What Is Robusta Coffee?

Coffea canephora – is a broad classification of a parent category or species of coffee with its origins in Western Africa, with the majority of Robusta grown in Brazil, India and Southeast Asia, most notably, Vietnam has in recent years produced a phenomenal volume of Robusta, becoming the worlds single largest exporter of Robusta at terrifyingly low prices.

As its name suggests, being a more “robust” plant, fruit and therefore "bean", means that it can grow in harsher conditions than its more flavourful cousin with a delicate constitution (the Coffea Arabica). Robusta can thrive at lower altitudes, in harsher sunshine (not requiring to be shade grown under a natural or synthetic canopy) and requiring less care than Arabica. All of these factors combined, make Robusta coffee cheaper to produce, (not to mention a favourite of large estates - think fields and fields of coffee plants) and a favourite where “quantity” of coffee produced is the only economic driving factor, and "quality" is largely ignored.

We would be remise if we did not address (albeit briefly) a rising tend of "specialty grade robusta", something that sounds like an oxymoron to us, but apparently there is an "economic viability" for its production. We remain skeptical!

Robusta accounts for more than one third of the worlds coffee produced at the farm level. The interesting thing about that statement is I've never met a human that acknowledges they consume robusta, so where is all this coffee going I wonder? Regardless, some things are fore sure: Robusta coffee is consistently of a lower grade than Arabica. Additionally robusta is higher in caffeine - this is interesting because we're seeing a trend towards... shall we call it "creative marketing" that "caffeine packed coffee" or coffee with "extra caffeine" is somehow a desirable product. It's not, it's just cheap robusta. Robusta coffee is often included in instant coffee or Blended with the intention of reducing costs, to "thin out" a higher quality coffee and increase productivity. This is usually a decision driven by "bean counters" (a little coffee humour) rather than master roasters.

While we have cupped very few decent Robusta Coffees, the aggressive nature of caffeine naturally present in Robusta coffee has a negative affect on most of us at FIX, so we avoid all Robusta coffees, not just out of principal but out of a desire to not be over-caffeinated. Opting rather for the more delicate flavours, and gentle caffeines present in Arabica coffees.

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