Two types of coffee that can fight endlessly for the first sight. However, in the right combination, they can create a unique interplay. So what are Arabica and Robusta coffees like?
Arabica and Robusta: the difference in taste is not a problem
Arabica coffee (Coffeea arabica) is said to be the most delicious of all available varieties. This is due to a lower content of caffeine (approximately 0.8 – 1.4%), but also a higher amount of oils (15 – 17%) and sugars (6 – 9%). The sugars caramelize during roasting and enhance the sweet and fruity tones, which are typical for Arabica coffees. High-quality Arabicas thus offer a multi-layered palette of flavours and aromas.
Discover the charm of 100% Arabica coffees
Ethiopia Dimtu Tero
Sweet single coffee characterized by fruity tones of blueberries, wild strawberries and flowers.
Kenya Tekangu Tegu
Lightly roasted select coffee that will enchant you with fresh tones of grapefruit, flowers and raspberries.
Compared to Arabica, Robusta (Coffea canephora) contains once the same amount of caffeine (1.7 – 4%), thanks to which the coffee tree is not only more resistant to pests, but also more robust in taste. At the same time, it has fewer oils (10-12%) and sugars (3-7%), so Robusta is hotter, more earthy and usually has low or zero acidity. Quality Robusta often provides a full body with tones of chocolate, which are not lost even in combination with milk or sugar.
Perfect harmony of Arabica with Robusta
Robusta is used in the production of instant coffee. Quite often, however, it is also mixed with Arabica coffees, with which it creates delicious coffee blends suitable not only for espresso coffee machines, but also vending machines. Thanks to Robusta, espresso gets a wonderfully rich crema.
Why is Arabica so different from Robusta?
The basic differences between the individual species and their specific properties are created during the cultivation of the coffee tree itself.
Arabica grows at high altitudes (600 to 2000 m above sea level), in subtropical areas with stable precipitation, quality soil and sufficient shade. It is grown primarily in Central and South America, Africa, India and Indonesia. Although growers enjoy the first harvest only six years after planting, it is much faster in ripening. Cherries of the Arabica species ripen about 9 months after blossoming, which is largely related to the fact that Arabica belongs to the so-called self-pollinating species, i.e. plants that can be pollinated with their own pollen using insects or wind.
Despite the fact that these coffee trees are relatively low (3-4 meters), thanks to which they are easy to maintain, there is a lot of work with them. They are much more susceptible to environmental influences and various diseases, and therefore their cultivation requires increased attention. Especially if they are grown in areas that are not typical for them. As it is a very popular coffee, it is often grown in bulk in the so-called monocultures, which is also not ideal for its health. If one coffee tree is ill, there is a high chance that the others will become infected.
Did you know that…? Robusta is referred to as Arabica’s uglier sister. However, when examining its genes, the researchers found that in Ethiopia, Coffea arabica originated by crossing two varieties: Coffea canephora and Coffea euginoides. So without Robusta, there would be no Arabica!
On the other hand, Robusta grows in the lower zones (200 to 800 m above sea level), especially in Africa, India, Thailand, Vietnam, South America and Ceylon. Robusta coffee trees can grow up to a height of 10 meters, so farmers keep them up to make the harvesting of coffee cherries as easy as possible. Robusta is less demanding, it can adapt very quickly, and so it survives even in more adverse conditions. Growers are able to harvest the first crop two or three years after planting. For pollination, however, Robusta needs pollen from foreign flowering plants, which is why the ripening of cherries takes longer than in Arabica, about 10 to 11 months after blossoming.
Growing Robusta requires a warm climate and quite a lot of water, especially if it is cultivated in areas with unstable weather. Then it needs up to 3000 mm of rainfall per year. It is highly resistant to disease and yields several times a year, so it is much easier to grow. However, this unpretentiousness is also its weakness. Robusta is often grown in unsuitable conditions, which results in grains of inferior quality. And that ultimately sheds an evil light on the species as such.
Did you know that…? Arabica coffee beans are larger and oval. It has a dark green colour and the central groove of the grain is slightly curved. A smaller, round grain with a straight groove is typical for the Robusta species. Its colour resembles straw.
However, there are many more coffee varieties
There are more than 120 types of coffee trees in the world.
When a mushroom decimated more than 90% of Arabica’s world production in 1890, a rapid rescue was sought, which temporarily became Liberica (Coffeea liberica) from the Philippines. Liberica beans are larger than others and often asymmetrical – they are the only irregularly shaped coffee beans. Liberica has a unique aroma of floral and fruit tones, full body with a mild smoky taste. However, according to some, this species does not resemble coffee at all, because it has a too woody taste.
Another species is Excelsa (Coffea excelsa or Coffea liberica var. Dewevrei), which grows on tall trees mainly in Southeast Asia. Its grains have a shape similar to almonds. The body resembles a light roast of coffee, but there are also hidden tones typical for darker roasting. It is mainly used in blends for extra emphasis of taste and complexity. Despite the fact that Excelsa attracts many coffee connoisseurs, it represents barely 7% of world production.
Arabica represents about 75-80% of world coffee production. Robusta is the second most cultivated species – it represents about 20-25% of world production. And while the coffee world may seem impoverished by many other species, it is important to realize that only Arabica and Robusta themselves offer us such a wide and varied range of aromas and flavours that we have not yet tasted entirely. So, a lot of new flavours to discover!
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