All coffee comes from an evergreen plant (called Coffea in Latin) which grows between the tropic of Cancer and the tropic of Capricorn. The coffee beans are the seeds inside the red cherries. Inside each coffee berry there are one, two or on rare occasions three coffee beans.
A coffee plant can grow to a height of 10 or 12 meters and it takes 3 to 5 years for the plants to begin producing. The yield decreases after approx 20 to 25 years.
There are two major species that coffee drinkers will be familiar with – Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta.
Arabica coffee plants are delicate and prefer higher climates, the elevation causes the coffee bean to mature slowly which in turn leads to a more aromatic and flavorful coffee.
Robusta as the name suggests is much more resistant and is grown at sea level. Their characteristics are also very different.
Arabica coffee has a very pronounced aroma, is mild, well rounded, and often features a sweet hints of chocolate or caramel, with a pleasing touch of bitterness.
Robusta coffees on the other hand, are hard, astringent, not very aromatic and much bitterer to taste, they also contain three times as much caffeine as Arabica coffees.
Read more on the Difference between Arabica and Robusta Coffee Beans
The coffee we drink is produced from either Arabica or Robusta Coffee beans, each of which have their own distinctive characteristics.
Arabica Coffee Beans
- Coffea arabica is known as Arabica coffee
- 70% of the world’s coffee production is from Arabica beans.
- Arabica coffee is grown in Central and North America, The Carribean, South America, Eastern Africa, Yemen, Papua New Guinea, Brazil and India.
- The Arabica bean produces a mild, smooth, well rounded aromatic coffee and often features a sweet hints of chocolate or caramel.
- It grows best at high altitudes such as mountainous and volcanic areas requiring mild temperatures between 59-75 degrees with an annual rainfall of approximately 60 inches.
- The plant is quite delicate being prone to disease and the yield is much lower than Robusta.
- It grows on terrain that is steep and difficult to access hence they are costly to cultivate.
- Arabica is regarded as much more superior quality and is used to produce speciality coffees.
Robusta Coffee Beans
- Coffea canephora is known as Robusta coffee
- 30% of the world’s coffee production is from Robusta beans.
- Robusta coffee is grown in Central and Western Africa, South East Asia, Indonesia and Brazil.
- The Robusta bean produces a coffee that is hard, astringent and not very aromatic.
- It is grown at lower altitudes and is able to tolerate warmer climates (preferring 75-85 degrees).
- The plant is much hardier and disease resistant and yields much more than the Arabica plant making it cheaper to cultivate.
- It is used mainly in blends and for instant coffees.
- Robusta contains approximately three times as much caffeine content than Arabica.