Coffee Knowledge Base

15 February 2024

Arabica coffee, what is it exactly?

Arabica coffee, what is it exactly?

Starting your exploration into the world of coffee involves understanding two primary players: Arabica and Robusta beans. These coffee varieties hold distinct characteristics that shape the coffee experience. In this blog we delve deeper into the Arabica profile.

Arabica coffee beans

Arabica is by far the most popular type of coffee and it makes up 70% of world sales. Arabica is actually the oldest coffee plant too. It is the original type of coffee from Abyssinia, and Arab traders brought it to the rest of the world. The first coffee bush on the planet was an arabica plant that developed in the wild in Ethiopia. That is why we often refer ‘wild-grown’ coffee from Ethiopia. And you can take ‘wild-grown’ literally – that is to say, these are not neatly planted shrubs.

The arabica plant is the oldest type of coffee bush we know and it grows at high altitude, on mountain plateaus or on volcanic slopes, up to an altitude of 1,000–2,000 metres. The days are mild and the nights cool there, with an average annual temperature of 15–25 °C. Arabica coffee is not easy to grow and a plantation requires a lot of finesse, monitoring and care. Growers often provide shade for their arabica plants, using other plants or crops such as banana or cacao trees. These help to keep the temperature around the plant as stable as possible, both during the day and at night.

About 4 kg of berries will produce 1 kg of green coffee beans and they must have had sufficient time to mature and to develop the fullest possible flavour. The higher the altitude of the plantation, the lower the temperature and the more time the coffee berries need to ripen. A berry that ripened at an altitude of 1,700 metres has a completely different taste from one that matured at 1,000 metres.

Arabica coffee is mainly grown in the tropics, in the equatorial regions between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn – mainly in Central and South America, in East Africa and in South East Asia – and its flavour varies greatly. Its many nuances of flavour make arabica the perfect type for the roaster to process. Arabica coffees include a great number of varieties, of which many are cross-bred. This means that there are now hundreds of varieties, and the number is still increasing. But other varieties are dying out. In our opinion, arabica coffee will never become boring. Read more about the coffee producing countries and there uique characteristics.

Arabica isn't the sole coffee bean type; there are others like robusta, liberica, and excelsa. Explore the robust profile of robusta, a coffee powerhouse representing 30% of global production. Additionally, discover the lesser-known varieties, liberica and excelsa. If you're intrigued by these diverse beans and curious about why liberica and excelsa are rare in your cup, check out our blog: 'Reveiling the coffee plant: from seedling to harvested berry'. If you would like to know more about the difference between arabica and robusta coffee beans you can read all  about it in our blog 'Arabica vs robusta coffee, what's the difference'.