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Arabica Vs. Robusta: Coffee Species Compared

Arabica Vs. Robusta: Coffee Species Compared
Arabica and Robusta are two types of coffee beans that are commercially produced and sold today. While Arabica is regarded to be the premium brand, Robusta is the cheaper and more affordable variety. Let's take a closer look at the difference between these two types of coffee, in this following Tastessence article.
Priya Johnson
Did You Know?
As of today, coffee is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, with over 400 billion cups being consumed on a yearly basis!
After oil, coffee is the most traded commodity across the globe. Moreover, it is also undoubtedly one of the most popular and enjoyed drinks in the world. It is prized for its unique flavor and aroma. In fact, millions of people are addicted to this unique beverage. Most of the coffee commercially produced, sold, and consumed across the globe today comes from the two coffee species: Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta (canefora). As of today, Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world, with over 80% of its yield being that of the Arabica variety. Vietnam, on the other hand, is the world's largest producer of Robusta coffee.
Arabica Vs. Robusta
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Coffea arabica or Arabica is native to Ethiopia, and was discovered in the early 1750s. Coffea robusta, on the other hand, was first found growing in the Republic of Congo, in the late 1890s. While both species are widely cultivated, Arabica makes for about 75-80% production of coffee. Robusta, on the other hand, comprises only about 25-30% of coffee production worldwide. Pure Arabica beans are the most sought-after coffee beans today. In fact, it is called the King of coffee beans! On the contrary, Robusta is the coffee of the layman. It's found in instant coffees and most coffee jars sold in supermarkets and grocery stores. So, the coffee we bring home is most likely to be Robusta. But, what’s so great about Coffea arabica? Why is it prized across the globe? Let's find out!
Flavor and Aroma
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Most coffee joints use Arabica because of its superior flavor. In fact, this variety is chosen for gourmet and specialty coffees worldwide. The flavor of Arabica beans is described to be smooth and mellow, with a rich and delicate taste to it. It is also loved for its perfect acidity, not sour or sweet, but perfect harmony! Its aroma is intense and perfumy, with overtones of sugar, fruit, and berries, which is simply tantalizing. This superior flavor can be attributed to its special growing conditions. Robusta, on the other hand, is not as aromatic or flavorful, as that of Arabica. On comparison, its flavor is pretty strong, earthy, and harsh.

Then again, there's the premium Robusta coffee bean variety, which is superior in quality as compared to the regular one, and is known for its deep, earthy flavor. However, this premium version can never be found in packaged coffee brands. It is always used in Espresso blends, along with Arabica, because it gives it a finer grind. Coffee joints add about 5% of Robusta along with Arabica in their Espresso blend, because of the creamy texture the former adds to the Espresso. Most Arabica lovers claim that once you've tasted its well-brewed version, you will never want to have Robusta again!
Caffeine Content
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Robusta coffee beans contain double the amount of caffeine of Arabica beans. This is also why the Italians began adding Robusta to their Espresso blends. The caffeine content in Arabica is a mild 0.9% to 1.7%. Then again, since Arabica has less caffeine than Robusta, it's a good option for those who want to cut down on their caffeine content.

Research conducted by Paulo Mazzafera, researcher at Universidade Estadual de Campinas, found that Coffea arabica coffee beans contain 12 milligrams of caffeine per gram of dry mass, while the newly found species contain as less as 0.76 milligrams per gram. This ratio is pretty mild as compared to the caffeine ratio of Robusta, which is a strong 1.6% to 2.8%.
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Since Arabica is the premium coffee type, it commands a higher price. On the other hand, Robusta is much cheaper because it yields a much larger crop than the other variety. In fact, it produces twice the amount of fruit per tree than Arabica. Moreover, it is also cheaper to maintain. Lower production costs result in lower market prices. Arabica is grown at higher altitudes, where the terrain is steep and access is difficult. Thus, its prices are higher.

In fact, the higher the elevation, the costlier is the coffee. Moreover, since Arabica yields less fruit per tree, its production costs are higher. The trees are also prone to diseases; thus, maintenance costs are also higher. Supermarket instant coffee brands contain Robusta coffee, simply because they're cheaper and don't lose flavor when vacuum-sealed and packed.
Bean Shape
Arabica beans are much flatter and elongated as compared to the roundish, more convex shape of Robusta beans. Arabica beans are slightly greenish in color; however, once roasted, it's very difficult to tell the two types apart. If you want to be really sure of the coffee bean quality you've just purchased, you can carry out a simple test.

Just place a handful of beans from the bag onto a table. Make sure the table cloth is of a lighter color. Next, spread the beans apart, such that their grooved surfaces are facing the table. Now, scrutinize the beans carefully. Arabica beans are oval and elongated, while Robusta beans are rounded and smaller. This can help you tell whether your Arabica beans have been mixed with Robusta!
As we've already seen, Coffea arabica is very delicate. It requires delicate handling, good climatic conditions, protection from pests, frost, diseases, etc. Besides the requirements of rich, well-drained soil, lots of sunlight, and moisture, they also need to be grown at higher altitudes. These special growth conditions are responsible for the superior flavor of these coffee beans.

Robusta, as the name suggests, is robust and hardy. It can withstand harsh climatic conditions, diseases, and heat. This disease- and pest-resistant species is mostly grown at lower altitudes. Robusta trees produce fruit much faster than the Arabica trees, which take several years to attain maturity and bear fruit.
So, in this battle of Arabica vs. Robusta, Arabica wins! Now it's time to treat your taste buds with some real coffee! The next time you go coffee shopping, make sure you specially look for Arabica beans. However, just because Arabica is mentioned on the bottle, it doesn't mean it's pure. So, check the percentage!