Coffee traces its roots to Coffea, a genus plant containing 100 coffee species. Discovered in Ethiopia by goats during the 11th Century, are commercially grown for the cherries that bare coffee beans.
Coffee trees can live to 100 years of age and blossom white flowers that smell of jasmine. Cherries grow along new branches that mature within a year. Two coffee species commercially farmed are arabica and robusta.
Varities: Bourbon, Caturra, Typica and many more
Arabica trees are grown at higher elevations due to their lower temperature tolerances. Ideal growing temperatures range between 60 to 74 degrees. Coffee trees grow to 15 feet tall on hillsides for better drainage. Arabica is susceptible to coffee rust and other diseases.
Coffee trees grown in higher elevations develop at slower rates prolonging bean development. Longer maturation cycle adds more complex sugars that contribute to its complex flavors. At higher altitudes, coffee beans become heavier and dense allowing them to sustain higher temperatures during the coffee roasting process. Coffee graded as SHB or SHG “Strictly Hard Bean” or “Strictly High Grown” is grown at 4,500 feet and up.
Robusta is largely grown in Vietnam, Brazil and segmented parts of Africa. Being more resistant to parasites, disease and higher tolerances to heat ( between 75 and 85 degrees ) they are grown at lower altitudes and provide higher yields than arabica.
Arabica beans produce mild aromatic flavors that are less acidic and complex. By comparison, robusta are full-bodied, earthy and bitter compared to arabica due to its higher pyrazine content.
Despite growing and cultivation challenges, aribica represent 70% of the world’s coffee production and are used in premium coffees as single origin or in a blend. Robusta are often blended and found in instant coffee.