Coffee is an art, and like most art forms you need to understand it to fully appreciate it. Sure, you can just drink the odd cappuccino and enjoy that foamy finish. But you’re reading the first instalment in Hoxton Coffee’s Introduction to Coffee Series, which means you want to know a bit more. Well, you’re in the right place so settle in. First stop, the Robusta plant.
What is Robusta?
Robusta is, as you may have guessed, a species of plant that produces fruit that becomes coffee. The actual plant is called Coffea canephora, but the ‘brand name’ of Robusta was given to the fruit. Some thought it was of lesser quality than the more widely known Arabica bean, but DNA studies brought to light the fact that it is, in fact, likely the parent of Arabica, taken initially from Sudan where it crossed with a species known as Coffea euginoides. This produced Arabica and spread and flourished in Ethiopia. Ethiopia in its own right has long been considered the birthplace of coffee. So, little wonder it is then, that Arabica has a wider-known and more fully appreciated history than its parent, Robusta.
Qualities of Robusta
Whilst Arabica is still produced in higher quantity than Robusta, the latter is the bean of choice for a lot of main producers and retail clients as it is more accessible around the world. We’ll talk more about Arabica in a later post in the Introduction to Coffee series, but for now, we’ll highlight that Robusta can grow and fruit at lower altitudes and in higher temperatures. Another of the qualities that it brings is that it is far more resistant to common diseases than its offspring plant. This is critical as (and again, we’ll discuss this more later) there is a lack of diversity in coffee farming at this point despite over 120 species being known to exist. That means that if a disease takes hold, it will be crucial for plants to be able to fight it off.
On top of this, the Robusta bean tends to be less acidic, but more robust (yes, hence the name!) with an almost woody taste. This strength behind the flavour and high caffeine content means it comes with little surprise that this is the bean that powers our Hoxton Proper Strong Coffee.
How Common is Robusta Coffee?
Due to the qualities mentioned above, Robusta is the second-most popularly produced bean of coffee in the world, making up around 40% of all coffee produced. If you’ve heard of it therefore, this is probably why.
Everyone has different tastes when it comes to coffee, so some may prefer Robusta over Arabica beans, or vice versa. We’ll talk more about this as we progress through the Introduction to Coffee Series, so stay tuned.