Robusta Beans on the Rise:  Can Fine Robusta Be Considered Quality Coffee?

Robusta Beans on the Rise: Can Fine Robusta Be Considered Quality Coffee?

We take a look at the unjustly spurned coffee beans

Similar to how the vine bears grapes, the coffee cherries grow on the coffee tree. In the coffee world, the genus Coffea is generally divided into the two important species Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora Robusta – better known as Arabica and Robusta. These two varieties are grown worldwide for commercial use; around 99 percent of the coffee plants around the world can be assigned to these two species. But the Robusta beans even fell behind for a long time in the third wave movement, and the arabica beans were mostly preferred. In 98 percent of the cases, the coffee roasters’ focus was on Arabica

Because it is – for many still – the finer coffee. The name “Arabica” alone is reminiscent of the Orient, sounds exotic and arouses curiosity. “Robusta”, on the other hand, sounds bland and dreary. A coffee made from 100 percent arabica beans promises higher quality, while robustas are inferior and are only used in cheap mixtures for filling. Such prejudices are deeply rooted in many coffee drinkers. So that you don’t get the wrong picture: Arabica is of course a good coffee. We recently even tested the best arabica here in the blog. With this article we would also like to strengthen the reputation of robusta.

The advertising stirs up prejudice against robusta beans

Coffee drinkers are now gradually learning that the small, round coffee beans with the straight slot of the Coffea Canephora Robusta can do so much more and are by no means inferior. Compared to Arabica, the Robusta has a tart taste and a heavy aroma that tastes earthy. Robusta is particularly suitable for the preparation of espresso – not least because the coffee keeps the crema stable. With an oil content of ten to twelve percent, the beans have a little less oil than arabica. This makes the crema nice and thick and very stable 

Where does the robusta bean come from?

The Robusta type of coffee has its origins in Central and West Africa. It was discovered there at the end of the 19th century and gradually cultivated on the lowland areas of the Congo. The Robusta plantations only really got going a few decades later. Because the Second World War in Europe and the wave of independence in Africa stopped the advance and the spread of coffee. Only with the beginning of decolonization of Africa – i.e. the withdrawal of the European colonial powers – did Africa resume growing Robusta beans. Even the new governments of the countries supported the coffee farmers. In Cameroon and Ivory Coast , in particular, things were moving quickly. 

The second largest coffee producer in the world.

However, it is wrong to believe that farmers only cultivated Coffea Canephora in Africa. Robusta was also planted in northern Brazil and Asia – particularly in Indonesia, India, Vietnam and the Philippines. Today Vietnam is considered the second largest coffee producer in the world. The Vietnamese mainly plant Robusta. In 2016, a total of around 1,650,000 tons of coffee were produced in the Asian country .

The largest coffee producer and at the same time the largest exporter of the product worldwide is Brazil . The country produced over 2,594,000 tons of coffee in 2016. The Brazilians enjoy half of it themselves. Both Arabicas and Robustas grow in the South American country. 

Robusta are less sensitive to the weather

The main growing areas for Robusta include Vietnam and Brazil, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Thailand. About 40 percent of global coffee production is awarded to Robusta. The coffee cherries grow excellently at low altitudes of up to 900 meters and in warm temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius. The robusta plant does not have as high demands on its environment as the arabica plant, which prefers a moderate climate. As the name suggests, Robustas are more robust . They cope better with the weather and are less prone to illness. 

Correct processing is what counts

In view of these botanical differences, however, one cannot speak of inferior quality. Even if the plants are more robust, as described, they require the same care and attention from coffee farmers as Arabica plants. Robustas are more likely to struggle with the fact that they are available a little cheaper on the world market than Arabicas. As a result, they often end up in cheap supermarket coffees that are industrially produced and often taste bitter and very sour. However, this is not due to the beans, but to the processing 

The temperature for coffee beans should be hot nor cold.

The coffee beans are neither gently roasted in the drum roaster for industrial coffee, nor are they given enough time to cool down. Usually, they are heated up strongly within a few minutes using the hot air process. The temperature rises to up to 800 degrees Celsius . For comparison: With traditional roasting, the beans are exposed to a temperature of 200 to 230 degrees Celsius for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the roasting profile .

In this short time and at the high temperature, industrially roasted coffee beans cannot develop all of their wonderful aromas. Another disadvantage of industrial roasting is that the coffee contains many bitter substances and the natural acids are not broken down. The beans have to cool just as quickly as they are roasted in order to be vacuum-packed as soon as possible. Therefore, many people simply don’t like cheap coffee. If you never try really good coffee , you will condemn coffee in general – or the Robustas.

Delicious robustas are way better than their reputation

Robusta beans, like arabica, have many chemical properties that make a decisive contribution to excellent coffees. As already mentioned, Robustas in blends, for example, first provide a fine-pored crema that you can spoon nicely. Robustas round off the taste wonderfully, especially in espresso mixes, not only because of their higher caffeine content of 1.7 to four percent. The Robusta coffee is not quite as balanced in its variety of flavors, but often offers a full-bodied and stronger taste.

Due to the lower sugar content, the beans of the Robusta plant taste less sweet than Arabica, develop the aroma of earth with tones of oak and a pleasant bitterness. In the aftertaste, Robustas are reminiscent of crunchy nuts. Therefore, there are more and more coffee roasters that are increasingly including Robustas in their coffees, or even offer single origins 

Specialty roasters rely on single-origin Robusta beans

The zombie coffee, for example, consists of 100 percent Robusta beans from the jungle of Central Africa. The coffee is so strong that the manufacturer advertises that it can even bring the dead back to life. The strong coffee surprises with an intense aroma of nuts and caramel with a hint of chocolate. Choose your favorite from three different strength levels. 

Our conclusion on the Robusta beans

At the end of the day, however, the choice of coffee beans is, as always, a question of personal taste . Perhaps you will give the Robustas a chance to convince you. Especially when you need a caffeine kick in the morning , the pure Robusta coffees speak for themselves. By the way, it also comes into its own very well in milk beverages. Just try it!