The vast majority of coffee beans in the world come from two species of coffee, Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta which is also known as Coffea Canephora.
Other species of coffee include: Coffea benghalensis, Bengal coffee; Coffea congensis, Congo coffee; Coffea stenophylla, Sierra Leonian coffee; Coffea bonnieri; Coffea gallienii; and Coffea mogeneti; Most of these species are very rare or non-existent in the export market. Coffea liberica, and Coffea excelsia, two Liberian coffees can be found in the export market but are sold in limited amounts.
Arabica is by far the more popular of the two coffee species considered by many to having the best flavor profiles. It produces approximately 70 percent of the world's coffee and is deemed a much superior coffee providing a highly desirable flavor that is rich, smooth and full, whilst being more acidity and not tending to be bitter to the taste. The reader may be interested to note that Arabica coffee naturally contains less caffeine than Robusta coffee.
Indigenous to Yemen and Ethiopia, Arabica Coffee was the earliest to be cultivated and has been grown on the Arabian Peninsula for over 1000 years. These days many diverse subspecies of Arabica are derived through selective breeding or natural selection of the coffee plants, and grown in many other countries each of which produce coffees with distinct flavors and characteristics. Some of these coffees grown from a single geographical location are called single origin.
Arabica as a plant requires a milder climate in which to grow and produces per hectare a lower yield than Robusta. The plant although more susceptible to disease is often found grown at higher altitudes (3,000 to 6,500 feet or approximately 914 to 1,828 meters), and tends to thrive when located for a large portion of the day in a slightly shaded area, this is in contrast to some other types of coffee plants, which require a great deal of direct sunlight.
Some well-known Arabica coffees include:
• Bourbon - Around 1708 the French planted coffee on the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion located in the middle of the Indian Ocean) which was probably given to them by the Dutch the coffee plant that is. Unsurprisingly it mutated slightly and eventually found its way into Brazil in the late 1800s where it spread throughout Latin America. Bourbon produces 20-30% more fruit than Typica varieties.
• Caturra – A mutation of the Bourbon variety, found near the town on Caturra, Brazil in the 1930s. It is a more disease resistant plant that produces a higher yield than Bourbon, generally due to the plant being shorter and with less distance between the branches. The fact this mutation is not unique has led to the formation of the Pacas variety in El Salvador (from Bourbon) and the Villa Sarchi in Costa Rica (from Bourbon), all of which being genetically very similar to Bourbon
• Catimor - This is a hybrid of Caturra and Timor, mixed to try and utilize the disease resistance of Timor and the productivity of the short Caturra variety.
• Mundo Novo - is a hybrid between Bourbon and Typica, crossed in the 1940s.
• Catuai - This is a hybrid of Mundo Novo and Caturra bred in Brazil in the late 40s.
• Pacamara - is a hybrid between the Typica mutation Pacas and Maragojipe. It was bred in El Salvador in 1958 probably to achieve a Typica variety that produces larger beans.
• Pacas - A natural mutation of the Bourbon variety found in El Salvador in 1949.
• Maragojipe - is a Typica mutation, first discovered in the Maragojipe region of Brazil's state Bahia, it is well known for producing big beans.
• Typica – Given by the Dutch to King Louis back in the 17th century this varietal has since mutated slightly to reflect its surroundings i.e. Mexican Typica is genetically slightly different to Kona (Hawaiian Typica), and they take different names to reflect this.
Robusta coffee plants, originate from West and Central Africa have a shallow root system, and are easier to care for than Arabica varieties, they produce a higher yield but have a slightly longer time between flower to cherry. Robusta therefore is predominantly grown for its hardiness and ability to thrive where Arabica cannot.
Robusta can be found in many other coffee producing countries producing approximately 30 percent of the world's coffee in such countries as Brazil, the largest producer of green beans, and South East Asia, most notably Vietnam the second largest producer of coffee.
Most of the Robusta production ends up in instant or cheaper drip coffee blends and gives the coffee that bitter, earthy, slightly burnt taste. It is often added to espresso blends to help produce a rich crema.
Not all Robusta is of a lower graded coffee, indeed our Indian Robusta here at Caer Urfa which we mainly use for our blends is one of a number of higher graded Robusta coffee’s, which we use to enhance the coffee flavor and give that important crema.