Coffee has been a huge industry for decades and drinking this concoction can be traced back to the late 15th century. In some parts of the world, coffee is part of culture. For some people, this beverage is a lifestyle and has been an important part of the household for so many years. In fact, billions of cups of this caffeinated drink are consumed daily and a lot of people sip that cup of Joe like their life depends on it every single day. No wonder coffee is one of the best-selling beverages around the world, standing close to water and tea. According to the International Coffee Organization, the world has consumed 168.5 million 60kg bags of coffee in the previous year. Looks like more and more people are getting hooked to this delicious drink.

But what makes coffee so enticing? Behind every cup of your favorite coffee, is a long and tedious process to deliver some good beans from the farm to your table. Although not every coffee-drinker really knows what comes in every cup and how and where they come from, baristas would agree that knowing more about what’s inside that mug can add more zest to that experience.

Coffee beans are the main star of this beverage and they took a pretty long journey to get to your brewing machine. Before we’re able to get these precious little beans, it takes approximately 3-4 years for a young coffee plant to mature and bear fruits (coffee cherries) and another 5-8 weeks for these cherries to ripen. Normally, there is only one major harvest per year and each coffee cherry contains two beans or coffee seeds but some varieties only have one. The beans are taken from the ripe fruits using the dry or wet method and eventually dried, hulled, polished, sorted, and graded before being sent out for export.

It surely takes a village before these beans turn into that popular invigorating drink. So, let’s get to know our coffee beans and what makes this drink a winner to every drinker’s palate.

The Four Main Types of Coffee Beans:

arabica coffee beans

ARABICA (COFFEA ARABICA)

The most popular and common type of coffee beans is Arabica, which is beans coming from the Coffea Arabica plant. These beans are the source of most, around 60-80%, of the world’s coffee supply, and are also the oldest species of coffee. It is known to be smooth, mild, sweet, aromatic, and more flavorful — often with chocolate flavor notes and a hint of fruit or berries. Arabica coffee beans are harder to grow, and thus more expensive. This type of coffee is grown in high elevations with cool subtropical weather. As this kind thrives in a humid environment with plenty of sun and shade, they are mainly produced in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Arabica is the world’s favorite beans for its taste and is now grown in many parts of the globe.

robusta coffee beans

ROBUSTA (COFFEA CANEPHORA)

Robusta, from the plant Coffea canephora, comes next to Arabica when it comes to popularity and global production. Canephora beans contain double the caffeine compared to Arabica. As its name suggests, it is the bolder and more robust type of coffee. Robusta coffee beans are known to have a woody and rubbery taste. They contain more chlorogenic acid making them more bitter. It is easier and less expensive to grow, hence is usually used in the production of the cheaper coffee brands like instant coffees or as fillers to dark roast coffees where it is mixed with Arabica beans.

LIBERICA (COFFEA LIBERICA)

Liberica or Liberian coffee is one of the commercial types of coffee beans that are available in the world market but is not as popular as Arabica and Robusta. This coffee plant originated in Liberia, West Africa but is now more commonly grown in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, where it is famously branded as the Barako coffee. These beans are quite similar to Robusta with its woody taste but are more fruity and sweet. Liberica beans are also known to be very aromatic. During the late 19th century, Liberica coffee experienced great demand as several coffee-producing countries have suffered from the “coffee rust” disease which destroyed the Arabica crops across the world during that period.  

EXCELSA (COFFEA EXCELSA)

Also generally grown in Southeast Asian countries, Excelsa coffee is essentially a species from the Liberica family. Excelsa coffee beans taste similar to Liberica and Robusta coffee and are tart and aromatic. Its aroma is often compared to the scent of ripe jackfruit. These beans have a distinct flavor with notes of light and dark roast coffee. Some coffee aficionados mix this with other coffee beans to create a certain thickness and flavor.

Arabica vs Robusta vs Liberica vs Excelsa

Although there are only four main types of beans that are commonly available in the market, there are actually more than a hundred species of the coffee plant in the world. Arabica remains the most prevalent among the coffee beans and Robusta comes next. I know you’re probably thinking—which is the best coffee? I guess there’s no right answer to that. It’s actually for you to sip and decide, because as much as these coffee beans are different from one another, so is our taste in coffee. After all, it’s all about preferences.

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