There are thousands of brands and flavors of coffee beans available, but you may be surprised to learn that 90% of all coffee sold commercially is made with one of two species of coffee beans, Coffee Arabica and Coffee Robusta.
Practically speaking, there are three types of coffee beans:
- Coffee Arabica
- Coffee Robusta
- Other Types
Let's dig into the differences between them.
Coffee ArabicaArabica is the original species of coffee bean and was the sole source of coffee until the late 19th century, when the first documented outbreak of Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR) ruined coffee crops around the world. This pushed farmers to experiment with other crops, leading to the discovery of Coffee Robusta.
Arabica coffee is best grown at higher altitudes and the ideal average temperature for growing these beans is 15 to 24ºC. Since Arabica coffee is typically grown in mountainous or hilly regions, the harvesting is still largely done by hand. Colombia has been the largest grower of Arabica coffee beans in the world for decades.
Today Arabica beans are sold as gourmet coffee beans thanks to their superior taste and smell.
They also have half as much caffeine as Coffee Robusta. Most varieties are named after the part of the world where they are grown.
Coffee RobustaCoffee Robusta, also known as Coffee Canephora, was discovered in the late 19 th century and is now used in grocery store brands and other low price coffees. The Coffee Robusta plant is more resistant in disease and can withstand a wider range of temperatures and weather patterns. It also produces a higher yield.
Robusta beans have an ideal average temperature ranging between 24 and 30ºC and grow best at sea level. Since Robusta is typically grown on flat land, it can be harvested mechanically in many places. Most of the world's Robusta coffee is currently grown in Vietnam.
Unfortunately Coffee Robusta also comes with a strong, bitter taste. The highest quality Robusta beans are used to make Italian espressos. So while this type of coffee is much more affordable, many people simply won't drink it.
Other Species of Coffee Beans
There are also over a hundred other types of coffee beans, including Bengal coffee, Liberian coffee, Sierra Leonian coffee, and Coffea gallienii, but these coffee beans are virtually non-existent on the international market. If you were drinking one of them, you would probably know.