There are four significant types of coffee beans: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa. Arabica beans are the most common type, with Robusta beans being a close second. Liberica is a rarer type of coffee bean that is grown in the Caribbean and South America. Finally, Excelsa is a variety that was created by crossing Arabica with Liberica.
The characteristics of each type of coffee bean make it unique in scent and flavour. In addition, the location of growth and the process can also prove to be a differentiating agent. We will go into further detail about each type of coffee bean in the following sections.
Arabica coffee beans are the most popular coffee beans in the world. They are taking the lion’s share with over 70 per cent of the global market. They are grown at high altitudes in South America, Africa, and Asia. It got its name, Arabica, from Arabia since Arabs were the ones to spread it worldwide.
Origins and History:
Arabica beans come from the highlands of Ethiopia. It is said that it was consumed thousands of years ago (roughly 1000 BC) by ancient Ethiopian tribes. They would consume the beans for the same reason we do today, as a stimulant.
They ate the beans slightly differently, as they would crush them and mix them with fat or other ingredients.
Where is it Grown? And How?
Coffea Arabica plant has a particular set of growing preferences: high altitudes, considerable rainfall, and moderate temperature. We can find these conditions in an area called the coffee belt.
The coffee belt is the equatorial strip of the earth where coffee is most easily grown (between 25 degrees north of the equator and 30 degrees south). It covers most of the famous coffee-producing powerhouses.
Growing and maintaining the arabica cherry plant is sensitive and delicate. In addition, the surrounding environment has a significant effect on its development. As a result, it is also very susceptible to various infections.
It takes Arabica around seven years to fully mature; the plants can grow at heights of around 2 to 4 meters. And it gives fruit in approximately 3 to 4 years.
Before the cherries appear, though, the plant produces small, white, jasmine-like flowers. After that, dark green cherries will start to appear. You can tell the cherries are ripe when they get a dark red.
What Does it Taste Like?
Arabica coffee beans are known for their sweeter taste, with subtle hints of a fruity flavour. It might be pleasant or not depending on personal preference, as people are split between enjoyers of the bitterness of coffee and preferers of the sweetness.
The taste and aroma of the Arabica beans can be heavily influenced by the degree of the roast. A lighter roast will emphasise the sweet and fruity side of the coffee, while a more robust roast will bring out the bitterness.
The beans can have different flavour profiles depending on the region they were grown. The origin of the bean can also influence the aroma. Quality can also decline when the beans are produced in a less-than-ideal environment.
What is the Composition of Arabica Beans?
Arabica beans contain around 60% lipid, double the sugar in other beans, and several vitamins and nutrients. This comparatively more sugar makes arabica beans taste sweeter compared to coffee beans.
Arabica coffee contains vitamins E and B, magnesium, and potassium. Besides the obvious nutritional value, these antioxidants serve as chemical agents that help to reduce the risk of infection and diseases.
The Arabica beans’ perfect chemical composition ensures their high quality. Not only in flavour but also in the aroma and texture of the coffee.
Arabica coffee beans are the world’s most popular and sought-after coffee beans. They have a unique sweet flavour profile with subtle fruity notes that please any palate. The chemical composition of these beans ensures their high quality, making them an excellent choice for coffee and espresso. Arabica beans are grown in the coffee belt at high altitudes, making them a fragile and sensitive crop. However, their cultivation has been perfected over centuries resulting in an unbeatable taste and aroma. So whether you prefer light or dark roasts, Arabica coffee will satisfy your needs!
Robusta beans come from the Coffea canephora plant. It is the second most popular coffee in the world, second only to Arabica. Robusta takes its origins from western and sub-Saharan Africa. However, it is grown mainly in the eastern hemisphere and lower elevations like Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam.
We can also find Robusta coffee under the name Canephora coffee. Robusta is a shrubby plant that reaches up to 10 meters in height. The beans are smaller and more round in shape compared to Arabica beans. The seeds take around 11 months to mature.
Robusta coffee represents 30 to 40 per cent of global coffee production, with its popularity on the rise. The beans have lower acidity, a kind of bitterness, and a more woodlike and less fruity flavour compared to arabica beans.
Where Does it Come From?
Robusta coffee is grown locally in Western and Central Africa. It stretches from Liberia in the west to Tanzania eastward. And to Angola in the south. Following lower altitudes and hotter temperatures.
Canephora plants were only recognised as a species of Coffea in 1897, more than a decade after Arabica. However, there have been attempts to naturalise Robusta in other regions with moderate success. The areas in question are Borneo, French Polynesia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Jamaica and the Lesser Antilles.
The name “Robusta” comes from the toughness and agility of the plant when compared to the arabica variant. It is less prone to disease and can grow in less-than-ideal conditions.
Where is it Grown? And How?
The Canephora plant is almost exclusively grown in the eastern hemisphere, mainly in Africa and Southeast Asia. With the most prominent producer being Vietnam.
As a species, Robusta tolerates harsher environmental conditions. Easily quickly in lower altitudes, with higher temperatures than Arabica can survive. It also does not need constant rainfall.
Just like its Arabica counterpart, the growth process starts with white flowers. However, the fruit (cherry) begins with a dark green colour and ripens when dark red. Each cherry contains around two beans (seeds).
Given that Robusta can grow under loose conditions, many countries where it isn’t native to them try to produce it. Brazil is the best example, growing Arabica and Robusta in significant amounts.
What Does it Taste Like?
One of the main selling points of robusta coffee is the amount of caffeine in it. Robusta has almost double the amount of caffeine as Arabica. The more considerable amount of caffeine gives Robusta its harsh and bitter taste.
The presence of caffeine is the secret behind the toughness of the robusta plant. Besides being a stimulant, caffeine is a deterrent to pests and diseases. As the pests avoid, the bitterness and the antimicrobial properties of the caffeine defend against infection.
Robusta is also less acidic than other coffee beans, which makes it an excellent option for people with sensitive stomachs and digestive issues. It also contains minimal lipids and sugar—a healthier and diet-friendly coffee.
Robusta coffee beans are more bitter and earthy than their Arabica counterparts but are still commonly used in blends to add depth and flavour. Robusta is also the preferred type of bean for espresso due to its creamy and robust flavour. In addition, it contains almost double the amount of caffeine as Arabica and is less acidic, making it a healthier and diet-friendly coffee. Robusta is grown almost exclusively in the eastern hemisphere, mainly in Africa and Southeast Asia, with Vietnam being the most prominent producer.
Liberica coffee is one of the rarest coffee types, taking up less than 2 per cent of the global market. It is considered an endangered species because of its low cultivation rates.
History and Origins of Liberica:
Liberica gets its name from Liberia, the country of its origin. Although it originated in west Africa, liberica is currently produced in Asia, mainly in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
The journey of Liberica from west Africa to southeast Asia is fascinating. Some speculate that the beans went from west to east Africa (Liberia to Ethiopia), then to Arabia. And from there, it was carried by Muslims to southeast Asia.
It can also be as likely that European colonists introduced the west African beans to the Asian locals since they occupied the area.
Whichever way the beans found their way to the region, they found immediate success due in part to their extraordinary taste and to the epidemic that killed off 90 per cent of the previously dominant arabica plants.
The epidemic is known as coffee rust, almost wiping off the arabica strain. As a result, some farmers switched to robusta beans, while others preferred the new liberica plants since they were grown more efficiently and more resistant to coffee rust.
Where is it Grown? And How?
Malaysia is the leading player in the liberica production game, with over 90 per cent of the country’s coffee being liberica. However, the Philippines and Indonesia are also significant producers on a global scale.
Liberica trees grow very high, reaching 20 meters; they are harvested using ladders. As a result, the flowers and cherries are larger than their arabica and robusta counterparts. The plants take up to five years to start growing cherries.
The cherry itself is different from other coffee types. The pulp-to-seed ratio is 60:40. The drying process is longer, and the beans ferment in this fruity pulp longer. This is the reason behind its famous fruity flavour.
Liberica beans are very notably more oversized and asymmetrical than Arabica and Robusta. However, this unorthodox size makes them easily distinguishable.
What Does it Taste Like?
Liberica beans are known to have a very sweet and fruity taste, more than Arabica’s. However, those who tasted both say that they are entirely different from each other. Liberia’s other notable flavours are a strong, smoky, and woody feel.
Liberica compensates for its low caffeine nature with a powerful and different experience. Its aroma is often described as nutty and smokey, with a subtle hint of dark chocolate.
The strong taste of liberica means it is only for some of the average coffee enjoyers. In the Philippines, it is known as the manly coffee due to its potent flavour and strong kick. Although it is not for everyone, some tried it and fell in love with it.
Composition of Liberica:
Liberica has the lowest concentration of caffeine of all the other coffee types. It has less than 1.2 per cent caffeine. The lower amount of caffeine means a less bitter coffee and a less efficient delivery of stimulating effects.
Liberica is a rare, exotic coffee with a strong flavour and aroma. It is grown in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia, mainly on high trees that must be harvested with ladders. Liberica beans are known for their sweet taste, with smoky and woody undertones and low caffeine content. This makes it an excellent choice for coffee drinkers who want to enjoy something unique. Liberica is worth a try, especially for something special and flavorful.
Excelsa beans are not a well-known type of coffee, and that is because it has been reclassified as a type of liberica coffee and not it’s class. That said, excelsa still has some unique properties vastly different from liberica.
The beans of Excelsa can be challenging to find compared to Arabica and Robusta beans. Like liberica, excelsa plants grow in southeast Asia. Excelsa beans grow on 6 to 10 meters high trees.
Excelsa coffee has a delicate flavour with soft and velvety body characteristics. It tastes much smoother than other beans, with some similarities to Arabica.
History and Origins of Excelsa:
Excelsa beans have a long history, as they were originally classified as coffee Robusta, which has been around since the mid-19th century. The bean was then reclassified in the 1990s by scientists and given its category of liberica in Southeast Asia.
Where is it Grown, And How is it Processed?
Excelsa beans are typically grown in Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia, often growing wild on the side of mountains. They are usually hand-picked and processed using either wet or dry methods. The wet method involves immersing the coffee beans in water to remove the pulp from the bean, while the dry method consists in spreading the beans out in the sun to dry and then removing the husks. The dried-out beans are then ready for roasting.
What Does Excelsa Taste Like?
Excelsa coffee has an intense, earthy flavour with hints of dark chocolate, hazelnut, and liquorice. It is usually brewed as a single-origin or in combination with other robusta beans. Its low acidity and mellow body make it ideal for espresso and filter coffees. Excelsa is also known for its unique flavour, which stands out amongst the many different types of coffee in Southeast Asia.
Excelsa has recently become popular among speciality coffee roasters and baristas, as it has a unique flavour that stands out from other single-origin coffees. The beans also have an intense aroma, with notes of sweet almond, tobacco and wildflower honey. Excelsa coffee is typically full-bodied and slightly acidic, perfect for espresso or cafetiere brewing. It’s also great for cold brewing and has a creamy, smooth taste. It is also excellent for blending with other types of coffee to create unique flavour combinations. Excelsa makes a great addition to any home barista’s repertoire.
Composition and caffeine of Excelsa:
Excelsa is composed of mainly Arabica beans but also Robusta beans. As a result, it has a high caffeine content, which can boost energy. The flavour profile also changes depending on the roast level, from light to dark and everything in between. This makes it incredibly versatile for brewing different types of coffee drinks.
Excelsa is an excellent choice for any coffee lover looking to add variety and complexity to their morning cup of coffee. Its full-bodied, slightly acidic flavour makes it a great base or accent in espresso or cafetiere drinks, while its high caffeine content can give you that extra boost of energy throughout the day. It’s also incredibly versatile, allowing you to experiment with different roast levels and create a variety of delicious coffee drinks. Excelsa is an excellent choice for any coffee lover looking for something a little out of the ordinary. Enjoy!
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