Most people know only two varieties of coffee — Arabica and Robusta. Scholars have noted that there are two more — Liberica and Ekstselsa. However, the real coffee connoisseurs say that to sort coffee into only Robusta, Arabica, Liberica, and Ekstselsa is not entirely correct. There are many species of coffee trees, each of which can have many varieties. It is because of this great diversity that it is so difficult to classify the coffee trees. Among them there are as dwarf shrubs, and a giant tree that reache a height of ten meters. Natural diversity and varieties are continuously being added, as well as artificially bred varieties thanks to the efforts of breeders. The purpose of this selection is to get the species of coffee plant that brings a consistently high yield and is strongly resistant to disease. Unfortunately, so far, these efforts have not seen great success, and the quality of the coffee leaves a lot to be desired. So, it makes sense to focus on the types of coffee that are given to us by nature.
Coffea Arabica, or Arabian coffee tree, is the most valuable and important kind of coffee in the modern industry. In nature, these trees reach a height of six or eight meters, but in plantations, the natural growth of this tree is restricted to four meters. In order to make them grow taller, the harvesters would have to work in a high-altitude altitude environment, which would increase risk and require additional costs.
Arabica tree blossoms are a beautiful sight. On the corners of their green leaves bloom several (three to seven) fragrant, white flowers. After every rainy season, and after the flowers bloom, it takes about eight to nine months for the Arabica tree to finish ripening. Arabica berries are red, but at the end of their maturation, they have more of a purple hue. The length of the coffee berries are usually no more than one and a half centimeters. These trees are grown mainly on mountain plateaus and volcanic slopes at a considerable height — from 800 to 2000 meters above sea level — where the soil is rich in minerals and generously fertilized. Rainfall in this area is consistently heavy, and there are noticeable changes in temperature between day and night. Although there are hot days and cool nights in the coffee belt, frost is very rare. If it does happen, this rare coffee tree is able to keep their firmness.
Harvesting Arabica coffee beans requires a lot of care from planters because the Arabica tree is gentle, sensitive, and prone to disease. Because of this, planters must work to prevent diseases with the help of pesticides and fungicides. With all due diligence, harvesting five kilograms of the fruit each year from a single tree is rare. When you take into consideration that one Arabica tree will release only one kilogram of finished grain, it is understandable why Arabica coffee is so valuable and expensive.
Today, there is commercial use for the more than five hundred varieties of the Arabica trees. The best coffee beans from the Arabica varieties are:
Of the total volume of coffee produced in the world each year, Arabica makes up 70%, making it the undisputed leader. This is all thanks to the exceptional properties of its taste — sweet, with a touch of refined acidity — and its pleasant aroma.
Coffea Canephora (Robusta coffee tree Kanefora) truly belongs to second place. We discovered it for the first time in Africa, not far from the river Congo. The main characteristic of Robusta is a solid caffeine content in the grains, which makes it ideal for producing blends (mixtures). Robusta accounts for the remaining 30% of the world coffee market.
Robusta is not as flavorful as Arabica, but it has an invigorating effect. It is also not as sensitive as Arabica: not as susceptible to diseases and environmental influences. In other words, strong coffee is derived from the beans of a coffee tree with a strong character. Robusta can resist rain, most diseases, and harmful insects. It is easier to cultivate, even though the young trees have to be artificially pollinated and then cared for right from the first days of life. In the second half of the 19th century many Arabica plantations suffered from rust and were almost wiped out, but their place was taken by Robusta. Today, Robusta is grown throughout the tropics, but the biggest volumes of coffee bean supply come from South-East Asia, Brazil, and Central Africa.
Robusta prefers to “settle” 200 to 900 meters above sea level, in spite of differences in temperature and changes in precipitation. Such an environment would be fatal to Arabica. Robusta also provides very high yields, so it is worth investing in caring for the plant. The most famous varieties of Robusta are as follows:
- Konilon du Brasil.
- Java Ineak.
Robusta has a sharp taste, but the high strength makes it ideal for blends. In Italy, it is added to espresso as it allows for a stable and thick crema. Robusta trees bloom irregularly, and ripening takes ten to eleven months. The grains are small and round, and their characteristic feature is two tiny specks on both sides of the central groove. They are usually harvested manually, though in Brazil the flat terrain and vast plantations mean that technology is used to harvest the fruit.
Coffea Liberica (Liberian coffee tree) is in third place. Its birthplace was Liberia, but it is now grown throughout Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The coffee trees are high (six to ten meters) and the leaves are larger than those of Arabica and Robusta. The berries are also large (3cm in length and 1-1.5cm wide). Liberica not generally susceptible to disease, except for stock fungus. Also, its grain quality is not high enough to make gourmet coffee: it is mainly suitable for adding to mixtures.
The difference in taste
Coffees are so diverse, understanding the intricacies and nuances of flavor can often only be accomplished by professionals. If you are not an expert in the field of coffee, it will be difficult to distinguish between the taste (or even the flavor) of coffee beans grown on plantations in Brazil, Puerto Rico or Mexico. Mixed varieties of cocoffe add to the confusion. But some experts, called cap-testers, can easily handle such problems. Cap testers, like many other professionals-tasters, can detect subtle flavors due to an extremely advanced (a gift from nature) sense of smell. Of course, they carefully protect their taste buds, refusing to smoke or drink any kind of spice that could dampen their heightened perception. They reach a level of mastery at which they can easily distinguish the taste of a “pure” grade of coffee or know the mixture, which is not possible for most people. The development of these special talents comes after long-term training and regular tasting. It helps to have an excellent knowledge of the rules of mixing varieties of coffee, which allows you to exclude possible additives that have similar or opposite characteristics, and do not “get along”. Having learned all the tricks of the trade, you’ll have a hard time not trying your hand at creating a new, exclusive and unique variety.
Maybe you’ve had success in the coffee business? Lemarbet would love to get your comments and feedback.