From Arabica to Robusta: A Beginner’s guide to understanding coffee varieties
Genesis 1, 10. Where it all begins.
Not kidding, one of the oldest references to coffee comes from the Bible. The Koran also has a reference, Mohammed prayed for Allah to descend with a beverage black as the Kaaba of Mecca, which gave him enough strength to unseat 40 men from their saddles and make love to the same number of women (full day! - LOL). Since the beginning of time, coffee has been with us, cheering up our days!
The coffee plant is originally from Africa, more exactly, between Ethiopia, Kenia, and Yemen. Going back to our biology class, coffee belongs to the Rubiacea plant family. Because the coffee cherry resembles red rubies, they decided to use this name (shocker). In this plant family, there are over 100 species of coffee, all from the same region of Africa.
After careful selection over the years, we have narrowed it down to two species: Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora.
Humans are a fascinating and remarkable specie, that can change the environment without noticing (oops!). For a long, long, time we’ve been selecting desirable traits in plants, and guiding nature. For coffee, we had plenty of reasons to do this.
For our trivial motivations (if you consider commercial and quality purposes trivial, which makes sense) coffee has been delegated into two main species: Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora. C. canepehora is commonly called to as Robusta and C. arabica refers to Arabica coffee. Since coffee is a commodity, you’ll find general confusion between those terms, but now you know a difference exists.
It’s a fact that Arabica coffee reigns supreme over Robusta.
C. arabica has a higher quality taste compared to Robusta. It has a more aromatic, flavorful, and pleasant taste compared to the heavy, strong, cocoa, flavor profile of Robusta. Arabica coffee is planted in moderate temperatures of highland regions, while Robusta is planted in lowlands, which have high humidity and hotter conditions (check here why altitude matters).
Robusta prices are about 25% lower than Arabica prices, but the lower price is offset by its higher production yields. Arabica coffee is found in gourmet and international markets, while Robusta is more often found in mixed products and instant coffees. We could keep going for hours on this, but in case it’s not clear, we’ll cut to the chase: Arabica is of higher quality than Robusta!!!
Arabica varieties are the only ones permitted for planting in Costa Rica to ensure the maintenance of its high-quality standards.
The Arabica coffee species has over 50 different varieties, which can make things quite complex. Each variety has unique advantages, yield, disease resistance, flavors, and adaptation strategies. Coffee-producing countries work hard to select more efficient varieties. Currently, our farm produces two types: Catuaí and Geisha.
Catuaí is a classic coffee variety that can be found in most Costa Rican coffee plantations. It's a great option to try if you're a coffee lover!
Catuaí was selected in Brazil, this word derives from Guaraní -multo mom-, meaning “very good”. It’s the most common coffee plant found in Costa Rican older coffee plantations. Producers like this variety because of the small size, which allows plants to be closely spaced and apply pests and disease treatments easily. Even though now coffee plantations are moving into new varieties that are disease resistant and have higher yields, catuaí remains one of the favorites for its yield and quality cup
Geisha coffee variety is the ultimate champion that dominates every coffee competition and fetches mind-boggling prices.
Can you believe coffee could be worth $803 per pound? It's true! In 2018, a natural Geisha coffee was sold at auction for that incredible price. Despite being a low-yield variety, it gained popularity after a farm in Boquete, Panama submitted their beans to the Specialty Coffee Association of America's Roaster's Guild cupping competition and won three years in a row! The coffee's unique aromatic and floral flavors, combined with a tea-like body, made it a hit with judges around the world. Since then, many farms have started growing this amazing variety.
As coffee producers, Geisha is a challenge due to its lower yield compared to Catuaí. However, the flavor profile of Geisha coffee is simply unmatched. This is why our Geisha bags are priced higher than our Catuaí bags. We assure you that investing in a Geisha coffee is worth it, as it makes for a delightful start to your day.
Our coffee production is of the highest quality and we take great pride in it. Although our Catuaí variety has always been exceptional, we have recently planted new exotic varieties that will be added to our collection in a few years.