What is Arabica?

What is Arabica? title image

In order to really enjoy coffee to its full potential, it is best to understand why most coffee companies and coffee shops rave about ‘Arabica Beans’. This short guide will hopefully outline what makes this coffee speciality stand out from the rest, and more importantly, help you decide whether you should be hunting for Arabica or not.

In the world of speciality coffee and those coffee shops where each drink has around 50 syllables, you’ll have probably noticed that advertised everywhere is ‘We serve Arabica’ or ‘our coffee is 100% arabica’. Usually advertised alongside other coveted trademarks such as ‘Fairtrade’ and ‘Organic’. So why is Arabica praised so much by so many people?

The best place to start is with the beans; coffee is now grown all over the world, in varying climates and altitudes. You may be surprised to know that there are over 100 varieties of coffee currently!

The reason is simple - it tastes better!

Out of the large variety of species of coffee beans, there are two that dominate the market. Arabica and Robusta beans. The latter being the cheaper (generally) and regarded as ‘less premium’ than its counterpart. That isn’t to say there is no nice Robusta bean coffee out... some may even prefer the taste. However, if we are to look at the taste preferences of the average coffee drinker, Robusta coffee would fall short of the experience a well-roasted Arabica bean offers.

To understand more, we must look at how Arabica coffee beans are grown and what factors add to their unique taste. Arabica beans are grown at higher altitudes than other coffee species (anywhere from 800 to 2500 meters). The altitude creates a greater acidic nature to the coffee which contributes to a deeper coffee taste. The height at which the beans are grown impacts not only the flavour but also the larger price tag which are for some substantial reasons:

The first reason is the more obvious one, labour; to work at these high altitudes is regarded as more taxing than it is to work at lower altitudes. Workers operating these farms generally need to be paid higher than that of, for example, the growers of the Robusta bean. As there can be as much as 1000 meters difference in height. Travel, oxygen and weather conditions are just a few of the obstacles that must be overcome to farm at this height.

Secondly, Arabica trees take up to 7 years to fully mature. Consider it this way, if a farmer chooses to plant arabica beans they must understand that they will not reap the benefits for at least 5 to possibly 7 years or more, which can be considered more of a risk.

On the other hand, if a farmer plants Robusta trees, typically they only need to wait up to 3 years for the tree to fully mature. Not only lowering the risk but also essentially giving the farmer twice the produce in the same period. There is also a difference in how the two plants pollinate. as the Robusta plant cross-pollinates, meaning that you are less likely to get a consistent bean type per batch.

The arabica plant, on the other hand, is self-pollinating, which creates a more consistent bean type and therefore flavour. Meaning that 100% arabica coffee is more trustworthy to produce a consistently high-quality coffee every time.

Finally, Robusta beans have much higher caffeine content, along with an increase in acids. The higher content of caffeine acts as an insect repellent; therefore, Robusta beans are easier to maintain as they are less likely to be subject to insect infestation. Arabica beans, however, have half the natural caffeine content which means they have a less bitter taste, but also means they need more supervision due to requiring less natural repellent, which in turn adds to the labour costs of growing the beans.

So, we have learnt that the chemical and caffeine content of the beans alters the taste, and strong caffeine can be more bitter. On those cold mornings in the office, it may be tempting to find the strongest possible form of caffeine available, if you were to munch on some raw beans you would be in for quite a nasty surprise! The decreased caffeine contents of the Arabica bean result in a much smoother taste. Alongside that, the beans have an increased sugar content (almost twice the amount) which means it has a sweeter natural taste.

To summerise; Arabica coffee is generally more expensive but there are reasons for this as detailed above.

Our opinion at Jurang is to always make sure that the coffee is 100% Arabica and Fairtrade - you won’t be disappointed!

At Jurang we only sell Fairtrade coffee, the majority of which is organic and/or Arabica. Why not take a look at our Coffee selection.


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