From Bean to Cup Pt.2: Arabica v Robusta

You will have probably heard ‘coffee people’ mention the terms Arabica and Robusta, but actually you know little about them! To recap our first post in this series; Arabica (Coffea arabica) and Robusta (Coffea canephora) are the most popular types of coffee plant and they account for over of 95% of all the coffee we drink. But what is the difference between them?

(Botanists will tell us that there are about 30 types of coffee, but the majority just don’t have the same qualities as these two)

So come on, what is the difference between the beans?

Okay, okay! We’re getting there…

Climate: Arabica plants are generally grown at a high altitude while the Robustas enjoy the warmer, easier climate closer to sea level.

Taste: Over the years Arabica has been more popular than the Robusta, because of its sweeter and refined flavour. However as the Robusta is generally higher in caffeine, coffee drinkers have recently been rediscovering the joys of blends made up of both beans.

Caffeine: Robusta has higher caffeine content(1.7-4%) than Arabica (0.8-1.4%).

Origin: Arabica was the world’s first cultivated coffee variety, originating from the Yemen and transported around the world by Dutch missionaries and traders. Robusta is a plant, indigenous to many equatorial countries.

Resistance: The Robusta plant is understood to be less prone to diseases and more resistant to pests than Arabica.

Genetics: Arabica has 44 chromosomes, where as Robusta only has 22.

Berries: On most Arabica plants the coffee cherry will drop to the floor once ripe (unless harvested), however the Robusta coffee berries remain on the plant.

Flowers: Robusta coffee plants flower all year round unlike Arabica, which only flowers after heavy rain.

Shape: As you can see from the picture at the top of this page, Arabica beans are generally longer and thinner than their rounded bulbous Robusta relatives.

So which is the best?

This is a very personal question, because it’s all about your opinion.  For the coffee cognoscenti there is a definite preference for Arabica, but if you like Robusta coffee or blends with Robusta in them then that’s fine, you like them and we’re okay with that. Pollards are unlike many coffee roasters out there, we won’t tell you what to like as it’s our job to give you what you want.

We hope this blog helps you understand the difference between the types of beans.. Until next time…

By Simon Bower


‘From Bean to Cup’ is a series of blogs by Pollards that guides you through the processes behind the daily cup of coffee we all enjoy. The blogs will cover the processing, the roasting and the grading of coffee beans, while documenting its journey from the plantation to your favourite mug.

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