In my last post, Arabica Coffee Tree – The Secret of Starbucks Success, I went through the astonishing world of the Arabica Coffee tree. While much more can be written on Coffea Arabica, today, I will focus on the Robusta Coffee Tree, the only Arabica rival in the market.
While many consider Robusta to be of lesser quality than the Arabica, it still firmly holds a decent market share and a substantial, loyal consumer base.
So Let’s start our robust journey into the universe of today’s “Coffee Knowledge” session if I may call it.
Robusta Coffee is also scientifically known as Coffea canephora and commonly known as Coffea robusta, which is a species of coffee having its roots and origins in central and West sub-Saharan Africa. Same as the Arabica, it is a species of a flowering plant. As its name entails, it is a robust 10 m tall tree. Cherries take approximately 10 to 11 months to ripen, producing oval beans.
The tree can handle the heat of over 30°C / 86°F and is less prone to disease and pests, thus requiring less “maintenance” from the growers’ side. When it comes to caffeine, Robusta has 2.7% compared to Arabica 1.5%.
History & Origin of the Robusta Tree
From its origins in Ethiopia, Robusta inhabits many central and western African nations such as Angola, Tanzania, Liberia, and Central Africa. It was recognized as a coffee species in 1897, decades after its competitor Coffea Arabica.
It is widely used in instant coffee, E.g., Nescafe 3 in 1 instant mix, espresso, and as a filler to Arabica ground coffee bags to save on dollars or to add the harsh flavor characteristic to the blend.
40% of the world’s produced coffee is Robusta, recently Vietnam became the world’s largest exporter of Robusta with accounting for 40% of the production followed by Brazil (25%), Indonesia (15%), India (6%), and Uganda (4.5%).
French colonists were the first to introduce it in Vietnam in the 19th century. By 1950, the first instant coffee manufacturing plant started operation.
Robusta Coffee Characteristics
When roasted, Robusta Coffee beans generate a bold earthy flavor, strong, creamy, full-bodied coffee with an evident bitterness due to pyrazine, which is an organic aromatic compound. Unlike the superior Arabica beans, which are famous for being more acidic, rich in flavor with a smoother taste.
That does not mean that Robusta is useless. On the contrary, high-quality Robusta is widely used in Italy’s coffee society, especially in Italian espresso blends at about 10 to 15% of the time when a powerful strength is desired.
Distinctive crema (foam head), pleasant chocolaty notes, and a full-bodied taste are the reason why Italians use high-quality Robusta beans.
|Robusta Coffee||Arabica Coffee|
To preserve the quality of Robusta coffee, it should be kept away from light, heat, air, and moisture. To keep the flavor, it is best to store at room temperature, dark place, and airtight container.
Nestle, Nescafe Using Robusta
Nestle started implementing the Nescafe plan in Vietnam in late 2011, culminating at the 2018 announcement of establishing a new NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto capsule production line in Dong Nai Province.
The capsule production line will use raw materials from high quality Vietnamese grown coffee beans for domestic and export consumption through the means of production, processing, and shipping. The NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto coffee machine and capsule were introduced to the Vietnamese local market in October 2015. Since then, it became a massive hit among Vietnamese consumers, while 90% of the plant’s production will be exported to many Asian markets Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Indonesia.
Nestle established itself as the most significant coffee buyer in Vietnam, with an annual purchase volume of 25% of the total production. The Vietnamese people are also benefiting from Nestle, the company’s six nationwide factories’ employ more than 2,500 employees.
To ensure quality and as a form of giving back the community, Nestle shot two birds in one stone by providing coffee growers and farmers the adequate training and technical support to ensure proper practices and procedures are applied. This resulted in a considerable improvement in coffee quality and farming standards.
William Mackereth, supply chain director of Nestlé Vietnam, said in an interview with the Vietnam Investment Review that they plan to expand their export activities to the USA after sending many containers to Eastern US and considered their collaboration with the Vietnamese government to be of high importance for both parties benefits.
When asked about plans to grow Arabica Coffee, the answer was quite promising: ” Our Nescafé products for both exports and/or local consumption are made with the high-quality Robusta coffee beans produced here in the Central Highlands. There is an opportunity in the future to expand into Arabica”.
Brands Using Robusta
I will list below a few examples of whole bean and ground coffee producers using the Robusta bean:
- Costa Coffee’s official website states they use the “perfect combination and balance of delicate Arabica and strong Robusta beans.”
- Borbone Caffe
- Zombie Coffee
- Mokaflor Dolce Forte
- Caffe Corsini
- Hardy Coffee Company
What’s In It For You?
Many consider Robusta beans to be of lesser quality versus the giant elegant Arabica, but that does not mean it is not a blessing to have a coffee tree that can resist different harsh external conditions and be generous with its outcome.
Let’s face it, Arabica coffee is not affordable for every one and thank God for an alternative that can be available to anyone, and everyone, rich or poor, let alone the significant number of growers, farmers, and their families all benefiting from the tree.
While I lean in favor of Arabica coffee, I never mind high quality, creamy and buttery shot of delightful espresso made of Robusta coffee beans! What is your opinion? Which one would you choose? The comments section is for you to shoot your thoughts!