Buying coffee can be a somewhat stressful affair when you are bombarded with words such as robusta; single origin; Kenyan; blend etc.! I used to get so overwhelmed when I went into a supermarket and looked in the coffee isle; I saw endless options with descriptions that I just didn’t understand, so in the end I just went with any old coffee! I really do understand that the insurmountable descriptions associated with the word ‘coffee’ can be extremely off putting, however, the topic of coffee is very interesting and once you get to grips with with the basic principles, you will be able to buy the best coffee and have the most enjoyable coffee experiences that you can just through enhancing your knowledge a little. So without further a due, I am going to take you to the absolute bare bones of coffee to help you understand exactly what you are buying!
Is there more than one type of coffee bean?
Simply, yes there are. There are different species of coffee bean, however, there are only two that you will need to know about and these are the Arabica and Robusta beans.
Robusta beans have a much more aggressive flavour and contain twice as much caffeine than Arabica beans do. When you have a cup of coffee made from Robusta beans you will generally get earthy and nutty qualities. Robusta beans are much easier to grow than Arabica beans as they flourish at much lower altitudes and because of the high yield, Robusta beans are cheaper than Arabica beans. Robusta beans are considered inferior to Arabica beans, however, they are sometimes desired to make espressos due to the rich and intense flavour and for the velvety crema (the golden foam on top of the espresso) that it produces.
In comparison to Robusta beans earthy and nutty qualities, Arabica beans have a a much softer, sweeter, fruitier and floral flavour that is accompanied by a high level of acidity. Arabica beans are much more popular and widely consumed of the two species and accounts for the majority of the coffee production around the world. The main producers of Arabica beans are Ethiopia, Colombia and Brazil.
Due to the topography and climate, some coffee producing countries are able to grow both species, such as Brazil, whereas Colombia only produces Arabica beans.
Where does your Coffee come from?
On a global scale there are three main continents from where your coffee is likely to come from, namely from countries within South America, Africa or Asia. Now you can narrow the coffee down to the specific origin, i.e. the farms that your coffee will come from. Again, I will try to make the terminology as easy to understand as I possibly can. Here I will explain what Single Origin, Estate, Micro-Lot and Blend coffees actually are.
Single Origin coffee, as the name describes, is a coffee that comes from a single place. Single Origin coffee is often desired as it is a good way of achieving a consistent flavour, making Single Origin coffees a popular choice for independent coffee shops, roasters and cafes.
Estate coffees are beans that are grown on a single farm.
Even more specific than estate coffees, micro-lot coffees are from a single field within a farm, harvested on a specific day or even from a small range of altitude.
Blends are coffees that have been crafted by roasters to create a coffee that encaptures all of the qualities that they desire e.g. the perfect combination of sweetness, bitterness and acidity. Some single origin coffees may have some flavour imbalances so creating a blend is a great way to remedy these issues. Once you have tried a lot of different coffees from different countries, different farms, estates, micro-lots and different beans creating your own blend at home is great fun and is definitely worth giving a go. All you need to do is combine different measures of different single origin coffees until you get a coffee that has your favourite flavours.
I really hope that you enjoy this post and that it has helped you to really understand the coffee that you buy in the future. I hope that it helps you enjoy coffee more and makes you feel more relaxed as you enter the coffee isle at the supermarket! Please let me know if you attempt (or if you have attempted already) to make your own blend as I would love to hear about what you create and come up with.
Thank you 🙂