee mainly because of its caffeine content, this point should interest you. While arabica coffee has only 1.5% caffeine, robusta is the obvious winner with 2.7% caffeine content. In other words, a cup of robusta coffee has double the amount of caffeine as a cup of arabica coffee. Since caffeine tastes bitter, this is the major reason why most people find robusta coffee unpleasant.
This high caffeine content is a good thing for the robusta plant, however, as it makes it resistant to pests and diseases. Diseases do not like the microbial properties that caffeine gives it while pests dislike its bitter flavor.
When it comes to quality coffee, there is a reason why arabica coffee is also known as the gourmet coffee bean.
If you ask any true coffee connoisseur, they will tell you to look no farther than arabica coffee. As a matter of fact, pure arabica blends are the highest quality coffee available in the market. And they tend to be pricy too. Why is this so?
Apart from its more pleasant taste, which is a major contributing factor, it is also expensive to cultivate due to how susceptible it is to pests and diseases. In any case, this does not mean you should empty your house of the robusta beans you were gifted. A top robusta coffee blend usually tastes better than low quality arabica coffees. In addition, espresso houses love robusta coffee because of its strong caffeine content and its high crema- a fancy Italian word for the foam that forms on your cup of espresso.
We earlier mentioned that arabica coffee is more expensive than robusta coffee. To give you an idea, do you know that a half bag of arabica beans costs more than a full bag of robusta beans? This situation can be explained with just the simple law of demand and supply you learnt in your economics class.
The robusta plant usually matures in 2 years when compared to arabica plant’s 4 years. This quick growth, high yield and its resistance to pests and diseases makes it readily available in the market in large amounts. Besides, its unpleasant flavor is also a contributing factor to why it is cheaper than arabica coffee.
Most of the cheap instant and ground coffees sold in grocery stores are of the robusta coffee blend. There are stores that still sell arabica coffee but watch out. Just because you see arabica on the label does not mean it is pure arabica coffee. Some unscrupulous companies use robusta beans as a filler for their “100%” arabica coffee beans.
There you have it! I am sure you will find this article helpful the next time you are in the market for coffee beans. When next you make a cup of coffee, remember all the unique qualities that go into making that coffee special. Brew your coffee with love and don’t forget to keep it fresh.