Everywhere we look we see 100% Arabica coffee beans as a selling point, but what does that actually mean? How much of a sign of quality is it? What makes them ‘better’ than other types of beans? These questions and more are answered up ahead!
What is Arabica Coffee and where is it Grown?
These days it’s grown all over the place, but it originates from the Arabica Mountains of Ethiopia, but it is grown more commonly at high altitudes around the globe, from South America, to Asia and Africa. It is thought to be the first domesticated coffee beans and as such is the dominant strain in the world, all this position is waning as we'll explore.
What is the Difference Between Arabica and Robusta Coffee?
Arabica and Robusta are the two main types of coffee beans. While both are types of Coffea, they differ in taste, qualities, of course. Arabica coffees are known for its well-rounded, smooth, and milder flavour. The main difference between Arabica and Robusta is the stark difference in caffeine content. Arabica coffee generally has about half the caffeine in it that Robusta does. We introduce Robusta coffee on our blog here.
It is also low in caffeine, with an average between 0.8% and 1.8%. Robusta coffees, like the name suggests, are higher on the caffeine end, with an average around 2-3%. Arabica coffee is considered to be the highest quality and most sought after coffee type due to its unique flavour profile, which is smooth and mellow with notes of fruit and cocoa.
The coffee beans are classified according to their country of origin, elevation, and other factors. The coffee is grown in countries around the world such as Ethiopia, Brazil, Colombia, and Indonesia. Arabica coffee currently accounts for just 53% of all coffee beans sold worldwide and the gap has been closing for a number of years according to Statista.(1) (2).
Why the gap is closing could be down to many reasons, the warming climate is obviously making it more difficult for Arabica farmers whereas Robusta is a hardier strain of coffea. The lure of Robusta, as better strains, hardier plants and faster fruits is going to prove tempting for many farmers. We will see how this pans out as time progresses.
Why Do Coffee Shops Use Arabica?
At AM Espresso, almost only use Arabica beans. But this isn’t set in stone for us, it’s just that our favourite house espresso is a Colombian Arabica roasted by the amazing Curve Coffee Roasters in Margate. We personally find the balance and consistency of these coffee beans completely unmatched.
As for other coffee shops, there are some that are producing great Robusta, such as Black Sheep coffee with their Robusta Revival coffee, which is great to see. But many other coffee shops will lean on Arabica. But seeing the 100% Arabica signs is not the draw for coffee afficionados that it once was.
Which Arabica coffee is best?
There are so many incredible coffee origins and varieties in the world. It’s impossible to pick one as the best Arabica coffee. But when choosing your coffee beans, there are a few things to look out for, flavour notes, a fresh roast date and the quality of the roaster are key.
We think that the best Arabica coffee will depend on personal preferences. Some coffee drinkers prefer sweet coffees while others prefer a balanced and smooth cup. We believe that tasting different Arabica coffees and blending it according to the flavour profile that you like is the best way to determine which coffee is best for you. Explore the varieties, buy fresh beans and keep exploring until you find your perfect profile.
Are Arabica Beans Actually Better?
In general an average Arabica coffee bean is going to be better than the average Robusta beans, but when you start hitting the specialty grading of top quality beans, each can provide a unique and enjoyable flavour profile.
Arabica beans have a lower caffeine content which makes the cup of coffee smoother and less acidic, and therefore more palatable to most people. But this is down to preference, if you are a person that likes an extra shot of coffee, or shorter americanos, or a flat white, then don’t be exclusively drawn in by the 100% Arabica sign.