There are three main species of coffee produced for commercial use.
Arabica steals the show. Companies stamp “100% Arabica Beans” across labels worldwide.
There is something to be said for the humble Robusta strain though, which saved coffee from the brink of extinction. It bears an unfortunate reputation as low brow, but Italians will tell you it’s the key to the perfect cup of espresso.
And Liberica, accounting for just 2% of the world’s coffee consumption, is a gem waiting to be discovered. With its distinct flavor profile, hailing from Southeast Asia, it is an incomparable coffee. Try it if you have the chance.
This species accounts for 70% of coffee sold. Most of what you buy from us at Cafe Altura and other producers is either made up entirely of Arabica, or blended to find the ideal taste, as a vintner would blend a quality Bordeaux.
Before the late 1800s, this was the only species of coffee commercially grown. After the decimating Coffee Leaf Rust swept the world, however, stronger, more resilient species of coffee plants, like Robusta, were sought to resist the disease.
Coffee enthusiasts praise the Arabica bean for its soft flavors that are fruity and floral, and easy to sip on.
Robusta makes a coffee that has more crema, more antioxidants, more caffeine, and more kick. It is easy to grow because it gives high yielding crops and it is disease and bug resistant.
Interestingly, caffeine acts as a natural defense against pests. With double the amount of caffeine as Arabica, insects won’t go near the stuff. This makes for a stronger, less acidic, but more bitter coffee.
The best Italian espressos are a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans. They have the perfect crema on top and that added morning jolt.
An heirloom coffee species that offers a completely different flavor to the two big players. Liberica are huge coffee berries that have smoky, nutty, dark chocolate notes when roasted and brewed.
Because Liberica has run into near extinction in the past, it is a rare commodity that can be expensive in California. It has a dedicated following in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia though.
Its smoldering, dense flavors are not for every palate, so the Filipinos named it “Manly Coffee.”
The current method for profiling coffee focuses on where the plant is grown, and that certainly affects your coffee. Few people ask what species of bean they are drinking, although this is something that can make an immense difference.
So what kind of coffee is in your mug this morning?