Robusta coffee, also known as Coffea Canephora, originated in the northern forests of Ethiopia. This plant now grows indigenously throughout western and central sub-Saharan Africa, too. This would include countries like Angola, Liberia, and Tanzania. The Coffea plant has made its way to other hot places around the world like Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Borneo, French Polynesia, Nicaragua, Jamaica, and Vietnam.
Vietnam, by the way, produces Robusta primarily. This country has become the world’s largest exporter of Robusta coffee. They account for over 40% of the total production.
Coffea Canephora is a species of coffee belonging to Rubiaceae. As I mentioned, the Robusta plant is scientifically identified as Coffea canephora. The plant has two main varieties, Robusta and Nganda beans. It accounts for a little more than 40% of the world’s total coffee production. Besides, Robusta is easier to care for and has a greater crop yield than C. arabica, so it is cheaper to produce.
Robusta Coffee Plant
Robusta coffee is a very variable evergreen shrub. This small, robust tree can grow up to 39 feet in height, though it’s usually smaller. It often has a large, umbrella-shaped growth pattern. Also, the plant is found growing in:
- Open or dense rain-forest
- Desert regions
The plant prefers a well-drained fertile, neutral to slightly acid soil. It’s possible to successfully grow Robusta coffee in shallow soils that have heavy rainfall. The plant can withstand temporary waterlogging because it has a shallow root system.
What’s fascinating about Robusta is that it can grow in low altitudes. Besides, it does well in diverse climatic conditions, too. Farmers love to grow this variety because it grows fast. Besides, it is more disease and pest-resistant than Arabica coffee.
Canephora beans are very bitter and have a low acidic rate. As a result of their high bitterness level, the coffee beans cannot be used in every brew.
Canephora beans are primarily used for:
- Traditional instant coffee (Waka uses only 100% Arabica beans)
- Filler for lower-grade ground coffee blends as they produce a strong flavor of coffee
Leaf-stalks are slightly under an inch long and hairless on both surfaces. When dried, the leaves are thick and take the shape of an oblong form, with rounded ends.
An inflorescence is a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem. It has a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches. We will also discuss cyme. It is a flower cluster with a central stem bearing a single terminal flower. Also, the other flowers in the cluster develop terminal buds of lateral stems.
In this case, cymes have 1 to 3 in each leaf axil, each cyme flowered, stalkless, or stalked with stalks up to 0.28 inches. Flower-stalks are up to 0.08 inches. The sepal cup is hairless. Flowers are white to pink and funnel-shaped. Besides, there is the flower tube and petals, which are spatula-shaped to narrowly elliptic, and obtuse to round.
Coffee Growing Conditions
What does Robusta coffee need to thrive? Well, coffee lovers would be hard-pressed (pun intended) to go a single day without their caffeine-filled delight. A single cup of Joe in the morning can give you an instant jolt of energy and focus. However, some need regular refills during the course of the day.
Coffee drinking has become habitual for many people. Consequently, millions (perhaps billions) across the globe make coffee a part of their daily lives.
However, many people do not spare a thought about where their coffee comes originates. With our fast-paced lives, you may not have wondered about coffee environments and climatic conditions. All of these things are necessary for you to enjoy your daily infusion of caffeine. I find that a fascinating story in itself. Read more about coffee cultivation, which includes planting and harvesting.
Today, most coffee drinkers consume coffee as a result of the cultivation of two types of beans:
Robust trails Arabica as far as popularity is concerned. That’s largely due to marketing, availability and many consumers are used to the taste of Arabica-derived coffee. Robusta provides a rich and complex coffee experience. The taste of Robusta can be harsh to those who are used to the more mellow taste of Arabica.
However, it’s worth noting that superior Robusta coffee delivers incredible depths of flavor when used for espresso. But, even this hardy varietal requires specific conditions to thrive.
Robusta can be a more demanding crop for small scale farmers to cultivate. This is due to the seeds (the coffee beans) taking up to 11 months to mature. On the other hand, Arabica bushes provide mature beans between 7 – 9 months into the growing cycle.
However, Arabica is more tolerant of harsh conditions and is highly disease resistant. Traditionally, this has meant that much of the Robusta crop has been grown in Africa and Indonesia. Keep in mind, it is native to the Congo Basin of Africa. Although, increasingly, Brazil is playing an ever more important part in the production of Robusta.
Ideal temperatures for the growth of Robusta range between 75º to 86º Fahrenheit. This means that the shrubs can cope with hotter, harsher conditions. Also, it is more tolerant of altitude changes. In addition, it’s comfortable in conditions at sea level up to heights of around 3,000 feet. Finally, Robusta is happiest in areas where there is abundant rainfall (around 7 to 9.8 feet/yr).
Want a coffee that is more assertive than those produced by using Arabica?
Robusta can make an excellent choice. It is also ideal for blends. Many add 10% Robusta to the mix to get that depth of flavor. Also, it contains twice as much caffeine as Arabica, which many find attractive.
There are three main species of beans produced Arabica, Robusta, and Liberica.
Arabica is the most common. Companies are proud to stamp “100% Arabica Beans” on their labels all over the world. As a result, Robusta and Liberica are, at times, overlooked.
Robusta should get more respect since it saved coffee from the brink of extinction. Italians think Robusta is a must for the best espresso. However, the rest of the world tends to turn its nose up to this bean.
Southeast Asia coffee is known as Liberica only accounts for 2% of the world’s coffee consumption. It has a distinct flavor profile. It can be difficult to find, but if you love exotic I suggest you give it a chance.
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- Lavazza Gran Crema Italian whole coffee beans
- Rich bodied medium roast with a chocolatey and spicy aroma, round flavor, and lingering crema.
- Blended and roasted in Italy
- Best used for espresso but also suitable for any coffee maker.
- Please Note: This is a mix of Arabica varieties from Brazil and Honduras. Slow-roasted with African Robusta coffees to create a rich, intense medium espresso roast.
- Vietnamese Grade A high-altitude beans
- Smooth, low-acid, chocolate notes
- Dry air-roasted, vegan, pure coffee
- Perfect for Cafe Sua Da ((iced milk coffee), drip coffee, press, and espresso
Robusta Coffee vs Arabica
Of course, Arabica and Robusta have their own particularities when it comes to taste. Robusta has a stronger, bitter, and woodier flavor than Arabica. Besides, it is perceived as sweet, fruity, and has a “clean” taste.
Also, the size and shape of the beans differ among these two species. Besides, Arabica is bigger, oval, and flatter than the round, smaller Robusta bean.
Take a look at the two roasted beans below.
From an agricultural point-of-view, Robusta may possess an advantage over Arabica. How you make ask? This is due to its capacity to withstand warm climates and diseases over traditional Arabica varieties.
Along with its reported higher productivity, Robusta can be an attractive option for farmers. As stated, it’s great for climate uncertainty and the reduction of production costs. So, the million-dollar question? Why aren’t farmers growing just Robusta?
It simply might be a matter of market demand. Customers tend to value Arabica coffee more. Currently, the coffee brands that claim to be 100% Arabica typically have a higher price than Robusta blends.
Clearly, the international market gives more value to Arabica coffee. Small coffee farmers can’t do too much to increase their productivity and cultivation of land. As a result, some cultivators aim to improve their incomes through diversification. Meaning they increase profitability by entering into the specialty coffee market.
The specialty coffee market is where coffee must pass aspect grading and cupping tests. It is a term for the highest grade of coffee. And, all coffee beans can be graded out of 100 – in this case, you need at least 80 points. This grading process is called “cupping.”
Difference Between Artisanal and Specialty Coffee
Although many people confuse specialty coffee with artisanally roasted, this is a big mistake. Artisanal is “made traditionally by someone skilled with their hands.”
Specialty coffee involves more advanced technology. At every stage in the process, from cultivating to serving, specialty coffee challenges technology. Every year, engineers and inventors design equipment that gives producers, roasters, and baristas more precision and control. Therefore, this allows them to use their knowledge and skills more fully.
Lever espresso machines is an artisanal way of making espresso. It is a beautiful part of history. This old school technology has been around for centuries. Also, highly skilled people who operate these machines have lots of experience. However, is it considered a specialty coffee? No, because you have almost no control over the roasting profile.
Today, specialty coffee is about math, science, and sensory skills. However, we all should show respect to the artisan’s dedication to their craft.
Robusta Offers Farmers Some Stability
Specialty coffee may not be a reliable and constant source of income for all the farmers. On the other hand, Robusta could offer stability to coffee farmers. This would happen through the reduction of production costs and the ability to deal with drought and diseases.
Robusta farming is highly mechanized in Brazil. However, most farmers apply intensive hand labor practices. Also, they adapt pruning methods to keep their plantations manageable by the workers during harvesting.
Similar to Arabica, the quality of the harvest is tied to:
- The right bean selection
- Cleanliness during the processing of the cherries
Of course, the taste is different from Arabica. The general perception of Robusta could be improved as well as its demand and market value. This could be accomplished by first locating the right markets for its characteristic aroma. Second, it could be improved through the skills of baristas and roasters,
So, you may hear from baristas or your friends that Robusta coffee has a lower quality than Arabica. This may be a matter of taste and experience with its consumption. In conclusion, through this article, you have a better idea about Robusta coffee and its importance for the coffee economy.