STOKES BLOG Do you know your Arabica beans and Robusta beans?

You’ll already have tried Arabica beans and Robusta beans as they’re some of the most widely used for your cup of coffee. But what’s the difference between the two? We’re going back to basics for a bit of an overview on these two coffee bean giants.

How it grows

Arabica beans are cultivated in subtropical climates, growing best at altitudes of 900 to 1800 metres. Arabica is generally considered to be more delicate than other species of coffee tree: Arabica trees are susceptible to frost, and if the temperate plummets they risk losing their cherries and their leaves. Nor do they cope well with extremes of heat. At lower elevations, the trees will require shade from other trees if they are to thrive.

Robusta beans can grow in harsher climates. As it is fairly hardy, it can be cultivated at lower altitudes and requires little rainfall to grow, making it more common to places in Central and West Africa and South East Asia. Robusta bushes are also far more resistant to diseases than Arabica trees.

Production

After three or four years, coffee trees will begin producing fruit, but the best crop will not appear until the tree is 6 or 7 years old. A typical Arabica tree produces up to twelve pounds of coffee each year. A Robusta bush produces about twice as much, so the cost of producing Robusta beans is much lower than the cost of Arabica.

Taste

Arabica beans are lighter in flavour, brighter, mellower, and with a balanced acidity that is neither sharp nor bitter. Because of these characteristics, Arabica beans are often considered to be superior to Robusta.

Roasted Robusta beans produce a strong, full-bodied coffee with a distinctive earthy flavour. They are usually more bitter than Arabica beans due to their pyrazine content. Robusta beans are mostly used as a filler in lower-grade coffee blends. However, the powerful flavour can be desirable in a blend to give it strength and finish, noticeably in Italian coffee culture. Good-quality Robusta beans are used in espresso blends, to provide a full-bodied taste and a better crema.