Coffee plants come in many different varieties under the scientific genus coffea. Not all make it into our caffeinated beverages. Most well-known are Arabica and Robusta. Some lesser-known strains like Liberica and Excelsa exist in smaller batches as local specialties.
Strains grow through various conditions in parts of Africa, Asia, and South America which change the final bean’s characteristics. Unpredictable circumstances produce inconsistent beans. Sometimes, this creates new varieties. Intentionally or not, even coffee plants impact what ends up in your cup.
What are arabica coffee beans?
Arabica plants originate from Ethiopia. The most popular strain, Arabica makes up at least 60% of the modern market. Native to high heights, Arabica coffee is difficult to cultivate. In the wild, the flowers after a few years. Each flower holds two beans inside.
So what are robusta beans?
Robusta beans are actually a variety of a larger type of coffea beans called Canephora. Robusta is the only type of Canephora we consume. So, we refer to the entire category as Robusta which originates from Central and West Africa. Arabica versus Robusta contrast in taste, appearance, and even caffeine.
Coffea plants produce caffeine as protection against parasites and diseases. Arabica varieties live in higher altitudes with fewer threats and produce less caffeine. Robusta beans make more caffeine.
Flavor-wise, Arabica beans garner praise by European standards. Internationals consider it smoother, sweeter, and nuanced. With more sugars comes a complex and detailed final profile. Flavors are acidic, often noted as fruity, chocolatey, nutty, or caramelly notes. Robusta flavors are stronger, harsher, and bitter.
Coffee plants physically vary as well. Arabica are larger, oval, and colored light green, gray, or a bit blue. Robusta come smaller, circular, and colored darker with a bit of yellow.
Coffee plant farming proves the insane variation in each cup of coffee. To explore a passion for coffee to the fullest, travel the world by tasting the bean varieties all around it!