Arabica Coffee Beans: What is Arabica Coffee and Why Coffea Arabica Matters
A walk down the coffee aisle at the local supermarket can be a little bit daunting, especially for a casual shopper. It’s very confusing, and that’s probably why most people stick with what they know but there are many coffee types out there that everyone should learn!
At Black Ink Coffee, we believe that an educated consumer is the best consumer. So let us try and demystify what is often the biggest choice: Arabica Coffee or Robusta. By doing so, we hope to help you understand why Arabica is our favorite coffee bean variety and why we make all of our coffees exclusively using Arabica beans.Black Ink Arabica Coffee Beans →
What is Arabica Coffee
First, before knowing what Arabica coffee is, please indulge us in a little bit of a review of coffee history. Derived from the Coffea Arabica plant, Arabica beans are believed to be the first coffee plant cultivated many centuries ago. Now, we call it Coffee Arabica, or just Arabica.
It is indigenous to the country of Ethiopia, but it’s thought that the name Arabica was inspired by some beans taking a trip from Ethiopia northward through Africa to the southern reaches of Arabia as a trading commodity in the middle ages.
Arabica is now the world’s most popular species of coffee bean, accounting for about 70% of global cultivation and production and three-quarters of Brazil’s massive crop. Alternatively, the second most popular coffee bean is called Robusta.
When it comes to consumer choice, the results are clear: Arabica is the most popular coffee bean. More than 60% of cups of coffee brewed are of the Arabica variety. And the consistent world market preference for Arabica continues to drive production and cultivation. Why is it so popular?
Despite their appeal, Arabica coffee beans are a bit harder to cultivate. They are a sensitive and fickle crop, preferring to grow in rich and moist soil with lots of diffused sunshine but just enough shade to keep it sheltered. Robusta plants are much less delicate and can be grown at low altitudes, where Arabica plants typically perform best at altitudes from 600 to 2000 meters, making it much harder to harvest and produce.
Shady and sheltered hillsides with a mix of protective foliage, bright sunshine, and sub-tropical temperatures are ideal for Arabica Coffee cultivation. But, those same conditions are less than ideal for mechanical cultivation. This combination of factors makes Arabica Coffee very difficult to harvest, leading to back-breaking work.
When those increased costs are passed onto consumers, they tend to vote with their wallets, happily forking over a bit more money for the preferred Arabica bean. Worldwide, Arabica beans sold for $2.93 per kilogram in 2018, and that cost is projected to increase in price to $3.37 per kilogram by 2025. Robusta, much less expensive, sold for $1.87 per kilogram in 2018 with projected increases to only $1.73 per kilogram by 2025.
Coffee Arabica Prices
Right now, historic droughts in Brazil have driven up volatility in the coffee market worldwide due to worries about maintaining the supply of the preferred Arabica beans. And since Arabica plants take longer to fully mature, market turmoil from a bad crop may persist beyond a single growing season.
The Arabica plant itself is also more prone to disease and pests than other coffee plants, making it more expensive even in good years. Ironically, the high caffeine content that turns off some human consumers also steers harmful insects away from Robusta plants, as the caffeine serves as a natural repellent to common pests.
When people consistently purchase the more expensive product, it tends to indicate a strong choice. And the Arabica type of coffee is largely what people have come to expect out of a cup of coffee—sweet and mellow finishing and not too bitter with maybe a hint of chocolate.
Coffea Arabica Overview
Coffee plant cherries fully ripen over a period of around nine months. Depending on where and how the coffee is grown, the cherries are either chosen selectively for ripeness or harvested all at once, because all of the cherries are considered to have enough ripeness. The method chosen usually depends on how well the lengthy maturation process has been planned and coordinated, and for big commercial growers, that usually means stripping all the fruit at once rather than selecting individual cherries.
Most coffee produced today is processed through a preparation called wet-milling, beginning right at the time of harvesting. Immediately after being picked, the coffee cherries are transported to a milling machine that removes the outer shell. The beans then get rinsed with water. Lastly, depending on the local preference, the beans are then either fermented in large tanks or allowed to dry completely.
This process yields a little raw, green coffee bean. Typically, the beans are then wrapped in paper and stored in an area with good ventilation and other favorable conditions. Workers and machinery monitor their humidity level consistently and carefully as at this stage, the beans are very vulnerable.
Bean to Cup
Even within the family of Arabica coffees, there are plenty of variations in the long process of turning coffee seeds into the delicious brew in your mug. Each step along the way helps determine the flavor and ultimate quality of the result you enjoy, but a lot of the end flavor is determined by the makeup and quality of the crop itself.
As the coffee bean is grown and cultivated, dried, milled, and prepared for export, our single-origin producers create nuanced and unique profiles that will satisfy your particular taste. From there, roasters take great pride and joy crafting the best roasts possible.
At Black Ink, we provide a mix of Single Origins and blends that perfectly compliment the subtle characteristics of the beans we source from all around the globe. The next time you indulge in that steamy black elixir that we all know and love, think about the journey it took to get to your cup.
Arabica Coffee Beans
The taste of Arabica coffee is described as fruity and sugary, naturally sweet. Raw Arabica coffee beans smell distinctly like berries, and that same flavor profile permeates the roasted beans, and ultimately the final brew in your cup. Arabica beans have about double the amount of naturally occurring sugars when compared to their less sweet Robusta counterparts.
That sweetness is a big part of the difference between the end product brewed from these two distinct species of coffee. Robusta beans and the beverages they yield are considered much harsher, with a stronger, more bitter taste. But, Robusta coffee is also less acidic.
This more aggressive flavor profile has made Robusta the bean of choice for makers of instant coffees and some espresso types. The quick brewing methods for instant varieties almost demand a stronger dose of flavor, as they don’t let the flavor develop as deeply as more intensive methods of brewing. And when it comes to espressos, which are typically very strong and taken in very small doses, Robusta’s acidity and deep crema are appealing.
Most coffee drinkers will tell you that instant coffees tend to be bland or pale, and it’s a matter of debate if that’s due to the extraction process or the beans themselves. Arabica beans and their brews are also considered a bit more ‘drinkable’ because, at 1.5% caffeine, it has only about half of the jolt of Robusta beans, which are 2.7% caffeine.
Verdict: Why Choose Cafe Arabica Beans
When our coffee beans are roasted and ground to our exacting specifications and finally brewed for you, we’re confident that our cafe arabica will be the catalyst that gives you the courage to ink your story. Arabica or not, we hope that our coffee helps to fuel those dreams of yours.
Don't get us wrong, there is a time and place for Robusta beans, but we simply love Arabica coffee beans for the sweet and complex flavor nuances that these beans exhibit. If you are interested in a bean that we do not carry, be sure to let us know!Black Ink Arabica Coffee Beans →