As we are sure most lovers of the bean know there are broadly 2 different types of coffee species (there are actually more than this but these are the 2 that make the best coffees) out there. These are Coffee Arabica (Arabica) and Coffee Canephora (Robusta). Both have different properties and both offer different attributes to the coffee that you drink. Today’s blog is going to try to simplify the differences between these and arm you with better information to get a better coffee.
Firstly some wiki-style information. Coffee is technically a fruit hence the name coffee cherries and the interesting bit to the coffee drinker is the seed (think cherry stone) hidden under the coffee cherry’s dark red flesh. What’s in these coffee beans (not technically a bean, beans are legumes) depends on the soil it grows in (what gets absorbed into the cherry), the location it grows in, the amount of sunshine and rain it gets whilst growing, how ripe it is when it gets picked and finally how the cherry is processed to release the coffee beans. A really useful analogy is wine grapes, it's all about where they are from and how they are grown to create the finished product in the bottle. Already this is a topic for another blog all of its own so back to the point.
Marketeers have been trying their best to convince everyone that Arabica is all good and by default, robusta is all bad. This is simply not true. There is no clear demarkation between Robusta and Arabica in terms of quality, instead there is a very broad overlap with many great quality robustas better than lower quality arabicas. The main reason they both are commercially farmed is that they both offer something different to the finished coffee and this changes depending on what you are trying to achieve in the cup. Both have their place.
Arabica is a much more delicate, vibrant, fruity, acidic coffee than its Robusta cousin which offers strength, body and intensity so the choice of bean to put in your cup really depends on what you would like to drink. A long filter coffee where you are looking to experience the citrus, winey notes of a delicate lightly roasted coffee is a perfect candidate for a 100% arabica East African coffee. Whereas, if you are looking for a strong delicious smooth espresso, then a blend of the character of both coffees is perfect; the arabicas to provide the delicate and high flavours, the robusta to provide the body and intensity. When combined together, the whole is better than the sum of the parts.
So, the simple rule of thumb is if you want a delicate filter coffee, drink a 100% arabica. If you want a balanced, well rounded great cup of coffee with more body, drink a blend of arabica & robusta and if you want a great authentic espresso, drink a Saquella espresso...