Photo by mauroguanandi/Flickr CC
In the comments to my very first post, about caffeine content, a couple of the exchanges illuminated the need to explain a few terms in greater detail. One subject is Arabica vs. Robusta, the two species of coffee most widely cultivated.
For decades no debate existed among specialty roasters. All good coffees were Arabica (though the reverse was never true). Robusta was bad. Starting roughly ten years ago, a few specialty roasters began to experiment with Robusta in their espresso blends. I don't get it, as I wrote in an earlier post.
Arabica comprises about 75 to 80 percent of world production. While it's absolutely true that the greatest coffees in the world are Arabica, it is also true that there are lots and lots of Arabica coffees that don't come close to making the cut for any specialty coffee. Nearly every commercial blend in developed countries is predominately Arabica.
Like Arabica, qualities of Robusta coffee range through a spectrum from grades suitable only for making the cheapest instant coffee to higher-grown, washed Robusta that some roasters use to extend their blends.
To say Arabica doesn't denote the final quality. In 2007, Maxwell House, a lower priced, commercial coffee, switched its blend to 100 percent Arabica. Specialty coffee consumers took little note.