Arabica vs Robusta Coffee: What's the Difference?
The secret behind every cup of delicate and fragrant coffee is the beans it is made from. According to Royal Botanical Garden, Kew there are 124 different species of coffee. When it comes to commercial cultivation, two species are prolific while the others are mostly ignored. Arabica and Robusta are considered the highest standard coffee beans due to the effort put into research, and growing techniques tailored to these 2 coffee species.
Despite what seems like a narrow approach, these two species can produce an astoundingly broad spectrum of flavours and characteristics. They may taste acidic, bitter, or sweet, with aromas or notes of florals, herbs, fruit or chocolate.
As a coffee drinker, you’re almost guaranteed to have tried both arabica and Robusta, sometimes in the same cup of coffee. So, what is the difference between the two?
Arabica was first cultivated in Ethiopia highlands in the 17th century and is commonly grown at an altitude of from 900 meters to 1.5 km (3000 ff - 4900 ft). At this altitude, the coffee contains high acidity, yet low caffeine in its body. Typically arabica has a higher sugar content than Robusta and in general has a cleaner profile with a lighter body.
This Arabica plant is the most difficult coffee bean to grow because it is prone to pests and insects and requires higher temperatures and altitude than Robusta. In addition, the plants are fully mature when they are 7 years old and can grow as high as 5 meters; however, the plants are trimmed to 2 meters for commercial processes, to keep the cherries within reach. The coffee’s taste and aroma will usually be flowery, floral, sweet, and smooth.
This species of coffee plant grows best from 600 meters to 1km (2000 ft - 3280 ft) above sea level, which is lower than the Arabica. Furthermore, a grown-up Robusta tree takes 3 years to mature, and it could grow up to 30 feet. Since the coffee plant is grown at low levels, it creates chlorogenic acids that maintain the flavour profile.
What is special about this coffee bean is that it is much more resistant to pests, which makes handling easier thanks to its shielding substance. Therefore, this coffee bean is popularly grown in many other locations in the world. Moreover, the coffee carries more caffeine content, and is characteristically chocolatey, nutty and earthy in flavour with fruity notes.
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