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The Battle of Beans: Exploring Arabica and Robusta Coffee

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

Unveiling the Differences in Taste, Cultivation, and the Threat of Extinction in the Wake of Climate Change

barista preparing coffee

There’s a “war” that has been fought for centuries. Many coffee consumers have the trauma of choosing the right coffee to drink at home. The questions are “Strong or not?”, “Where does it come from?” or “How much is the price?”... It’s not always so easy to decide!

With this article we are going to respond to these questions, without giving a direct answer, but explaining some aspects of the different types of coffee. We are talking about Arabica and Robusta.

beans of arabica and robusta

Where do they come from?

The best way to introduce the coffea Arabica and Robusta is to talk about the origins.

To begin, it's important to note that coffee production worldwide originates from the Coffee belt, an imaginary line encompassing countries near the equator. We are talking about places where the climate is hot and humid with frequent rainfalls.

The coffea Arabica is born in Africa, specifically in Ethiopia, and with Sudan, Kenya and Uganda they are considered the center of genetic diversity of arabica coffee.

Because of its popularity, the Arabica is cultivated in some other countries that are actually the biggest producers. We are talking about Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

Talking about the coffea Robusta, to know where it's born we still have to give a look in Africa, but more in the west. Even the Robusta cultivation spread throughout the world, so we find many plantations in Vietnam (the greatest producer in the world), Brazil, Indonesia, Uganda, Ivory Coast and India.

an old stamp from Kenya with coffee cultivation and cultivators

The Taste Showdown: Arabica vs. Robusta Coffee

When it’s time to choose our coffee, the taste is the undisputed king, we need to drink something that can give us some satisfaction. Because having a bad coffee flavor in the mouth can ruin our day!

In an attempt to decipher the myriad descriptions used by coffee brands, I’m going to explain the difference in taste profile of Arabica and Robusta.

Arabica is known for its complex and refined flavor, with notes of chocolate, fruit and delicate acidity.

Robusta, on the other hand, has a stronger and more bitter taste, with a full body and a nutty/chocolate note.

It’s very common to find a coffee that is 100% Arabica, but less usual a 100% Robusta (but there are!). Many coffee brands often sell mix, creating new flavors thanks to the different portions combinated.

To each his own, but in general Arabica is considered a superior quality.

5 coffee arabica beans

Caffeine Chronicles: Debunking the Arabica vs. Robusta Strength Myth

One of the most important aspects to consider when we need to choose our coffee is the level of caffeine. Except for those who are sensitive to caffeine, if we drink coffee we have to expect some effects on our body. It’s from day 0, when the famous goat herder Kaldi discovers the coffea plant, that humans use caffeine to wake up their bodies and minds.

With this information we are going to destroy a strange myth which made many people believe that a 100% Arabica coffee is the strongest..!

Arabica contains about 1.2% caffeine, while Robusta contains about double that, or about 2.7% on average.

So when we need to wake up and activate, a coffee with a strong rate of Robusta is the best way!

sleepy guy having coffee to wake up

From Delicate to Robust: Exploring the Price Differences in Arabica and Robusta Coffee

Before talking about the prices, we need to understand some differences between the plants and the difficulties of the cultivation.

Coffea Arabica is a sensitive plant that requires more careful care during cultivation, making it more expensive. Robusta, on the other hand, is more plentiful and resistant to disease (for that the name robusta), making it cheaper.

Climate Crisis: Coffee's Battle for Survival

After that we understood the difference between the cultivation of the 2 plants, it’s easy to understand how climate change is affecting the coffee business.

Coffea Arabica in particular is having the worst harvests in recent years, because the higher temperatures reduce the quality of the beans and increase the risk of disease and parasites. The problem is not only the temperature, but the rain, because coffea Arabica needs regular and well distributed rainfall for growth, and we are seeing with our eyes what has been happening the last few years all over the world!

terreno arido

What does it mean for the coffee industry? The first risk is to lose the highest quality of coffee and it will negatively affect all the coffee business.

First we're going to lose Arabica, but soon after all the coffee could be extinct. It could sound dramatic, but we have to change or the only coffee we will have in future will be just a cup of memories, with no sugar.

Preserving Coffee's Legacy: Confronting the Threat of Climate Change

In conclusion, we have explored the differences between Arabica and Robusta coffee, from their origins to taste profiles, caffeine content, and pricing. However, the looming threat of climate change casts a shadow over the coffee industry.

Climate change poses significant challenges to coffee cultivation, particularly affecting Arabica coffee. Rising temperatures, erratic rainfall, and increased risks of diseases and pests are compromising the quality and quantity of Arabica harvests. This not only puts the superior quality of Arabica at risk but also raises concerns about the future of coffee as a whole.

To ensure the preservation of our beloved beverage, it is vital for us to take action. Supporting sustainable practices, advocating for climate change mitigation, and staying informed about industry developments are essential steps we can take. By doing so, we contribute to safeguarding the heritage and diverse flavors of coffee for future generations.

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