There are almost a hundred different types of coffee beans worldwide. However, they can all be subdivided into two main types: “Coffea Arabica” and “Coffea Canephora” (Robusta). The taste of the coffee bean is determined by the coffee plant from which it originates, but also where it is planted. Coffee beans are a natural product and take its character from the soil and nature where the coffee plant is. That some coffee countries are praised for their excellent coffee is often due to the ideal climate conditions that that country has and the fertile soil on which the coffee is grown.
Most of the time, there are only two types of coffee beans that almost everyone knows. The Arabica and Robusta beans. These two beans are the best known and are also used the most for coffee production. Nowadays, you also find Liberica Coffee Bean that is similar to Robusta. Of all coffee beans that are produced annually, about 70% consists of Arabica, and about 30% consists of Robusta.
In this article, we are going to discuss what types of coffee beans spread worldwide, how does it store, and some factors that determine the uniqueness of its taste and coffee bean quality. Since this article is going to be long enough, I suggest you to grab a cup of coffee when reading this. You got one? Cool, Let’s get started!
Arabica Coffee Beans
Initially, arabica coffee (Coffea arabica L., 1753) comes from the Ethiopian Massif. This bean grows at high altitudes, on mountain plateaus or volcanic slopes up to an elevation of 1000-2000m. From there the species was distributed to the Arab countries.
It is a tetraploid and self-pollinating plant that can grow to a height of around 5 meters. In 1690 the plant, probably from Yemen, was imported by the Dutch on Java and again in 1699. In 1708, a plant that flowered and gave berries was brought from Java to the Hortus Botanicus of Amsterdam. In 1715 the then mayor of Amsterdam sent descendants of this plant to King Louis XIV in Paris, where they were further taken care of by Antoine de Jussieu.
Plants were also sent from Amsterdam to Suriname in 1718, from which the French spread them in 1725 across French Guiana.  From French Guiana, further distribution to Brazil took place in 1727. Descendants of the Paris plant arrived in Martinique around 1720 and from there in Jamaica in 1730. The arabica coffee is further spread from these introductions to the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
At the end of the seventeenth century, arabica coffee was also introduced in India and Ceylon. In 1740 Amsterdam descendants arrived in the Philippines and 1825 in Hawaii. The French took the plant to their African colonies. A descendant of the Amsterdam plant also came in Nyasaland via the Edinburgh Botanical Garden in 1878, from where it was further spread to Uganda around 1900.
Brazil and Colombia are the main producers of arabica coffee. Besides, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Costa Rica are important coffee producers.
The Arabica coffee plant blooms after the rainy season, and after about nine months the berries are ripe. In a year, a normal Arabica coffee plant sometimes does not even produce 5 kg of berries, which ultimately results in 1 kg of real coffee beans. Arabica coffee beans are more challenging to grow because they are more susceptible to diseases, pests, and frost. Much of the arabica harvest is ‘washed,’ or processed wet.
The Taste of the Arabica Beans
The Arabica coffee beans have a distinctive flavor. They have a wonderfully refined scent, a soft, full taste, and low caffeine content. The acidity (the acidity) is also higher in the Arabica bean. Which is right in the case of coffee.
Robusta Coffee Beans
Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora A. Froehner, 1897; synonymous: Coffea robusta L.Linden, 1900) originates from the lowlands of Africa around the equator, between 10 ° North and South latitude, from the West coast to Uganda. With natural growth, the plant forms a small tree. For the cultivation of the beans, however, heavy pruning is done to get and keep the plant in a shrub shape.
Robusta coffee is less susceptible to plant diseases than arabica coffee. The species can, therefore, be grown with fewer pesticides. Moreover, it provides a more abundant harvest than arabica coffee. Robusta coffee is, therefore, cheaper to produce than arabica.
This coffee is widely used for making coffee powder. The beans contain about 2 – 2.5% caffeine, about 70% more than arabica. The Baganda and other Ugandan tribes cultivated this coffee long before the discovery by European explorers and used the coffee beans to chew. The berries were also cooked and dried. Besides, the two seeds from a berry were used for the blood brotherhood ceremony.
In 1900, Lucien Linden (1851-1940) sent 150 plants from Brussels to Java. The plants were found to grow very well there and to be resistant to coffee rust (Hemileia vastatrix) and coffee growing with robusta plantations soon expanded considerably on Java. Since 1900, robusta coffee has been spread all over the world; critical growing areas are now in tropical Africa, Asia, and South America. Important production areas are Vietnam, Brazil, Ivory Coast, Angola, Uganda, Congo, Madagascar, and Indonesia.
This coffee plant grows from sea level to a height of 700 meters. The Robusta coffee plants bloom somewhat irregularly. The growth from a flower to a ripe berry takes 10-11 months. The Robusta beans are smaller and more hunchy than the Arabica beans.
The Robusta coffee plant is stronger and less susceptible to diseases than the Arabica coffee plant. Besides, it is also possible that a more abundant harvest is possible with Robusta coffee plants. This makes the Robusta coffee plant cheaper to produce than the Arabica plant. Much of the robusta harvest is processed ‘unwashed,’ or dry.
The Taste of Robusta Beans
Even though Robusta coffee beans are cheaper, more Arabica coffee beans are being sold. This is mainly due to the taste. Robusta coffee beans are more powerful and fuller than Arabica beans. The caffeine content is also somewhat higher. The beans have a bitter taste, and therefore they are only used in a blend and not as a single origin.
Liberica coffee (Coffea liberica Hiern, 1876) comes from Liberia and Congo-Kinshasa and is mainly grown in Malaysia, West Africa, and the Guyanas. Liberica production is approximately one percent of world coffee production.
This coffee is a lowland type that is well adapted to warm equatorial forests. The plant shows steady growth and has large leathery leaves. The leaves of the plant contain more caffeine than the beans. The tree can reach a height of 18 meters.
The large flowers are self-sterile and open at irregular moments instead of in flurries, such as with the other two types of coffee grown. Due to its resistance to diseases, this type of coffee was planted in Indonesia at the end of the 19th century as a replacement for the Arabica coffee trees affected by the coffee rust disease. The plant produces berries that are twice as large as those of the Coffea arabica.
However, the beans are of much lower quality. That is why Liberica coffee is usually grown for local consumption and rarely for export. A lot of Liberica coffee was only drunk in Scandinavian countries. Norway was the most significant buyer of Surinamese Liberica coffee around the Second World War.
The fruits of the plant, in which the coffee beans are, are larger than those of the Coffea Arabica. The taste of coffee beans from this third coffee plant is more similar to that of Robusta and is therefore slightly bitter. Due to the poor quality and relatively expensive production costs, the Coffea Liberica is a dying variety of coffee beans.
Coffee Bean in storage
Coffee beans can be frozen properly, provided that no moisture can be added. Packaging and thawing, therefore, requires some care. An unused part can be put in a plastic bag, after which the air is sucked out. The vacuum-packed beans then go into a freezer. When defrosting, the package is only opened when it is at room temperature, as otherwise condensed water will form on the beans.
The quality of (unground) coffee beans deteriorates more slowly than that of ground coffee. The reason for this is that the total area that can come into contact with air is much smaller. Ground coffee has a limited shelf life. The deterioration of the quality of the coffee is due to the following causes:
• the coffee comes into contact with oxygen, causing the aroma substances to oxidize
• the coffee is stored in an environment with too high a temperature; as a result, chemical degradation and conversion processes proceed quickly
• if the coffee is stored with too high humidity, the coffee starts to extract before use
The problem of the deterioration of the quality of the coffee does not arise with instant coffee. This has a very long shelf life.
Brewed coffee can, depending on the storage temperature that must be around 85 ° C, be stored for a maximum of half an hour without noticeable loss of quality. The taste slowly deteriorates if the coffee is stored at a higher temperature for a more extended period after brewing. The deterioration of taste has four causes:
• acidification takes place through chemical conversion of the coffee
• volatile flavors escape
• coffee is still extracted from the coffee particles that float in the extract
• water evaporates, increasing the concentration of extracted coffee and making the coffee stronger
Factors that determine Coffee Bean Quality
Arabica coffee beans give a milder and more aromatic coffee taste and are mainly used in the more expensive blends, such as gold brand, which consists of 100% Arabica coffee. Roodmerk is a blend of 30% robusta and 70% arabica. With a silver brand, the share of robusta is 20% and arabica 80%. Robusta coffee has a bitter taste. Within the species, there are again different varieties with different characteristics such as differences in resistance to fungal diseases.
The highest quality coffee beans are obtained when only the ripe fruits are picked. This is therefore mostly dependent on the way they are selected: by hand or mechanically. An additional selection is usually also made afterward. The Kopi Luwak is an even more exclusive quality. This is a very special specialty, which is obtained by collecting the beans from the feces of the Loewak ( Paradoxurus Hermaphroditus ), also known as palm roller or coffee rat.
Factors That Determine the Taste
If ground coffee beans do not come into contact with the water for too long, this results in less strong coffee with more flavor. Espressos have a better grind through which the water is pressed. This leads to a stronger coffee with a rich taste.
#1 Type of water
The main component of coffee is water. The composition of that water is therefore essential. The dry matter content of the water influences the water’s dissolving power and the amount of coffee needed to achieve the same result. The drinking water will therefore largely determine the taste and appearance and thus the appreciation. The same coffee made with tap water or spring water will have a different presence and taste different.
To make coffee from the ground beans, just non-boiling water is added. This can be done according to various methods, such as the filter method and the espresso method. The temperature of the water determines the taste: at lower temperatures, the flavor of the beans is retained, at higher temperatures the roasted flavor dominates. Cold coffee, or “cold brew,” is made in a similar way to filter coffee, with the difference that cold water is used. There are also specialized devices for this. Because the coffee develops with water at a different temperature, the taste is entirely different.
That’s it for this article. So, what your favourite coffee for starting the day? Let us know in the comment below!