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Robusta Coffee Beans
There are two basic types of coffee beans, Arabica and Robusta. We mostly write about healthy organic coffee made from Arabica coffee beans. But there is another whole world of coffee for different uses in the world of Robusta coffee beans. So, how do robusta coffee beans differ from Arabica and what are Robusta coffee beans used for?
Robusta Coffee Beans
Robusta coffee is properly named Coffea robusta, or Coffea canephora. This variety of coffee is a more hardy plant than the Arabica variety. It is less prone to infestations of insects or plant disease so it is also cheaper to grow. Originating from plants in the western and central sub-Sahara Robusta yields more coffee beans than an Arabica plant and Robusta coffee beans contain about 2.7% caffeine as opposed to 1.5% for Arabica. The Robusta plant can grow as high as thirty feet. It is the primary coffee grown across most of Africa from Ethiopia on the Indian Ocean to Liberia on the Atlantic and South to Angola. The species has also been exported to Borneo, French Polynesia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Jamaica and the Lesser Antilles. The most recent export of Robusta coffee beans has been to Vietnam where coffee farmers produce the second largest volume of coffee in the world after Brazil. About a third of world coffee production is Robusta coffee beans of which the largest part come from the Highland of Vietnam.
Uses of Robusta Coffee Beans
Robusta coffee beans are often added at about 15% concentration to Italian espressos to provide more strength. Robusta is also added to many lower quality coffees where its relative bitterness in comparison to Arabica is not an issue. To the extent that caffeine is the reason for coffee health benefits Robusta is perhaps better than Arabica because of its higher caffeine content. There is no evidence however that Robusta coffee beans have any higher antioxidant content than Arabica. Where Robusta coffee beans commonly end up is in non-coffee caffeinated beverages such as soft drinks. Nestle uses Robusta coffee beans as part of their Nescafe original instant coffee.
Robusta versus Arabica
Robusta coffee beans contain more caffeine than Arabica and Arabica coffee beans are less acidic. Arabica coffee beans are more prone to diseases such as coffee leaf rust, la Roya, which is destroying coffee crops throughout Central America. And it can be easier to find what are essentially organic Robusta coffee beans, because this hardy plant rarely needs insecticides or fungicides to protect it against the ravages of nature. But coffee lovers love good coffee. They will pay more for better flavor and aroma. And this is where Robusta coffee beans can fall short. It is also why with such brews as Italian espresso only a few percent of the coffee is Robusta. This adds strength to the coffee but there is not enough to overpower the superior flavor of Arabica coffee beans.