The main differences between Arabica coffee beans and Robusta coffee beans
Today, coffee is more than just one of the most popular drinks in the world. Around 10 million hectares of land are used to grow the most popular varieties. Many steps and factors are necessary before the plant produces a high-quality coffee bean for further processing. With its African origins, the coffee plant was first mentioned as early as the 9th century, but its spread and triumphant advance as a valuable luxury food continued until the middle of the 17th century. Since then coffee has been an important commodity. In the meantime we know about 100 coffee varieties. However, only about 9 types of coffee play a noteworthy role in worldwide cultivation and trade. The two most important types need to be differentiated and considered differently.
The globally most widespread and mainly traded type of coffee is the Arabica, which is also occasionally referred to as Java or mountain coffee. The plant is a so-called reddish plant that grows as a shrub or tree with a maximum height of around 5 metres. The leaves are arranged in opposite directions on the stem and have up to 13 lateral ribs, the nerves. Within the inflorescences of the vascular plant there are about 3 flowers, whose fruit is called coffee cherry. This fruit has an elongated shape and is considered ripe when it has developed a reddish colour. Inside are two seeds, the coffee bean, whose special feature is a curved slit on the flattened side.
Initially, the plant species originated in what is now Ethiopia, not far from the border area with South Sudan. When growing Arabica coffee, special attention must be paid to the basic climatic conditions. The variety prefers a high, light-flooded growing area, which can also be at altitudes of up to 1,000 metres. The central regions of cultivation are located in Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala and other countries on the Central American continent. Other plantations are located in Africa, for example in Kenya, East Asia, India or even New Guinea and Hawaii. By far the most valuable yields of Arabica come from the highlands of Guatemala. This is what gives this type of coffee its unique aroma and particularly mild taste.
- Climate-sensitive plant for higher altitudes up to 1000 meters
- 5 meter high shrub or tree with long ripening period
- Coffee bean in reddish colour when ripe for harvest
- Full-bodied aroma and mild, digestible taste
The coffee plant species Robusta was only discovered in the 19th century and originates from the area of the African Congo. The species is also known as lowland coffee and is the second most traded variety worldwide. The shrubs or trees can grow up to 8 metres in height, but in most cases they are kept smaller to facilitate harvesting. The leaves appear in an elliptical, elongated shape. The broad coffee cherries are filled with two beans, which have a yellowish, brown colour. When harvesting, the whole fruit is first collected and only after an extensive drying phase are the beans peeled from the cherry.
As the plant is slightly sensitive to cold, it is not suitable for high altitudes. However, the cultivation area can be up to 600 to 700 metres high and the plant is less susceptible to diseases, heat or moisture. An important advantage over other species is also the much shorter ripening period of only 6 months, which allows several harvests per year. The globally distributed cultivation areas of this type of coffee are located in Central America, Central and West Africa and South East Asia. Vietnam is considered the largest producer and exporter of Robusta coffee. The taste of the coffee is very strongly defined and is dominated by very bitter characteristics, which result from a caffeine content that is twice as high and a considerably higher proportion of chlorogenic acids. It is precisely because of these properties that the variety is particularly valued in the preparation of espresso or as an additive for various coffee specialities to intensify the aroma.
- Resistant plant, little susceptible to heat, moisture or diseases
- Shrub or tree up to 8 meters tall
- Short ripening period (6 months), several harvests per year
- Twice the amount of caffeine and chlorogenic acid
- Intense, strong coffee with a bitter taste