Approximately 30% of the coffee produced in the world is Coffee Robusta (C. canephora). It is mostly grown in Viet Nam, where French colonists introduced it in the late 19th century, though it is also grown in Africa and Brazil, where it is often called conilon. It was not recognized as a species of Coffea until 1897, over a hundred years after Coffea arabica.
History of Robusta Coffee Variety
Coffea canephora, popularly known as robusta because of the hardy nature of the plant, was first discovered in the former Belgian Congo in the 1800s. It is also known to be indigenous to the tropical forests around the Lake Victoria crescent in Uganda. It was introduced into South-east Asia in 1900, after coffee rust disease wiped out all arabica cultivation in Ceylon in 1869 and destroyed most low altitude plantations in Java in 1876. Currently it represents between 30% and 40% of world production. It is grown in West and Central Africa, throughout South-east Asia, and in parts of South America including Brazil.
Coffee Plant Overview
The plant has a shallow root system and grows as a robust tree or shrub to about 10 m tall. It flowers irregularly, taking about 10–11 months for cherries to ripen, producing oval-shaped beans. The robusta plant has a greater crop yield than that of arabica, contains more caffeine (2.7% compared to arabica’s 1.5%), and contains less sugar (3–7% compared to arabica’s 6–9%).
Due to their bitter taste, both Caffeine and chlorogenic acid (CGA) are believed to act as deterrents for insects and animals. Because Robusta contains about twice the concentration of both caffeine and CGA, it the plant much more ‘robust’ in the wild
Robusta coffee possesses several useful characteristics such as high tolerance to leaf rust pathogen, white stem borer and nematode invasion, and the potential to give consistent yields. For these reasons, the cost of robusta cultivation is relatively low compared to the arabica variety. On the other hand, inability to endure long drought conditions, late cropping, late stabilization of yields and slightly inferior quality compared to arabica, are some of the negative attributes of robusta Coffee.
See more about Robusta – the species from The Coffee Guide
Robusta Coffee Growing Regions
About 30% of the coffee produced in the world is Robusta. It is mostly grown in Vietnam, where French colonists introduced it in the late 19th century, though it is also grown in India, Africa and Brazil, where it is often called conilon. In recent years, Vietnam, which produces mostly robusta, has become the world’s largest exporter of robusta coffee, accounting for over 40% of the total production. It surpasses Brazil (25% of the world’s production), Indonesia (15%), India (6%), and Uganda (4,5%). Brazil is still the biggest coffee producer in the world, producing one-third of the world’s coffee, though 70% of that is C. arabica.
See more about Cultivation and use from Wikipedia
Growing Robusta Coffee
In general, robusta is hardier than arabica and grows well at low altitudes, in open humid conditions, with the cost of production being lower than the arabica variety. In some countries (Uganda and India, for example) robusta is also cultivated at fairly high altitudes (above 1,200 m) and under shade. These features have helped in the production of dense beans, with better cupping characteristics than those normally expected in the robusta cup, which could aid in the preparation of specialty and possibly exemplary coffees.
The Taste of Robusta coffee beans
Robusta is easier to care for and has a greater crop yield than C. arabica, so is cheaper to produce.Roasted robusta beans produce a strong, full-bodied coffee with a distinctive, earthy flavour, but usually with more bitterness than arabica due to their pyrazine content. Since arabica beans are believed to have a smoother taste with more acidity and a richer flavour, they are often considered superior, while the culture and processing of robusta has for a long time been neglected and focused on unwashed beans, resulting in a harsher taste.
Roasting Robusta – Favored for Espresso Coffee Blends
However, the powerful flavour can be desirable in a blend to give it perceived “strength” and “finish”, noticeably in Italian coffee culture, and carefully processed, washed robustas can be superior in quality and provide a milder taste than some lower quality arabicas. Good-quality robusta beans are used in traditional Italian espresso blends, at about 10-15%, to provide a full-bodied taste and a better foam head (known as crema). Robusta is also used as a stimulant, diuretic, antioxidant, and antipyretic, and relieves spasmodic asthma.