The Difference in Arabica Beans and Robusta Coffee Beans
While roasted coffee comes in a variety of styles, there are only two basic types of coffee trees that produce Arabica and Robusta beans. Each, of course, has its own sub varieties and unique character, but the distinction between Arabica and Robusta beans is important, even to the casual coffee drinker. Arabica and Robusta beans both make a great cup of coffee.
Arabica beans create the more flavorful and complex brews we associate with a gourmet level cup of coffee. Robusta beans, on the other hand, produce a slightly more bitter cup of coffee with less body. That's why you'll see companies marketing their brands as having Arabica or a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans; they are a sign of quality.
Arabica and Robusta beans grow in the same tropical climes and you can find Arabica and Robusta bean crops even growing in the same countries, notably Brazil and India. Robusta can grow in more regions than Arabica beans, and because they grow to maturity in roughly half the time, they are very popular with farmers. Because of the different growing conditions and rates of growth, Arabica and Robusta beans have different price points at the wholesale level. Robusta beans are far cheaper to produce and are sold at lower prices. They usually end up in ground coffee or freeze-dried packs on retail shelves. Arabica beans, on the other hand, command the highest price and a 100% Arabica bean coffee carries a correspondingly higher price at retail. Often, coffee makers will create blends of Arabica and Robusta beans so they can claim that the blend contains Arabica beans - a bit dubious of a claim, but legal nonetheless.
Caffeine levels are another point of differentiation between Arabica and Robusta beans. Arabica and Robusta beans both have caffeine, but the Robusta beans have a higher caffeine level than Arabica, so a cup of Robusta coffee will perk you up a bit more. As you know, the growing climate of Arabica and Robusta beans greatly influence flavor. That's why a Sumatra will taste different than a Costa Rican coffee.
By their very nature, Arabica beans are more finicky, requiring more precise levels of rainfall and ideal temperature. That's one of the reasons why Arabica and Robusta beans both continue to have a solid claim on market share. Some people aren't as particular about the coffee they drink, and the lower price of Robusta coffee in the store continues to generate sales, even though there's a big difference in the flavor profiles and quality between Arabica and Robusta beans.