Coffee has ultimately won the hearts of many to become the world’s most popular beverage. Over 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed every year, thanks to the coffee’s distinct aroma and taste that tingles the taste buds of most. Besides the health benefits, is coffee’s stimulation abilities which most people count on to wake them up and get through the day.
For a clearer picture, coffee ranks second of the most popular drinks after water. Given this popularity, it’s not surprising how many different varieties of coffee there are. To that end, you must be curious to know which is the most popular type of coffee.
Let’s find out.
Arabica Coffee – The Most Widespread Type of Coffee
Statistically, Arabica coffee, also called coffee Arabica, is hands-down the most popular type of coffee, equating to over 60%-75% of global production. Arabica coffee is coffee derived from the beans of the Coffea arabica plant, which was the first coffee species to be grown.
The second widespread type of coffee is Robusta, derived from the plant Coffea canephora. It makes up for the remaining 40% (or less) of coffee production.
But why the name “Arabica” Coffee?
Arabica’s first origin was in the southern highlands of Ethiopia (the birthplace of coffee) before being transported to lower Arabia in the 7th century. While in Ethiopia, the beans were crushed, mixed with fat, and eaten as a stimulant by the Oromo tribe, Arabia is where the first brewing occurred.
This brewed substance was called coffee in Arabia hence the name Arabica coffee. The Arab scholars initiated the conversation of a brewer beverage that helped to prolong their work hours. From there, coffee spread fast wound the world.
What Does Arabica Coffee Look Like?
Compared to Robusta, which is more circular, the arabica coffee bean is slightly larger and oval. When raw, the arabica coffee bean is lighter in color than the Robusta bean. The beans (more like seeds) are found inside the berries; each berry carries around 2 beans. The berries are ready for harvest when they are deep-red or dark purple, where they are handpicked since they don’t ripen at the same time.
What Does Arabica Taste Like?
There’s a good reason why most people love the taste of arabica coffee. High-quality arabica coffee is slightly sweet in flavor with hints of chocolate, nuts, and caramel. The coffee will also have a distinct taste of fruit and berries. It’s of a slight mouth-pleasing acidity that carries little bitterness. Arabica coffee holds almost twice the sugar concentration as Robusta, which explains its sweet flavor. It also contains about 60% more lipids than its Robusta counterpart.
To get the best of these sweet flavors, it would be best to cold brew your arabica beans. Like any other coffee, the roast you choose will affect the extent of the flavors you experience. Same with the area, latitude, and soil composition, which will affect the balance of all these elements.
Arabica Coffee Growing Environment
The Coffea arabica is susceptible to harsh climates. It thrives in cool, subtropical (humid) climates with temperatures between 59°F and 75°F (15°C and 24°C). The plant is less resilient and requires a higher altitude of 600-800 meters, a lot of moisture, shade, rich soil, and sun.
Arabica plants produce less finished products per acre and require more production care because of their vulnerability and susceptibility to pest damage. The arabica seed has low caffeine content, which would come in handy to protect the plant from toxic bugs. The prevailing limiting conditions make growing arabica coffee harder, which explains the coffee’s high cost of production.
How Does Arabica Plant Look Like?
If left unattended, the arabica plant grows 9-12 meters takes approximately 7 years to mature. However, commercial plants are kept at 2-2.5 meters for easier harvesting. Its flowers are small and white, with a sweet and pretty smell, like the jasmine flowers.
Caffeine Content in Arabica Coffee
Part of the reason for Robusta’s bitter taste is that it has more caffeine than arabica (2.7% caffeine content compared to 1.5%). If you’re looking for the caffeine kick, this may sound like a great thing, but caffeine is responsible for the bitter unpleasant taste in the drink. If you’re looking for more than just caffeine, arabica is sure to please.
Is Arabica Usually Blended with Other Coffee?
Most of the coffee available at the grocery shop, coffee base, and the market is arabica. That does not mean that some brands do not mix arabica and Robusta beans, especially for espresso blends. In this case, the arabica beans will give the sweet flavor, while the Robusta beans will add the caffeine, intensity, and depth.
Hybrid coffee, considered arabica, is on the rise, especially with many threats to coffee leaf rust and environmental concerns. These coffees incorporate elements from Robusta coffee that make the arabica more resistant to diseases for some period. This is the only way to ensure the survival of arabica coffee production.
What’s Great About Arabica Coffee?
If you’ve seen the “100% Arabica” label on coffee packages, it’s for a good reason. Arabica coffee is considered superior to Robusta because of its complex flavor, sweetness, and balance in acidity. Besides, Arabica coffee is more delicate to grow than other coffees, which is why (for the most part), it’s considered and priced as a premium commodity.
Where is Arabica Coffee Grown?
While Arabica coffee grows best in tropical climates, it does well around the equator. Some of the finest quality arabica coffee comes from Africa and South America.
Here are some countries that produce high-quality arabica:
- Costa Rico
So many other countries grow arabica coffee, but Brazil stands as the largest producer in the world.
Popular Varieties of Arabica Coffee
There are numerous subspecies varieties of arabica coffee, often named based on where they’re grown. Some of the most popular are:
- Typical: Is known as one of the first coffee varieties for its clean and sweet cup, defined taste, and hearty plant. Although characterized by low production and excessive susceptibility to coffee leaf rust, Typica is the most cross-bred variety.
- Bourbon: Is also one of the first coffee varieties. Its flavor hints at chocolate and fruity overtones. Bourbon is well known for its excellent quality cup in high altitudes. A lot of other varieties have grown out of the Bourbon plant.
- Caturra: A natural hybrid of Bourbon, Caturra grew well in Brazil in the 1900s, but now does better in higher altitudes of Central America. It’s well known for its light body and citric flavored bean.
- Maragogype: Also goes by the name “elephant bean coffee” for its large-sized bean, this coffee grows in Brazil. It’s unique for its heavy, buttery body, and floral flavors.
- SL-28 and SL-34: Also known as “blueberry bombs”, these varieties make up the major coffee grown from Kenya. They’re best identified with fine, fruity, or wine tastes.
- Villalobos: Oddly enough, this variety (that also grows in Costa Rica) thrives in poor soil to yield coffee of the right balance of acidity and sweetness that you don’t need to add sugar or cream.
- Kona: As one of the most expensive coffees globally, Kona is a famous variety for a light body, naturally sweet, and fruity flavor of nuts and spices. It’s grown on the slopes of two volcanoes on the Big Island. The perfect combination of the altitude and rich lava soil contribute to this coffee’s features.
- Pacas: This is a Bourbon breed often grown in EI Salvador. It yields sweet and spicy coffee.
- Pacamara: Is of the Maragogype and Pacas varieties. The bean grows well in Central America (mainly EI Salvador) and produces coffee with balanced sweet acidic and floral flavors.
- Gesha: Sometimes called geisha, Gesha is one of the most expensive types of coffee in the world. Having originated near the small town of Gesha in Ethiopia, this variety is now being grown in Central America. It’s rising in popularity for its unique, delicate tropical fruit taste.
Is Arabica Coffee Better Than Robusta Coffee?
Most coffee lovers agree that the arabica flavors blend more smoothly than the bitter tough Robusta. That said, you can’t compare higher-quality Robusta with lower-quality arabica, and it’s right to accept that some people are looking for the blend of what these two most popular coffee types offer, especially for espressos. But if you’re looking for a caffeine kick, Robusta coffee contains twice as much as Arabica coffee. So, do the math and choose wisely.