Glance just once at the coffee aisle in any supermarket and you are likely to be overwhelmed. Even when shopping with a non-specialist retailer, the sheer volume of different coffee types available these days is no less than mind-blowing. Hundreds of different types of coffee beans from an incalculable number of suppliers are available from all over the world. Which is precisely why most tend to find one or two products they like and stick with them religiously.
But as they say, a variety is the spice of life. Roughly translated, there is endless enjoyment to be had by experimenting with all manner of weird and wonderful coffees from time to time.
Contrary to popular belief, there are actually dozens of entirely different types of coffee beans produced and shipped from all over the world. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of coffee used for commercial purposes falls into just one of two brackets - Arabica and Robusta. In fact, you would probably have to look long and hard to find any coffee beans for sale that don’t fall under one of these headers.
And it’s not as if it’s any kind of coincidence, either. Long story short, Arabica and Robusta coffee beans are the very best coffee beans produced anywhere in the world, in terms of both quality and consistency alike.
Still, there are key differences between these two everyday coffee types, which should be taken into account when choosing your own perfect product. Once you gain a basic understanding of the differences between Arabica and Robusta, you might just find it that much easier to choose from the plethora of products available.
For example, Arabica beans are characterised as having a softer, somewhat sweeter taste than their counterparts, often with distinction notes of berries, ripe fruit and a hint of sugar. They have a higher level of acidity which is usually easy to detect, along with a characteristic wine-like flavour loved by coffee connoisseurs all over the world.
On the other side of the fence, Robusta coffee beans tend to have a somewhat harsher and stronger taste than Arabica, often leaving behind an aftertaste not dissimilar to peanuts. They also typically have around double the concentration of caffeine as would be found in Arabica beans, meaning certain Robusta coffees really can pack a punch. Generally speaking, Robusta coffee is considered to be of lower quality than Arabica. In reality however, there are certain Robusta coffee beans available that are quite spectacular in terms of quality and flavour – particularly when used to make decadent espresso.
One of the primary points of appeal for those producing coffee beans is that Robusta varieties are considerably easier to cultivate. They do not require higher altitudes to grow and nor are they nearly as susceptible to disease, pest infestation or damage attributed to unpredictable weather conditions. The rate at which they produce coffee berries is also considerably faster, while each coffee tree produces a much higher yield than would be expected with Arabica varieties.
While Robusta coffee beans are only grown in eastern regions, Arabica tends to be grown further west in Latin America. That said, there are certain countries where both coffee types are produced.
Given that Arabica coffee is more difficult to produce than its counterpart, it also ends up being considerably more expensive. This is why the vast majority of cheaper ground and instant coffees are made using Robusta beans. But at the same time, it’s worth noting that just because any given coffee is 100% Arabica doesn’t automatically mean it is of the highest possible quality. Instead, it comes down to the way it was produced and the brand/farm responsible for its production.
For the most part, making the right decision comes entirely down to personal preference. Just because one type of coffee is considered to be inferior in terms of quality doesn’t mean that it will not perfectly suit the palate of plenty of coffee lovers.
So once again, it is a case of experimenting with as many different types of coffee beans as you can lay your hands on. Variety being the spice of life, after all!
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