Many of you are aware that the main type of coffee sold in cafes is Arabica and this is based on consumers taste preferences.
Robusta coffees are generally considered more earthy, spicy and bitter relative to Arabica coffees.
They are sometimes used in blends to add more crema and body but suggested at no more than 15% of the overall blend. The caffeine content of robusta is nearly double that of Arabica at 2.2 – 2.7 % versus 1.2 – 1.5 %.
On a physical level the Arabica is of an oval shape while robusta seeds are rounder and smaller and because they are hardier, are grown at lower altitudes from sea level up to 800m. Arabica crops are located between 600 and 2200m above sea level, produce less coffee per hectare and are more susceptible to disease. However, with more sugar and fats than its low altitude ancestor, Arabica coffees produce sweeter and more flavoursome results and currently makes up nearly 70% of the world’s production.
It is thought that coffee was written about or discovered in the 9th Century in Ethiopia, taken by Muslims to Yemen and cultivated as an alternative drink to wine which was prohibited in Islam. Records from Yemen indicate that farms were well established in the 14th century and closely guarded so that it took some time before seeds were smuggled out by various diplomats, spies, adventurers to other parts of the world. Notable early plantations are Indian Mysore region, the Dutch controlled island of Java, the French developed Martinique in the Caribbean with the English following soon on Jamaica in the 18th Century. The rest of South and Central America had plantations during the rest of the 18th century and it wasn’t until the late 1800s that Africa made it onto the coffee-producing map when the Germans colonies cultivated the plants in Congo.
As a side note, the first blended coffee promoted in western coffee folklore originated in Amsterdam and was a blend of Yemen coffee and Java coffee from the Dutch East Indies and was called Mocha-Java.
Another segue way from this is the Yemeni port of Mocha was used by the British East India company to gain access to the coffee and then exported to Europe. The Yemen coffee was considered to taste sweeter and more like chocolate than other coffees available at the time which is why we use this word to describe our coffee-chocolate combination drinks.