Arabica and Robusta – What is the difference?

bean-1512433_1920 arabica

“Once upon a time, a young man named Kaldi spent day after day looking after his goats on the ever so green fields of a far away land known today as Ethiopia. Kaldi, was a master of his trade and as a good shepherd he knew every peculiarity of his herd. So it did not take him long to notice that on that sunny morning the goats were behaving rather abnormally. They were dancing and frolicking around in a fest of their own.

Inquisitive by nature, young kaldi went on a quest to discover the source of such change and he soon discovered that the goats had been eating these bright red berries. He collected a sample, ran to the monastery and excitedly told a monk, friend of his, about the discovery. The monk then made a beverage out of the berries and was astounded when he found out that the new drink kept him alert, enabling him to continue his prayers throughout the night. Night prayers being a struggle among the monks, it should not surprise you to know, that  the new beverage quickly became very popular with his peers.”

The legend says that the paragraphs above correspond to the truth about the origins of coffee, okay maybe not the beverage-making part, that happened way down the line. Anyway, a quick research will show that there are many others accounts, so solely for the sake of self-entertainment, let’s go with this one.

Coffee fell into the graces of everyone who came in contact with it and soon our beloved bean started its amazing journey across continents and oceans to conquer the world.

coffee sunset

Today, there are many types of coffee  beans are cultivated across the coffee belt. However, only two really relevant to the industry. They are Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora, popularly known as Robusta.

Robusta, let’s say is the weak link in this chain, despite being more resistant to the elements and insects, the bean is considered to be inferior in taste due to its high content of caffeine – nearly twice as much as what we find in the Arabica beans.

coffee robusta

Coffea Robusta

Arabica beans, which account for 3/4 of the production worldwide are, let’s say, quite high maintenance. The require  specific altitude(1300-1500), the right type of soil and climate, a little bit of rain, some shade and sunshine. As you can imagine, it’s hard to please this plant so it is mainly cultivated in Latin America.

Arabica tree

Coffea Arabica

We could perhaps compare the Arabica bean to a sunny spring day in Europe, where flowers are caressed by a soft wind creating a sweet aroma. Poor Robusta would be more like stormy dark day on top of a mountain and such harshness may be seeked by some but most certainly is not appreciated by many, much like it is with espressos.

coffee sunset coffee tree

With such large quality gap between these two types of beans,  many brands will brag on their labels about only using 100% arabica beans. Yet is quite tempting for many to throw in some Robusta into the blend, as all the efforts invested into the plantation of Arabica, obviously reflect on its price and it can be up to 50% more expensive and its bushes yield nearly half as much as the Robusta.

When we grab a cup of brew the last thing that cross our minds is how it got there but as you can see coffee has many facets and impacts lives in many aspects before it becomes the delicious beverage we adore.


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