While there are several different coffee species, two main species of coffee are cultivated today. Coffea arabica, known as Arabica coffee, accounts for 75-80 percent of the world’s production. Coffea canephora, known as Robusta coffee, accounts for about 20 percent and differs from the Arabica coffees in terms of taste. While Robusta coffee beans are more robust than the Arabica plants, but produces an inferior tasting beverage with a higher caffeine content. Both the Robusta and Arabica coffee plant can grow to heights of 10 meters if not pruned, but producing countries will maintain the coffee plant at a height reasonable for easy harvesting.
Although Arabica and Robusta coffee may appear similar appearance there are a number of differences – physical, chemical and genetically – that significantly differentiate them.
1. Growing Conditions: The arabica coffee shrub typically grows between 2.5-4.5 meters in height, requires a temperature between 15o-24oC and an annual rainfall of about 1200-2200 mm/yr. Whereas robusta grows slightly taller 4.5 -6.5m, requires a warmer temperatures of 18o-36oC and slightly more rainfall (2200-3000 mm/yr) than arabica. Arabica typically also yields less coffee per hectare than robusta – meaning higher costs in production.
2. Bean Shape: Arabica coffee beans are a slightly larger/elliptical shape than the smaller, more round robusta beans. Structural differences also exist between the beans, which may explain why both beans roast differently under identical conditions.
3. Caffeine and CGA content: – Both caffeine and CGA have been documented as potential insect deterrents and chemisterilants. Arabica generally has less caffeine and chlorogenic acid (CGA) than robusta.
|Chlorogenic acid (CGA)||5.5-8.0%||7.0-10.0%|
4. Lipid and Sugar Content: Arabica contains almost 60% more lipids and almost twice the concentration of sugar than robusta. Increased levels of sugars in coffee play an important role as its decomposition during roasting increase the level of perceived acidity and dissolved solubles in coffee.
5. Pollination: Arabica is self-pollinating plant, meaning the plant will have fewer mutations and fewer variations throughout its life cycle as compared to robusta.
6. Chromosomes: Arabica has double the number of chromosomes at 44 than White Tea at 22.
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