In our first installment in the Hoxton Introduction to Coffee Series, we talked about the coffee bean Robusta. Here we’ll talk about its offspring – Arabica – which is far better known and likely you’ve heard of it. What you might not know is that it is just one of 129 species of coffee plant known to science. Read on for more.
WHAT IS ARABICA?
So Arabica is the bean from the plant Coffea arabica, but what does that actually mean? This is a species that was thought to be the be-all and end-all of coffee just a couple of centuries ago, until its (soon to be realised) parent plant, which produces Robusta, was discovered and began also being farmed in bulk. Still, Arabica continues to be the most widely produced and consumed coffee bean on the market, and it looks like staying that way for a while.
Although thus far we’ve talked about Arabica as its own type of plant, there are in fact numerous different varieties of the Arabica plant from which farmers choose from, and their choice will often take into consideration what types of disease the plant could succumb to, and how this can be avoided in their specific location.
QUALITIES OF ARABICA
There is a reason that a lot of people value Arabica over other coffee types: it is known for having quality flavour and good levels of acidity in the bean. It is also grown all over the world, in dozens of countries between the Tropic of Capricorn (or the Southern Tropic) and the Tropic of Cancer (or – you guessed it – the Northern Tropic).
THE UNKNOWN VARIABLES OF THE ARABICA TREE
Interestingly, despite being the most widely consumed coffee, very few people actually realise the extent of variants of the Arabica tree. A brief outline is this:
Typica is the original variety of the Arabica plant from which other varieties have mutated. The fruit of Typica is normally a reddish colour, and is produced in smaller amounts than other types.
Another variety is Bourbon, named such because of where it originates from (the island of Reunion which used to be Bourbon), and yields are higher than Typica. There is characterised as particularly sweet, which makes it quite popular amongst retail clients.
A few other varieties of Arabica that are farmed include Catuai, Caturra, Maragogupe and the Geisha variety, but there are also a number of ‘wild’ species of the Arabica tree that are not (to date) farmed commercially to a known extent.