Arabica vs. Robusta

Coffee comes from 2 main species of tree - Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora. We call these Arabica and Robusta for short. Robusta is easier to grow, produces more fruit with stronger flavour, more crema and higher caffeine content. Arabica is more expensive to produce but generally has better quality flavour and wide varieties available. Robusta can be useful when blended with Arabica to create desirable characteristics in espresso, for example, but most of it ends up used for making instant coffee.

There are many varieties of Arabica grown across the world. Each has it’s own flavour profile but factors like climate, altitude and soil content will create differences within beans from the same variety.

Coffee Varieties

Basic flavour profiles for some of the common varieties of Arabica.

  • Typica aka Criolla, Sumatra, Blawan Pasumah and Jamaican Blue Mountain
    The genetic grandparent of all other varieties. Produces excellent cup quality but small yield.
  • Bourbon
    Features a distinctive sweetness, low body, balanced flavour and excellent cup quality. Produces higher yield than Typica but less than newer varieties. Named after the French island off Madagascar now known as Réunion (not the drink).
  • Caturra
    Cup characteristics are low body, bright, typically with a sweet profile. Higher yield than Bourbon but often at the expense of quality.
  • Catuaí
    Cross between Mundo Novo and Yellow Caturra. Produces a high yield.
  • Geisha aka Gesha
    Aromatic, floral flavours. Best when grown at high altitude. Can command a very high price.
  • Rubi
    Hybrid of Mundo Novo, and Catuaí. Sweet, thick mouth-feel and low acidity.
  • SL-28
    Developed by Scott Laboratories in 1930s. Fruit flavours like blackcurrant. Excellent cup quality.
  • Icatu
    Low acidity, medium to full bodied with sweet dark chocolate flavour and a hint of citric aroma.
  • Villa Sarchi
    Ideal for organic production. Elegant acidity, intense fruit tones and excellent sweetness.

Coffee Regions

What to expect from different regions.

  • Central America
    Balanced sweetness and acidity. Sourness like apples from Guatemala or cherries from Mexico. Chocolate or pastry sweetness.
  • Colombia and South America
    Mellow acidity, sweet like caramel. Often nutty flavours. Medium bodied.
  • Brazil
    Chocolate, peanut, spice with a longer aftertaste.
  • Ethiopia
    Naturally processed tend to have blueberry or strawberry syrupy sweetness. Washed coffees tend to floral like jasmine or lemongrass.
  • Kenya
    Big, bold tropical fruitiness.
  • Indonesia
    Earthy, savoury flavours. Full bodied.