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The Arabica coffee bean: all you need to know!

The Arabica coffee bean: all you need to know!

When homebrewing your coffee, you’ll notice that most of your coffee grounds or beans will consist, if not fully, of Arabica beans?

What are Arabica beans? Where do they grow?

We dive into the history of this Arabica coffee bean and talk about how much they have in world consumption.

While we’re at it we’ll unravel some myths around them as well.

What is the Arabica bean exactly?

We all know that coffee is brewed from coffee beans. Arabica is one of the 4 main types of coffee beans in the world.

Its botanical name is “Coffea Arabica”. The plant is part of the Rubiaceae family.

The Arabica beans are responsible for about 60 percent of the global coffee production. They dominate the world production but have in Robusta a serious competitor. This changes every year, but not in a very high way.

% Production per coffee bean type (Arabica vs Robusta) in crop years starting from 2017
% Production of coffee: Arabica vs Robusta (source of the data ICO.org, custom made graph)

Because of the more resilient and adaptive Robusta, it’s assumed that Robusta will have a larger share in the future.

Myth or legend of Kaldi

Coffee grown worldwide can trace its heritage back centuries to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau. 

Legend says that Kaldi, an Ethiopian herder, first discovered this beloved bean after noticing how his goats became so energetic with their new diet of berries from a certain tree when he didn’t feed them something else beforehand!

Kaldi reported this to the local monastery. They’ve tested this and learned that they were more alert during prayers because of this drink. From there the rest is history.

History of the Arabica bean?

While we don’t say the legend of Kaldi is wrong, we like to back up and provide facts about coffee. Coffee has a lot of history.

Let’s look at the name: Arabica, does it have something to do with Arabia? Yes.

+ 1.000 years BC

When we look back in time, about 1,000 years before Christ, in the kingdom of Kefa (that region is today known as Ethiopia). There, the beans were used as stimulant by mixing them with fat.

Around the 7th century, the bean is transported from Ethiopia to Yemen and other parts of Arabia. That’s where we derive the term “Arabica”.

Scholars from Arabia and others used coffee as a stimulant that allows them to put in more working hours, improving productivity.

Later on, coffee began to get known in the world.

1453

The Turks introduced coffee in Constantinople after the end of the East-Roman Empire.

Later on, Turkish law was implemented that a woman could divorce her husband could not provide her daily coffee. Talk about coffee geeks those Turks!

1600

Coffee was introduced to the western world by Italian traders. Coffee began to be a must-have product in high society.

The pope, Clement VIII has “accepted” coffee as a drink for Christians.

You get the idea that coffee got accepted and consumed all over the world since then.

The taste of the Arabica

The Arabica is a high-quality bean. You can think of it as the Rolls Royce of the coffee beans. They’re more suited for specialty coffees compared to Robusta beans.

This type of bean is said to produce a richer, smoother, and more aromatic cup of coffee. It has a light, sweet and airy taste.

They get their taste because they’re grown in high places like mountains.

Where is Arabica coffee grown?

This coffee likes high altitudes. The height is a leading indicator for the quality of the bean and thus the coffee. The general rule is the higher, the better.

Heights of 1.200 m are accepted but of course, these beans can also be grown at sea level or anything in between.

The best types of these beans are located in the mountain regions of South America, Central America, and African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and so on.

The bean is very selective to weather conditions and places and can’t be grown in all places around the world. It’s less resistant to changing weather conditions and diseases like the Robusta.

It can take up to 7 years for a bean to mature.

Production of Arabica beans

We’ve already said that Arabica beans are good for about 60 percent of the global coffee production.

According to numbers from ICO, this trend stays the same (see graph).

We can assume that the changing climate can have an influence on this ratio in the future.

The bean takes a few years to grow to its full potential. This takes about 7 years.

100% Arabica

As we’ve said before, Arabica beans give high quality and are loved by specialty coffee fans and roasters.

This is a general rule. We don’t mean to say that coffee that’s 100% made of Arabica beans only will be better than a Robusta or Arabica and Robusta blend.

Think of this label as an indication of quality.

The experience of your coffee drink is personal and the result of many, many factors. One of the most important factors are your personal preferences, desired brewing method, did you use a coffee filter or not, and so on…

The coffee bean, 100% Arabica or not, has undergone a lot of processes and steps before ending in your cup or mug!

F.A.Q.

What is so special about Arabica coffee?

These Arabica coffee beans are grown in high altitudes. Arabica beans generally have a higher quality compared to other beans and have a less bitter taste and a lower amount of caffeine. It’s suited for specialty coffee roasters and brands. It represents more than half of the coffee production (around 60%).

Is Arabica the best coffee bean?

Arabica beans are grown at high altitudes and can be of high quality. Generally, they’re of higher quality than other bean types like Robusta. You can’t compare coffees that are grown in different parts in the world, are different in species, and in other factors. Arabica is still one the most produced coffees in the world. They contain less caffeine and more sugar, making it suitable for specialty coffee brands or roasters.

Is Arabica better than Robusta?

The taste is different. The Arabica contains 2x to 3x less caffeine and more sugar compared to Robusta beans. The taste of the Arabica beans is more suited for specialty coffee brands or roasters. Arabica is known for a smoother, sweeter taste with tastes of chocolate and sugar, while Robusta will result in a stronger, harsher, and more bitter taste. In some cases, you can even have a rubber taste.

Enjoy your coffee!

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