Arabica and Robusta: what’s the difference?
Is coffee all the same?
How to find out quality coffee, without following the easy and void promises of the 100% Arabica?
When you are at the store it looks easy: you can find a blend of non better specified roasted coffees and a blend and the 100% Arabica. Taking into account the higher price of the second, you are easily led to think that you are buying the best coffee, the one and only quality coffee. Nothing further from the truth.
What does Arabica mean? Is there a coffee other than Arabica? Most importantly what does 100% Arabica means?
There are a lot of coffee plant species. Arabica (Coffea arabica) is amongst these and together with Robusta (Coffea canephora) is the only used in coffee blends. On these grounds again you could think that Arabica is better than Robusta.
Again, this is not necessarily true and in the first place is opportune understanding which are the fundamental carachteristics of Arabica and Robusta, bearing in mind that Arabica and Robusta do have each hundreds of varieties that differ a lot as to flavor, aromas and result in the cup with reference to cream and body.
- Altitude of the plantations
Arabica grows above 600 meters and up to 2000 meters, Robusta grows below 1000 meters and down to the sea level.
- Shape of the bean
Robusta bean is more round and the Arabica has a more oval shape.
- Number of chromosomes
Arabica has 44 chromosomes, Robusta only 22.
- Caffein, sugar and oil content
As to caffein, Arabica goes from 1.2% to 1.7%, Robusta goes from 1.6% to 3,2%. Arabica has an oil content equal to 18%, twice the Robusta content. The sugar content is 8% for Arabica and 5% for Robusta.
Arabica has more rich and complex aroma and more flavors. Robusta comes with more body and generates more cream.
There is no need for a longer summary as it is more important underlining that Arabica and Robusta have hundreds of varieties having their own specific characteristics.
As to Arabica, the most famous varieties are Jamaica Blue Montain or Kopi Luwak but, to mention a few others, you can name Caturra, Altura, Catuai Maragogype, Bourbon, Santos, Antigua, Supremo, Mondo Novo and Limu.
All of these coffees are Arabica, but have their own specific carachteristics, most of which quite evident. And you can tell the same about Robusta coffees.
If this is true than you can affirm that by saying that a coffee is 100% Arabica without specifying which variants of Arabica are included in the blend, you are really saying nothing as to taste, aromas, flavors, body and of the other carachteristics of the coffee and even less about the quality. If you add that the price range of the varieties goes from few euros to more than a hundred for a kg, you have a more precise picture and you can say the same about the robusta varieties.
Ultimately it’s a question of personal taste, so why not starting a journey into coffee looking for different tastes and for real quality?