What is Arabica Coffee?

Perhaps you have seen the term “Arabica coffee” on one of your favourite coffee tins or jars and wondered, what is Arabica coffee?

Arabica is coffee that is brewed coffee or coffee beans that come from the coffee plant species known as Coffea Arabica. This coffee has a few variants such as:

  • Typica (Coffea Arabica var. Typica)
  • Bourbon (Coffea Arabica var. Bourbon)
  • Heirloom (Coffea Arabica var. Heirloom)

A lot of coffee farmers cultivate their trees, in that, they cross breed coffee trees to create a mixture of Arabica or Robusta beans.

Arabica coffees are common in today’s market. Arabic coffee dominates 90% of the ‘speciality coffee’ market. These coffees are found all over the world and range from R260.00 per kg to R780.00 per kg (and even more at times). However, not all brands use Arabica coffees in their blends. This can prove to be a good thing, at times, when it comes to the cost.

What is Arabica Coffee?

Robusta coffee beans have the reputation for being of “lower quality”, but in truth have their place in coffee blends. If a well-trained coffee roaster knows what he/she is doing, he/she can use the Robusta beans in the blend while still being able to bring out the taste of the Arabica bean.

Robusta coffee beans produce more crema than Arabica. This is valued highly when making espresso, but should not make up more than 10%-30% of the blend. They also contain almost double the amount of caffeine per kg than Arabica, making them the real get me out of bed coffee blends.

When looking for 100% Arabica coffee brands, look for brands that state “100% Arabica Coffee” on the labelling or packaging. Also, selecting single-origin coffees, regardless of the brand, will always be Arabica coffee.

History of the coffeeWhat is Arabica Coffee?

How was the coffee bean discovered?

It makes sense to begin our coffee discussion with Africa as it is widely accepted as the birthplace of coffee and can be accredited with the very global nature, we see in the industry today.

The Bean was first discovered in Ethiopia, by a supposed goat farmer named Kaldi who noticed his goats behaving strangely after eating the cherries off a certain tree he found growing in the area. Kaldi sampled the cherries for himself and then shared his findings with his neighbours and friends who all felt the similar effects the goats had – they were more energetic.

As the tale goes, the strange behaviour was noticed by a religious man who deemed the cherries a work of the devil and threw them on the fire. Not long after the air was filled with the heavenly aroma of roasted coffee, which thereafter he declared the cherries the work of God.

Whether this is fact or fiction, there’s no dispute that this incredible tree has become a part of our everyday lives. This has led to the world adopting it as the first thing we drink to start our day with. It’s known to make people 10% more productive and is widely accepted to keep you focused at work.

Varients What is Arabica Coffee?

Arabica Coffee is probably the most commonly knows among coffee connoisseurs and consumers. Arabica coffee immediately signals higher quality coffee than Robusta. It makes up the majority of the world’s production and in general, has a better flavour. This coffee can be subdivided into 3 varients namely…

  • Typica
  • Bourbon
  • Heirloom.

Some of the most distinguished Arabica coffees are bourbon and Typica, from which many crossbreeds or hybrid strains have been developed. The purpose of crossbreeding and making hybrid plants is to change the flavour of the coffee beans or to make the tree less vulnerable to disease. While this can improve the overall health of the tree and change the flavour of the coffee, trees can often take up to 5 years to produce fruit. This makes a long term investment and requires long term planning.

Growing and TasteWhat is Arabica Coffee?


The area Arabica beans need to be grown in is a warm lush environment. Tropical and subtropical climates prove best for these coffee trees. The coffee bean trees themselves need to be grown at 800MASL (meters above sea level) to 2300MASL.

The unique growing conditions of the beans tend to drive up the price as they are susceptible to many outside conditions that can spoil the coffee. Farmers go to great lengths in ensuring their coffee is of good quality when farming Arabica coffee beans.

These coffees are found all over the world including areas like Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Kenya, India and Nicaragua to name a few.

Caffeine content

The caffeine content in Arabica coffee isn’t as high as the caffeine content found in Robusta. A single bean contains around 6-7 milligrams of caffeine, while a Robusta bean has between 10-12  milligrams. Because there is less caffeine in the bean, it has a smoother taste when comparing it to other coffees.


Below we have an image of a simple Arabica coffee tree plant that can be purchased from a local nursery.

It can take about 4-6 years for the tree to reach maturity and start producing fruit. See the image below.

These are the ‘fruits’ of the tree, known as the coffee cherries. These cherries are ripe and ready to be picked and roasted.

Below is a bisected coffee cherry. The coffee beans have not been roasted as of yet and are still white in colour.

This image is more familiar to us as it is the final roasted product.

Understanding The Coffee Market

Since the Arabica coffee bean has a pleasant taste. There is naturally a higher demand for these beans on the market than Robusta coffee. Arabica coffee makes up roughly 70 % of the coffee market while robusta only has a 30% global market share. Arabica coffee dominates the high-end market. It is often found in single-origin blends. If prepared by a skilled barista, the coffees flavours and origins can be brought to the fore when drinking it.

Robusta coffee still has its place in the market, it mainly makes up a lot of instant soluble coffee. It is also found in many coffee blends as its higher caffeine content tends to be its selling point.

ConclusionWhat is Arabica Coffee?

In today’s day and age having a preferential coffee is mostly one’s prerogative – “different strokes for different folks”. It is safe to say though that Arabica coffee has a smoother taste and does offer a wider range of flavours. Since the coffee bean tree needs more care and nurture, it will naturally cost more than cheaper robusta coffees. There are many Beverage blends in the world today. It is by far one of my favourite types of coffee. By choice, my personal favourite type of coffee would be the Brazil single origin bean.

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