How and Where Is It Grown?
Robusta coffee is derived from the plant Coffea canephora. Its origins can be placed in western and central sub-Saharan Africa. Today, Vietnam is the main grower of Robusta. However, several other countries like Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Uganda are also known for their Robusta growing. The plant grows best along gentle slopes, and fields which are mostly level. It is able to withstand full sun and higher temperatures, but it does love plenty of water. Robusta gets its name in part because it's a particularly hardy plant. It's much more resistant to disease and pests than other types of beans. It also grows significantly more quickly and is able to be grown in more diverse climates. Robusta has considerably higher yield than arabica. This ease of care, and high quantity production, makes this kind of coffee cheaper to grow, and thus, cheaper to buy.
The plants that produce Robusta only take about 2 years to mature enough to flower and produce berries. The berries of the plant take around 6 to 8 months to mature and ripen. When a deep red color is achieved, they are ready to be harvested and are then called “cherries”. However, not all cherries ripen at the same speed, and special care must be taken only to harvest the fully ripened cherries. Not doing so can result in an inferior coffee. Luckily, the cherries of this plant stay on the tree; perfectly preserved, until harvested, without falling to the ground and rotting. If you're ever unsure as to what type of beans you have, simply look at the shape. Robusta beans have a more circular shape, whereas arabica beans are more oval.
What Does It Taste Like?
Robusta coffee is characterized by its earthly flavor. It's strong and full bodied, and comes with high bitterness, but lower acidity. The bitterness is actually due to the fact that Robusta has twice the caffeine that arabica has. Do not expect a mild brew here, as Robusta tends to be bold and dark. This is what makes it the ideal choice when it comes to instant coffees. You might detect oaky notes, or hints of peanut. You will also notice a chocolaty note that makes it especially popular when it comes to espressos. Robusta does however sometimes have a reputation for having a burnt or “rubbery” taste in especially low quality beans.
Quantity Over Quality?
Robusta can sometimes get a bad rap for being a “lesser” product than arabica. However, much of it is all a matter of taste. If you like a more bitter and full-bodied sip, than Robusta is something you would enjoy. Robusta is also used quite often in many specialty blends, as it is known to add depth of flavor and more interesting palate notes than arabica would have on its own. In essence, putting the two together gives you a much more complex sip. As mentioned above, espresso often makes the most of this kind of bean. That's because of the texture that it brings, which is more foamy or creamy. This is also referred to as crema.
What Are The Best Ways To Enjoy Robusta?
Robusta can be great brewed all on its own, outside of the world of espressos and instant coffees. But if you're looking to temper a bit of that bitterness and add some sweetness, then we suggest a blend. By combining Robusta with arabica, you essentially get the best of both worlds. Robusta helps to add some depth, and an extra bit of caffeine, and the arabica helps smoothen the brew out. Not to mention, the powers of the two combining makes for some deliciously complex mouth notes and a flavor that lingers longer on the tongue. From there, it's all a matter of preference, Robusta can easily be prepared just as any bean would. The best way to discover which you prefer is to experiment! So get out there and get tasting.