When coffee folk are discussing the types of beans they use, you might hear talk of Robusta versus Arabica. The basic difference is that Robusta is much easier to grow, much cheaper to produce and the it tends not to have quite as interesting a taste profile. But to give it its dues, it is consistent and hard-working, and sometimes a Robusta appears on the scene that surprises and delights.
Most big brand instant coffees are a Robusta or Robusta Arabica blend. Speciality Coffee tends to steer clear of Robusta. At Fireheart we are open-minded and we will never say never, but for now we only use 100% Arabica beans.
Arabica itself isn’t a guarantee of quality. it’s just a good starting point. So here is the lowdown on the highlights of Arabica beans….
Arabica coffee comes from the beans of a Coffea Arabica plant, originating in Ethiopia.
Arabica is the world’s most popular coffee type – it’s responsible for over 60% of the cups drank throughout the world.
Arabica coffee certainly has history, being the first cultivated coffee plant around 1000 BC and drank by Arab Scholars who noted that it prolonged their working hours.
The Coffea Arabica trees are difficult to cultivate, and each tree will only produce from 0.5 to 5.0 kilograms of dried beans, depending on the tree's individual character and the climate that season.
Generally speaking, Arabica Coffees require higher elevations for growth with beans being typically grown between 800 to 2200 metres. A higher elevation usually carries a premium because it adds a complexity of flavour, greater acidity and lower yields. Harvesting is also very labour intensive: much like blueberries the fruit doesn’t ripen at the same time so has to be picked by hand so this will also add to the price.
Typica: Typica is considered one of the original coffee varieties, from which other varieties are grown today. It’s known for its clean, sweet cup.
Bourbon: Bourbon is also considered one of the original coffee varieties. The name Bourbon looks like a well-known alcoholic beverage, but in this case, it’s a coffee bean that’s pronounced Bor-BONN. Flavour notes include chocolate and fruit overtones. Many other kinds of Arabica are produced by crossbreeding of the Bourbon plant.
Catuai: A hybrid of Caturra and Mundo Novo (a Bourbon/Typica hybrid), the Catuai variety is widely grown in Brazil and produces a tasty coffee with tangy acidity and subtle sweetness.
Gesha: Originating near the town of Gesha, Ethiopia, but imported to Panama, this variety is the new kid on the block that's been quickly rising in the popularity ranks ever since it won top honours in the 2004 Panamanian Cup of Excellence competition. Growing in a high altitude in the Central American tropics gives it a unique, delicate taste that brings to mind tropical fruit, jasmine and honeysuckle. Gesha (sometimes called Geisha) coffee is one of the world’s most expensive types of coffee.
So there you have it. Arabica is often used as shorthand to mean speciality but not all Arabicas are born equal. It’s only with the expertise of a trained taster (like our roaster Thomas) that the awesome Arabicas can be discerned from the average.
You can trust that all we ever bring you at Fireheart are exceptional seasonal beans roasted to order – we pride ourselves on providing the simplest way to enjoy the freshest coffee. We live and love coffee, so you can love it too without any fuss. That’s why we are Living Coffee.