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Arabica vs. Robusta: what’s the difference?

Whether you are a coffee drinker or someone who runs their own café or coffee shop – you will have come across the two most common coffee varietals – Arabica and Robusta; but do you know what the main differences are between them?

Here’s the key things you need to know.

1. Flavour

There is a marked difference between the flavour of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans. Arabica beans tend to be softer and more fragrant with aromatic flavours; whereas Robusta beans tend to be stronger and more bitter with a deep bold flavour.

2. Caffeine levels

Caffeine levels also differ significantly between the two varietals, with Robusta beans having approximately double the caffeine of Arabica beans in their natural state.

3. Growing Altitude

Arabica beans are grown at higher altitudes above 1,300m; whereas Robusta beans are grown at lower altitudes below 1,200m.

4. Hardiness

Robusta plants are less susceptible to poor weather and pests. It’s thought the higher caffeine content of Robusta helps to keep the pests away and therefore allows the plant to grow better at lower altitudes. Arabica plants are much more susceptible to poor weather and to pests, which is one of the reasons they are grown at higher altitudes.

5. Cost

Arabica is typically more expensive than Robusta as it is harder to grow, and due to being grown at higher altitudes the maintenance and harvest of the crop can often be more difficult and time consuming.

So which is better?

We may be sitting on the fence – but it’s really a matter of personal taste.

Whilst we have seen a trend towards 100% Arabica blends in the UK over recent years, thanks to it’s reputation for great quality and it’s softer taste profile; Robusta is by no means out of fashion. You will often find an element of Robusta in the blends that are served in coffee shops and chains across the UK – and not just because of it’s lower cost. Adding Robusta to a blend gives the strength and kick consumers are looking for through longer milky drinks. In addition, we’ve seen the emergence of some great quality Robusta coffees over recent years, and there is now even a popular high street chain who’s key point of difference is serving specialty great quality Robusta coffee.

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