Robusta, arabica… I’m sure you’ve heard these words thrown around in a coffee shop before. Well, what exactly do they mean? And why is knowing the difference between the two so important? Let’s dive right in and find out shall we…
Robusta, Arabica.. What does this all mean?!
Well calm down there friend, things aren’t as complicated as we might think. Arabica and robusta are simply the 2 primary varieties of coffee beans that are harvested for drinking purposes. Yes, surprisingly there are only two major varieties. But they’re two very different types of beans.
Robusta vs Arabica Coffee – What’s the difference then?
The two biggest differences between the Arabica and Robusta beans relate to taste and price.
Arabica is by far the more popular bean, representing around 70% of the world’s consumption. It’s origins date all the way back to 1000 BC, where it was founded in the highlands of Ethiopia. Arabica is the milder of the two varieties, characterized by its lighter, fruitier, slightly acidic taste. Arabica favors higher, tropical regions and therefore thrives in Latin America but is also grown in Africa and Papua New Guinea.
Robusta beans have a stronger, harsher taste. They are grown in lower, hotter areas – primarily in Indonesia and Africa. Robusta has double the caffeine content which is where it’s harsher taste comes from.Although you find really good quality Robusta, it is generally considered inferior to Arabica and therefore fetches a lower price than Arabica does.
What Am I Drinking?
Gourmet coffee is usually made using quality Arabica beans. Espresso is normally made up of a combination of both Arabica and Robusta. Robusta contributes beautiful crema, which is a good indication of the quality of an espresso. All instant coffee and most coffee you find in supermarkets are of the Robusta variety, or at least a mix between Arabica and Robusta.
All coffee shops worth their salt will display what coffee they’re brewing. Normally, when buying whole or ground up beans from a supermarket, coffee shop, etc. the packaging will specify what beans you’re buying (100% Arabica for example). Normally if they don’t specify then the coffee will either be a mix or purely Robusta.
Higher-end coffee will go even further by specifying whether the coffee is single origin or a blend. Single origin coffee means that the beans you’re buying were all sourced from one geographic location – Columbia for example. A blend means that the beans consist of a variety of single origin beans, therefore a mix. Blended coffee is a fine art, and the aim of a blend is to combine the best parts of each of the single origin coffees that go into the blend.
Single origin is generally more expensive because the origin of that coffee can be traced back to the place where it came from, giving it the characteristics of the setting it came from. It has its own story.
Variety and origin is purely personal preference. Next time you go shopping for coffee, why not try something different and unique? Experimenting is always fun and you might just stumble upon a real gem… if you do, please share!
What’s your favorite coffee? Please let us know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading,