The Arabica Versus Robusta Issue


There are actually four main species of coffee plants, though only two are widely grown and exported. Arabica (Coffea arabica) is the oldest varietal known and, despite its name, comes from Ethiopia. Robusta (Coffea canephora) was discovered in 1898 in the Congo. Rarer species are Coffea liberica (from West Africa) and Coffea dewevrei (from the Philippines).

There's a lot of talk about which has better flavour, Arabica or Robusta. Arabica is generally considered to be more aromatic and superior in flavour to robusta. Robusta, on the other hand, has more caffeine, more body and a bitter and acidic "bite" which many people enjoy.

Coffee experts will tell you that the truth is actually a little more complex than these generalisations. For a start, there are good and bad quality Arabicas and good and bad quality Robustas. A good quality Robusta will certainly be more aromatic and flavourful than a bad quality Arabica. There are also many other factors involved in the flavour in your cup, such as how it was roasted.

The art of blending and roasting coffees is an art and a science, much like blending a good wine. If you selected your coffee based on generalisations then you'd never enjoy a full bodied espresso (where Robusta is an important part of the blend).

There are so many factors involved that the important thing is not so much what variety of beans are in your blend but whether it has the balance and flavour you enjoy. Choose a reputable brand and you are assured that the beans are first grade, they have been perfectly roasted and they have been processed and packaged quickly to seal in the fresh aromas and flavours.