The Robusta coffee bean is the world’s second most popular coffee next to the Arabica beans. It covers about forty percent of the world’s coffee production. It is the coffee bean that is commonly used in espresso and instant coffees. It is also used as a filler in ground coffee beans. Compared to the Arabica beans, Robusta beans have double the amount of anti-oxidant and caffeine. And it also grows faster and pest-resistant compared to Arabica coffee.
What is Robusta Coffee?
The origins of Robusta coffee can be traced in central and western sub-Saharan Africa. It is a smooth plant that has wide, oval, wavy leaves. It is commonly grown in Africa and Indonesia but the largest producer of Robusta coffee is Vietnam. Robusta coffee was consumed by African natives long before the Europeans arrived in Equatorial Africa. It is a strong, full-bodied coffee that has a unique taste with an earthy flavor. It is higher in bitterness and caffeine but lower in acidity and has less sugar compared to the Arabica coffee. And the reason why it is commonly used in espresso is that Robusta’s flavors are bolder and darker.
The Robusta Coffee Plant
Robusta is commonly grown in the Eastern Hemisphere because it is a resilient plant that can withstand full sun and hot temperatures like 30 degrees Celsius and over. You just need a lot of water to keep the plant hydrated. The Robusta plant can grow at low altitudes like 600 meters above sea level and it is resistant to disease and insects. When the Robusta plant grows in the wild, it can raise up to ten meters tall, but when it is grown for commercial use it is trimmed to about five meters in height to make harvesting a lot easier. It blooms white flowers that have a sweet smell like jasmine. And its fruit changes its colors from green to deep red as it ripens which usually takes about six to eight months. Just like the blueberries, the Robusta coffee plant’s fruit does not ripen at the same time that is why the best way to harvest the fruit is by hand-picking them one by one because there can be ripe and unripe fruit on the same branch. One ripe coffee berry usually contains two coffee beans.
As we mentioned earlier, the Robusta beans have a higher caffeine content. This feature makes the plant less prone to pests and disease because pests do not like the bitter flavor and the disease cannot stand its natural antimicrobial properties. A cup of brewed Robusta coffee has over twice the amount of caffeine compared to a cup of Arabica coffee.
The Robusta plant grows perfectly in warmer climates that is why these plants are commonly grown in Vietnam, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Guatemala, Guinea, Madagascar, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Uganda, Cameroon, and Cote Divoire.
If you see these countries listed as a source of beans on your bag of coffee, there might be some Robusta beans in there because it is commonly added to the bags of Arabica coffee as a filler to save more money in production.
What’s The Difference Between Robusta and Arabica?
- Robusta coffee needs to be cross-pollinated. It means that the Robusta flowers needto be pollinated with other pollen from a plant that has a different genetic composition. Arabica plants can self-pollinate.
- The Robusta plant has fewer chromosomes. It has a total of 22 chromosomes while Arabica has 44 chromosomes.
- Their beans are different in size and color. Robusta beans usually posses a smaller, rounder and thicker appearance compared to Arabica beans. The Robusta beans are also a little darker when raw.
- Robusta beans cost less than Arabica beans. Just like what we mentioned earlier, the Robusta plant is more resilient compared to the Arabica plant. It also matures faster and can produce more beans than Arabica. That is why it costs less and it is used as a filler that is mixed with Arabica beans.
- Robusta matures faster than Arabica. The Robusta plant can produce a plant in around two years while the Arabica plan takes as long as four years to produce fruit.
Now, do you want to give robusta a try? Take a little detour in your daily coffee blend and try the robusta coffee. Who knows? Maybe you will like its smoky, earthy flavor.