There are 4 types of coffee beans. All four have radically different flavor profiles. The four main types of coffee are Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa and Liberica, and all four have radically different flavor profiles. As you walk down the coffee aisle of your local store, you've probably noticed at some point that almost, if not all, of the bags say “Arabica coffee” or “Arabica beans” on them.
Have you ever wondered why? There are actually several different types of coffee beans, with Arabica being the most common. There are four main types of coffee beans: Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa and Liberian, which I'll discuss in more detail here. Arabica is the most common (and certainly the most commercialized) type of coffee in South Africa. This is because it actually tastes sweeter and more delicate, and coffee itself tends to be less acidic.
Arabica beans are grown in areas with high elevations above sea level, particularly those where rainfall is abundant. In fact, Brazil, known for its lush rainforest, is the world's leading exporter of Arabica beans. The plants themselves are quite delicate and require a good amount of pruning and constant attention to environmental factors. The Arabica coffee species is particularly prone to disease, so growing it in large quantities is a challenge.
This greatly increases the cost of the bean in the global market, but many coffee drinkers around the world are willing to pay the difference because of its smoother, sweeter flavor. Arabica beans are found in Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Uganda. When it comes to global production, Robusta coffee beans are second on the list and the most popular in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The name does this bean justice, as it is known for its strong and often harsh flavor profile.
Robusta coffees have extremely high levels of caffeine, making the plant much more resilient than the Arabica species. This is because caffeine acts as a natural insect repellent, eliminating a major threat to the tree. The coffee species is also particularly tolerant of its environment, so it can be cultivated in any number of elevations and climates. Because of its reputation for a burnt or rubbery flavor, robusta is generally not a very popular coffee product, except when very strong coffee is a cultural norm.
However, because it's much easier to grow and harvest than Arabica beans, many farmers tend to make greater profits when they can sell Robusta. Robusta is often used for discount lines such as instant coffees and is sometimes used as a filling on dark toasts. Liberica coffee beans are a rare treat. They are cultivated in very specific climates and production is too scarce for farmers to expand their operations and truly satisfy a global market.
Still, beans are considered a pleasant surprise. The Liberica coffee plant produces larger, irregularly shaped cherries compared to Arabica plants. It is said to have a floral and fruity scent, but when it becomes coffee, it has a strong, woody flavor. Excelsa beans are not as common as Arabica and Robusta beans and may be more difficult to find outside of Asia.
If you're an avid coffee drinker, you've probably wondered how many different types of coffee beans there are and what makes them unique. Robusta coffee beans are the second most common type of coffee bean and account for 30 to 40% of global coffee production. The extra effort is worth it, as you'll get significantly better flavor and freshness, no matter what type of coffee bean you choose. Now that you have an overview of the 4 main types of coffee beans, you should be able to choose the one that best suits your tastes.
Known as one of the most popular and well-known types of coffee beans, Arabica beans are the most frequently produced variety and are considered to be of the highest quality beans. This type of coffee bean grows best in a warm climate with irregular rainfall and can also grow at various elevations. Arabica beans are by far the most popular type of coffee bean, accounting for about 60% of the world's coffee. I spent an entire week discovering what makes each type of coffee bean different and tried a few for myself.