In this block every week I am answering 3 of the most popular questions about specialty coffee.
This week we gonna continue talking the differences of arabica and robusta!
What is the origin of Arabica coffee?
Ethiopia is considered to be the place of origin of Arabica coffee, in the province of Kaffa.
Central Africa is the origin of Robusta coffee.
Why is it called Arabica coffee?
Knowing that the birthplace of coffee is considered to be the highlands of Ethiopia – you have all the right to wonder why it is called Coffea Arabica, and not Coffea Aethiopica, which would make much more sense taking into the consideration where the plant comes from.
The thing is that arabica had been attributed a name before the origin of it was figured out. Or, better said – being grown in Ethiopia, the coffee was brought to Arabia (Yemen), where it actually became a drink we all know. Ethiopians were consuming the coffee cherries in a different way, more as a food than a drink, while Arabians came with the idea of roasting and brewing coffee seeds. The resulting drink appeared to have stimulating effect – which came quite handy to those who had to pray various times per day. Coffee made its way as a legal stimulant in the society that prohibited the consumption of alcohol.
Arabians were quite careful with the coffee beans, giving them a hot water bath, to prevent any possibility of other countries stealing the beans and then growing and exporting coffee themselves.
But even though they did their best, coffee plants were smuggled to the Netherlands. Where in the Botanic Gardens of Amsterdam were studied and classified by Antoine de Jussieu first as Jasminum arabicum, and then Carl Linnaeus placed it in its own genus Coffea, Coffea Arabica. Not Aethiopica, even though the coffee was born there.
Which is better arabica or robusta?
There is no right answer to this one, because it is actually a matter of preference and habit.
Arabica tends to have a more delicate flavour profile, higher sweetness and acidity, and less caffeine than Robusta. Arabica also has the fame of having a whole range of flavour profiles, therefore being very different, varying from chocolaty to nutty to stonefruit to tropical fruits to berries to florals etc.
How can you tell Robusta from Arabica?
The appearance of the plants is pretty different, as well as the coffee cherries. But talking about a practical approach, and how arabica and robusta look after being roasted – there is a visual difference that can be easily spotted.
Arabica beans have an oval shape and have a curved slit.
Robusta beans are more rounded, and smaller in size with straight slit.