Ask almost anyone to choose between the two main types of coffee beans and most will instinctively gravitate towards arabica coffee. Ever since coffee became a widely available commercial product, it has been assumed that arabica coffee is superior in every way.
An assumption perpetuated by the vast majority of marketers, who almost always lean on the ‘arabica’ label when producing and promoting gourmet coffee.
But is it true to say that arabica coffee is always superior? More specifically, what are the main differences between Arabica and Robusta coffee beans?
The Basics of Coffee Bean Biology
Head to any supermarket or gourmet coffee shop and all types of coffee beans available will be divided into just two categories. Arabica coffee beans and Robusta coffee beans account for pretty much every commercially available coffee bean worldwide.
But when it comes to the family of coffee species these two coffee types come from, there are actually more than 125 different species of coffee. The reason today’s coffee market is dominated by just two is owed to the fact that coffee has been enjoyed all over the world for quite a long time.
It is a commodity with a history dating back at least a few centuries, during which the various types of coffees have been whittled down to a select few. Or more accurately, just the two primary types of coffee beans we enjoy today.
Why Not Only Arabica Coffee Beans?
Given that arabica coffee beans are the choice for most gourmet coffee lovers, it prompts the question as to why producers bother with Robusta coffee beans. If there is so much more demand for Arabica coffee and they sell at a higher price, why not switch to Arabica coffee production?
The answer lies in the simple fact that Robusta coffee beans are significantly easier to cultivate. They are not nearly as demanding in terms of environmental conditions and can be produced more prolifically in more parts of the world.
Precisely why they have a tendency to be much cheaper to buy than Arabica coffee beans. Given how most coffee producers are more about mass-production than selective production, Robusta coffee is the obvious choice. Especially given how Robusta coffee forms the backbone of the world’s coffee production industry, going into the vast majority of instant coffees and ground coffees on supermarket shelves.
What Makes Arabica Coffee So Much Better?
Rounding things off, to call Arabica coffee ‘better’ than Robusta is to miss the mark entirely. Just because the two different products have two different flavor profiles does not make one superior to the other.
In addition, quality standards vary significantly from one producer and product to the next. There are some Robusta coffees on the market that are exquisite, having been crafted to perfection by their producers. Just as there are also low-grade Arabica coffees that are downright unpleasant to drink.
As with most things, it is all about personal tastes and preferences. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when choosing coffee, just as long as you enjoy it.
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