The two main types of coffee cultivated for drinking are Arabica and Robusta, two terms you may be familiar with if you have ever read the labels on the packaging of your favorite coffee. Read on to learn more about these two basic coffee concepts and how they impact the taste and the quality of the coffee we drink.
This plant, whose scientific name is Coffea Arabica evolved in the southwestern Ethiopian highlands and bordering regions of Kenya. For a long time, Arabica was the only coffee plant cultivated for human consumption, but that changed during the late 1860s, as we’ll see when we talk about robusta.
Some essential facts about Arabica coffee beans:
- They contain less caffeine but offer subtler flavors than Robusta
- These beans are usually picked by hand
- Grows mostly on mountainous land
- The plant cannot survive outside of a belt located in the tropics
- There are two varieties of Arabica, Bourbon, and Typica. Successive sub-varieties are known as cultivars
As we mentioned earlier, the history of coffee changed in the second half of the 19th century. Until then, Arabica was the only species of the genus Coffea grown for human consumption. Things changed when an outbreak of coffee rust decimated production in Asia. Producers began looking for alternatives and found Robusta (coffea canephora), which was resistant to coffee rust.
Some essential facts about Robusta coffee beans:
- Generally speaking, they produce coffee of lesser quality compared to Arabica
- They were originally sourced from the Congo
- Robusta beans usually contain two times more caffeine than Arabica
- They grow at lower altitudes than Arabica
- This variety is highly resistant and usually produces twice the yield than Arabica
In short, Robustas are easy to grow but produce coffee of inferior quality compared to Arabica. However, this is only a general rule, and in some cases a Robusta of exceptional quality may even outperform a middling Arabica. Finally, caffeine levels differ greatly between the two types of beans, a fact you should keep in mind if you are trying to moderate your caffeine consumption.
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