Coffee is one of the top three beverages in the world. So, why do we drink so much coffee? Perhaps it is because of the addicting caffeine. Mixed with milk, sugar, and flavor, it could easily be a dessert in a cup that gives you a pep in your step. Some even say black coffee can be good…really? Well, keep in mind that you may not be drinking the same coffee. Most coffee drinkers are unaware that there are different varieties of coffee.
Coffee does not have to be a bitter-tasting drink you force yourself to consume to feel awake. Learning about its unique origins and varieties can lead to a better understanding of the commodity and lead to a more pleasant coffee experience all around.
An excellent place to start learning about this drink that we see on almost every corner and in every home is by comparing the two most common varieties of coffee. Now whether you just stick a k-cup in your Keurig and move on with your day or if you have a super lengthy coffee ritual you participate in every morning, learning about the variety and origins of coffee beans and how they can affect taste, smell, and flavors will not just impress your friends but will enrich your coffee experience.
Photo Cred: The Spruce Eats
The world is most familiar with two main types of coffee, namely Arabica and Robusta. You might’ve heard those terms at your local café or in line at a Starbucks. It’s funny how the world of coffee can sound so sophisticated. These are simply two varieties of coffee plants. There are reasons why some choose one over the other. We will be discussing these differences in this article.
Alongside Arabica and Robusta, there are two unusual types of coffee varieties. These would be Liberica and Excelsa. Most people haven’t even heard about these variations because they are rare and difficult to scale for a global market. So, we’ll be focusing on the more common and widely used coffee beans, Arabica and Robusta, in this blog post. Feel free to explore other options and learn more about these beans to see if you would like them!
Photo Cred: Enjoy Java
Arabica coffee is harvested from the beans of the Coffea arabica plant, which originates from Ethiopia. This coffee is the most popular in the world, with around 60% of cups drank being Arabica. There is a good reason for Arabica being so popular, and that has to do with its taste. Arabica coffee has an extensive taste range which, when compared to Robusta coffee and its often bitter taste, is a refreshing change of pace.
Unfortunately, having a better-tasting bean comes with disadvantages. It is not as hardy as Robusta, and therefore; crops don’t always do well. With this comes a higher price than Robusta. Arabica crops need extra shade, water, and higher altitudes in order to grow healthily. Another fun fact about Arabica beans is that they make up 75% of the world’s coffee production. You can see why Arabica coffee is so popular, due to its sweeter taste (for coffee) and its extensive taste range!
The more delicate harvesting process pays off with Arabica coffee, leaving the beans with a more smooth and sweet taste, with hints of chocolate and sugar. We call these profiles notes. Higher quality coffee generally includes profile notes and roast dates, not expiration dates.
The one thing that does have to be noted is that Arabica coffee has less caffeine than Robusta (not by much). Robusta might have 2.2-2.7% whereas Arabica has around 1.2-1.5%. You will find a stronger (higher TDS, or concentration) cup of Arabica to still have a superior taste, and drinking experience. We think that this is a fair trade-off.
As of March 2022, the average cost for a kilogram of Arabica coffee is 2.28 times the cost of Robusta. The cost of Arabica coffee has increased by 36% over the previous year.
The runner-up in popularity is the Robusta coffee bean. Coming from the Coffea canephora plant, this bean, originated from sub-Saharan Africa, but is now mostly exported from Indonesia and Africa. Robusta coffee is the less expensive variety, making it a great option for the cost-effective roaster. They are usually larger and more round compared to the other bean varieties. A benefit of these beans, especially for coffee farmers, is how hardy they are.
The plant can be grown at low altitudes unlike the Arabica coffee, they are also less susceptible to pest damage. Another benefit to the Robusta beans is that they have a larger return since you get a larger harvest from the Coffea canephora plant. Robusta coffee also makes up 25% of the world’s coffee production. Most people do not like drinking pure Robusta coffee, so cheaper brands mix the varieties to maintain some desirable flavor and sell at a lower price.
You are at a diner, and you order a cup of coffee. The waiter brings you a thick ceramic cup of black coffee. She asks you if you want cream or sugar, to which you reply no. One sip, and it’s bitter. It’s not your Starbucks-tasting coffee, let alone your local specialty coffee shop. If you weren’t craving caffeine, you would probably order something else. There is a good chance you had some Robusta in that cup of coffee.
As of March 2022, the average cost for a kilogram of Robusta coffee is up 31% from last year, but still about 2.28 times cheaper than Arabica. Compared to the prices of last year, we can see that the prices of coffee, regardless of whether it’s Robusta or Arabica are going up.
Photo Cred: Craft Coffee Guru
So the most important question still stands… Arabica vs Robusta, what is better? For most people, Arabica is an easy choice in this battle of the beans, but that doesn’t mean that Robusta is not a good choice. Robusta is great if you are seeking the cheapest caffeinated beverage. It’s also great to mix it up once in a while and grind some Robusta beans for coffee.
Arabica is the clear-cut winner between the two beans, if you want to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee, Arabica coffee cuts down the bitterness and burnt taste in exchange for an extensive taste range that can really enhance your coffee drinking experience.
Any brand that sells specialty coffee generally uses Arabica coffee beans. That’s why Red Mug uses Arabica beans, you just get a better experience. These beans bring out different flavors based on how they’re farmed and roasted, and we love experimenting to bring out new tastes and flavors for our customers. We take roasting seriously and pay close attention to how each bag of coffee is prepared.
Coffee is changing. The third wave has created local coffee roasters and coffee shops like Red Mug everywhere. We believe everyone deserves to experience what coffee can be. It’s not just an industry, it’s an art… it’s a passion. But, it starts with quality beans and artisans roasters. That’s why we use Arabica beans.