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COFFEE: ROBUSTA OR ARABICA

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Robusta And Arabica Coffee Differences

When it comes to buying coffee, many consumers have already made a decision between Arabica and Robusta beans simply because of a personal preference based on taste. If you have yet to try either style or if you are undecided as to where your own preferences lie, what are the key differences between the two?

These are the two species of coffee that are most widely grown but for all coffee drinkers, the choice of brand and style is based chiefly on taste and when it comes to Arabica beans, they have a far greater range. That range starts with a soft and slightly sweet flavour at one end of the scale and it climbs to a sharper, tangier taste at the other.

Roasted coffee beans

Roasted coffee beans

The difference is purely down to the variety of coffee that you purchase so you should read the label or ask for some expert help from a sales assistant. Alternatively, if making your purchase online, look for some tasting notes and don`t hesitate to send a query e-mail or make a telephone call if you are in any doubt.

On the other hand, Robusta coffee has, as the name would suggest, a far stronger taste and for many, it is the perfect style for making Espresso. It has a more limited taste range but the stronger end of that scale tends to be a little too harsh for many palates. However, if you like your coffee to be strong and full of flavour, Robusta is likely to be a better choice.

Undoubtedly, the key to the different tastes lies in the way that the plants grow and develop. Arabica plants are far more delicate and it seems that pests like the taste too because they are far more susceptible to infestation than Robusta plants are.

Arabica plants are also very particular about the conditions in which they are grown. They must be planted at altitudes of between 600 to 2000 metres and they need a subtropical climate together with rich soil that contains plenty of moisture. They also like to alternate between plenty of shade and sun and as you may have gathered by now, they are more likely to be ruined by the cold or by poor handling.

These may be severe requirements but the end result is that Arabica coffee is grown from these demanding conditions and there are far fewer variations in quality than there may be with Robusta coffee.

Robusta plants, meanwhile are far hardier and are happy to grow at low altitudes. They are less demanding when it comes to their conditions and they are far more resistant to pests. The end result of all this is that the crops yield far more per acre and the costs are lower, but the quality of Robusta coffee may vary much more than Arabica styles will.

If you ask a range of coffee drinkers what they actually prefer, you may well find that the majority come down in favour of Arabica. They will tell you that it provides a richer and smoother taste with a greater range of styles, that can match any personal taste.

However, the success of Robusta lies in its hardiness and it has undoubtedly helped to keep coffee prices at a lower level than they would have been if the world relied solely on Arabica plants. You may also find that Robusta is often blended with Arabica to bring down the costs without altering the taste to any great extent. If you are unhappy with trying such a blend then be sure to check the label and be certain of what you are buying. In addition, there are many drinkers who simply prefer Robusta because of its strength and the `robust` flavour that it provides.

So, if you are buying coffee for home or maybe looking to fill up your coffee machines at work, the answer is to try as many brands, blends and styles as you possibly can before deciding whether you prefer Arabica, Robusta or maybe even a little of both. If you are buying your coffee from a gourmet coffee store, you can even create your own blend on the spot. Trust me, this is a lot of fun.

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Chef George Krumov
About the author: George Krumov is a Red Seal certified chef with many years of culinary experience working around the world in Europe, the Middle East, the cruise line industry and North America. In the last two decades he has headed the kitchens of several restaurants in Canada, and ran his own restaurant.

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