Coffee Varieties

Robusta Coffee Beans

An introduction to Robusta coffee

Definition and understanding of Robusta coffee

Coffea canephora, commonly known as Robusta coffee, is an important variety in global coffee cultivation and accounts for about 40% of the world’s coffee production. Robusta is only surpassed by its relative, Arabica, and is characterised by its strong, full-bodied flavour and caffeine content, which is almost twice as high as that of Arabica.

Robusta is mainly grown at low altitudes between sea level and 600 metres and thrives in warm, humid climates. Its cultivation is favoured for its relative simplicity and resistance to disease and pests, making it a good option for farmers. Robusta is often used in espresso blends and instant coffee, valued for its contribution to crema and richness.

Historical context of Robusta coffee

The origins of Robusta coffee can be traced back to Central and West Africa, where it was first discovered by Dutch botanists in what was then the Belgian Congo. It became known in Southeast Asia around 1900 when the catastrophic coffee rust disease devastated the coffee farms in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1869 and destroyed numerous plantations at lower altitudes on Java in 1876. Before it was cultivated commercially, Robusta had existed for centuries in the dense African forests. Its evolution from a native wild plant to an essential ingredient in espresso blends emphasises its resilience and adaptability and cements its role as a crucial element in global coffee history.

Comparative analysis of Robusta and Arabica coffee beans

Robusta and Arabica, the two most important species in commercial coffee production, show considerable differences in terms of cultivation, flavour and market preferences.

Botanical variations

Robusta beans are characterised by their smaller, rounder shape, in contrast to the larger, more oval Arabica beans. The character of Robusta beans goes beyond their nomenclature, as they are easier to grow due to their resistance to diseases and pests and can thrive at lower altitudes.

Arabica beans, on the other hand, need to be grown at higher altitudes and require more attention as they are more susceptible to disease. These differences in cultivation requirements are also reflected in the production costs: Arabica beans are more expensive to produce and therefore also more expensive for consumers.

Robusta Coffee Plants
Robusta Coffee Plants

Differences in flavour

Flavour is a decisive factor that distinguishes the two types from each other. Arabica beans are characterised by a sweeter, fruitier profile that encompasses a broad spectrum of flavours. In contrast, Robusta beans are characterised by a stronger, earthier and often bitter taste. This distinct profile makes Robusta beans suitable for espresso blends and Cafetiere coffee where intensity and bitterness are desired. Although Robusta is often perceived as a ‘cheaper’ coffee, high-quality Robusta varieties can match or even surpass the flavour of inferior Arabica beans.

Caffeine content and other attributes

The caffeine content is an important distinguishing feature between these bean varieties. Robusta beans contain almost twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans, on average around 2.7 % compared to 1.5 % for Arabica. This higher caffeine concentration contributes to the more bitter flavour profile of Robusta beans.

Robusta beans also have a higher antioxidant content, particularly chlorogenic acid, which adds to their complex profile. However, this aspect is not usually a decisive factor for consumers when choosing between Robusta and Arabica beans.

Diversity and key varieties of Robusta coffee

The most important varieties of Robusta

Robusta coffee, known for its resilience and vigorous growth, consists mainly of two varieties: Nganda and Erecta. Nganda is a shrub with a wide spread, while Erecta has a taller growth habit. In addition, the natural tendency of Robusta to hybridise in the wild has led to the creation of several hybrid varieties. These include Catimor and Sarchimor, which are often classified and marketed as Arabica, but have inherited higher disease resistance, particularly against coffee rust, and simpler cultivation requirements from their genetic Robusta ancestry.

Regional characteristics of Robusta coffee

The regional diversity of Robusta coffee beans is particularly pronounced, as each major growing region offers different flavour characteristics:

Vietnam: Often referred to as the ‘Robusta capital of the world’ and is characterised by its strong, earthy flavour, complemented by nuances of cocoa. The central highlands of Vietnam, with their ideal climate and soil conditions, are the heartland of Robusta cultivation.

Brazil: Although Brazil is primarily known for its Arabica beans, it also plays an important role in Robusta production. Brazilian Robusta, which is grown in Espírito Santo and Rondônia, is known for its smooth texture and subtle nutty flavour profile.

Indonesia: The Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Sulawesi are known for their Robusta cultivation. The Robusta beans here, which are influenced by the country’s tropical climate and volcanic soil, are often characterised by a woody flavour and a slightly smoky aroma.

India: In India, Robusta is mainly grown in the southern states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Indian Robusta is characterised by its spicy undertones and a robust, full-bodied consistency.

Uganda: Uganda, a major producer of Robusta, has its main growing areas around Lake Victoria. Ugandan Robusta is known for its milder flavour profile with chocolaty and spicy notes.

Discovery of Robusta
Discovery of Robusta

Environmental aspects and sustainability in Robusta coffee cultivation

Robusta coffee, requires special environmental conditions for cultivation and faces various challenges that affect its sustainability.

Optimal conditions for Robusta cultivation

The successful cultivation of Robusta coffee beans depends on favourable environmental factors.

Soil

The ideal soil for Robusta is loamy clay with a pH between 5 and 6.5, which provides a balanced nutrient profile and good moisture retention. Adequate levels of iron, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are crucial for Robusta growth and in some cases require additional fertilisation.

Temperature and humidity

The optimum temperature range for Robusta cultivation is between 22 and 30 degrees Celsius, coupled with a relative humidity of around 70%-85%. These conditions are essential for the growth and health of the coffee cherries.

Pruning and pest control

Consistent pruning, especially in the dry season, is essential for healthy growth and higher yields. Effective pest and disease control strategies are essential to minimise production losses. Integrated pest management approaches that combine biological, cultural and chemical measures are used to combat common problems such as the coffee berry borer and diseases such as coffee rust.

Harvesting and post-harvest processing

The harvesting phase is crucial for the yield and quality of the coffee. Techniques range from manual harvesting to mechanised methods, the latter being more cost effective but can compromise quality. After harvesting, the beans undergo various processing methods such as wet, dry or semi-washing, each of which affects the final flavour profile and quality of the coffee.

Robusta Coffee Research
Robusta Coffee Research

Improving sustainability in Robusta production

Sustainability in Robusta coffee production is becoming increasingly important, with initiatives focussing on improving environmental impact and coffee quality.

Environmentally sustainable farming practises

Practises such as crop rotation, cover cropping and intercropping with legumes are used to improve soil health and structure. These techniques help with nutrient management and weed control. Efficient irrigation methods are also important to ensure adequate soil moisture and avoid excessive water consumption.

Research and development

Future research efforts will focus on developing innovative methods of pest and disease control, especially those that reduce dependence on chemical pesticides. Another focus is the optimisation of irrigation techniques to combat drought and water shortages as well as the adaptation of cultivation practises to changing climatic conditions.

The Robusta plant is naturally resistant to high temperatures and drought, which gives it a potential advantage in the face of climate change. However, further research is needed to fully understand and optimise cultivation practises under changing environmental scenarios.

Robusta coffee beans in coffee blending

Robusta coffee beans play an important role in various coffee blends and improve both the flavour profile and the attractiveness of these blends.

Integration with Arabica in blends

Robusta is often blended with Arabica coffee beans and contributes significantly to the overall character of the blend. Arabica, known for its subtle and nuanced flavours, is complemented by the Robusta bean with its strong body. This synthesis results in a blend that is both balanced and rich. Blending different coffee bean varieties, even from different regions, is a cost-effective strategy.

Blending achieves a more consistent flavour by combining the particular characteristics of each variety. In espresso blends, Robusta not only improves the crema, but also provides a depth that balances the bitterness with the sweet, acidic notes of Arabica beans.

Contribution to flavour and potency

The high caffeine content of the Robusta bean is key to its strong and powerful flavour, making it the preferred choice for espresso lovers and black coffee enthusiasts. This strong flavour is beneficial in blends with Arabica as it adds intensity and complexity. In latte drinks, the robust character of Robusta contrasts effectively with the creaminess of the milk and enriches the flavour experience. The juxtaposition of the subtle Arabica flavours and the strength of the Robusta results in a blend that is both richer and more balanced.

Specific applications in different types of coffee

Robusta is used in various specific coffee preparations.

Decaffeinated coffee

Despite its high caffeine content, Robusta is preferred for decaffeinated coffee due to its strong flavour profile. The decaffeination process tends to diminish the flavour and as Robusta is more flavourful than Arabica, it is better suited to retaining the flavour after decaffeination.

Instant coffee

The prevalence of Robusta in instant coffee is remarkable. Its cost-effectiveness makes it the ideal choice for the production of instant coffee, where there can be a significant loss of coffee material.

Cold brew coffee

The cold brew technique for Robusta can improve the results of iced coffee drinks. This method reduces acidity and increases sweetness, allowing the more subtle flavours of Robusta, such as nutty and toffee notes, to come through. This property is particularly beneficial for iced coffee preparations where such nuanced flavours are desired.

WCR Research
WCR Research

Innovations and developments in Robusta coffee research

Improvements in cultivation practises

World Coffee Research (WCR) has advanced the development of Robusta coffee through various research and development initiatives. A particular focus is on breeding programmes aimed at meeting the industry’s requirements for Robusta. In 2022, the WCR launched a project to explore breeding opportunities for Robusta.

This project involved a comprehensive analysis that included global data collection, extensive literature research and consultation with industry experts to identify potential opportunities for the development of Robusta varieties. Collaboration with the Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD) has provided access to a wide range of Robusta genetic resources, enabling more effective breeding, selection and multiplication processes.

Focus on quality and flavour improvement

Improving the quality and flavour profile of Robusta coffee is another important goal. To this end, the WCR has conducted focus groups with Robusta coffee buyers to better understand their preferences and requirements. This feedback is important in order to incorporate quality improvements into the breeding programme.

Addressing issues such as supply shortages, maintaining consistent quality and improving consumer perception of Robusta are at the centre of this initiative. The discussions in the focus groups have identified opportunities for market differentiation, the introduction of new flavour profiles, product innovation and increased yields.

Driving sustainability in Robusta production

Sustainability aspects are playing an increasingly important role in the production of Robusta coffee. An important initiative of the WCR is the publication of a catalogue with around 43 Robusta varieties developed worldwide. This catalogue is a valuable resource for farmers to make informed cultivation decisions and educates the entire industry on the importance of continuous innovation through breeding. In addition, a Strauss-funded project in Uganda is focussing on the dissemination of disease-resistant Robusta varieties. This project aims to increase farmers’ incomes and promote sustainable agricultural practises.

These initiatives show that improving Robusta coffee in terms of production efficiency, quality and environmental sustainability is becoming increasingly important. As the industry evolves, research and development in Robusta coffee cultivation will make an important contribution in the coming years that can improve both the quality of coffee and its environmental footprint.

An introduction to Robusta coffee Read More »

Gesha coffee

Coffee’s Biggest Identity Crisis: Gesha or Geisha?

Introduction

The coffee industry faces a perplexing conundrum when it comes to the correct spelling and pronunciation of the Gesha or Geisha variety. This confusion not only unravels the puzzling identity of this enchanting bean but also raises concerns about inappropriate appropriation and the use of geisha images in coffee marketing. Let’s delve into this coffee’s identity crisis and explore the fascinating world of Gesha.

Gesha coffee, spelled with an ‘s’, is often mistaken for geisha, the term associated with Japanese exotic dancers. This mix-up has resulted in the inappropriate use of geisha images to market the coffee, perpetuating Orientalist representation and reinforcing stereotypes. To avoid further confusion and uphold accuracy, it is essential for the industry to embrace the correct spelling of Gesha and discard the inappropriate use of Geisha.

The origins of Gesha coffee can be traced back to Ethiopia, where it first captivated coffee drinkers with its enchanting taste. Interestingly, it is genetically similar to the Geisha coffee variety grown in Panama, further adding to the intrigue surrounding this unique coffee. By using the correct spelling of Gesha, the coffee industry can respect its origins and preserve its distinct and exceptional qualities.

However, the confusion between Gesha and Geisha extends beyond its spelling. The misidentification of coffee varieties is a common issue in the industry, exacerbated by incidental cross-pollination on farms and the lack of organisation in research and nurseries networks. This widespread misidentification problem calls for better practices and research to ensure the accuracy and authenticity of coffee varieties.

Despite the identity crisis, Gesha coffee stands out for its enchanting taste profile. It is considered a high-quality specialty coffee, known for its mesmerising taste and captivating aroma. This single-origin coffee has gained popularity among discerning coffee lovers, always in search of something truly exceptional.

Behind the scenes, cultivating Gesha coffee requires specific expertise and attention to detail. The Gesha plant demands meticulous care and cultivation practices to achieve its full potential. This dedication to quality ultimately translates into the enticing aroma that distinguishes Gesha coffee from other varieties.

From cultivation to production, every stage in the journey of Gesha coffee is meticulously executed to ensure the highest quality. The coffee farms that specialise in Gesha production follow unique practices that highlight the exceptional character of these beans. When brewed, Gesha coffee reveals a flavour that is unrivalled, with its enchanting notes of floral and fruitiness.

As we explore the world of Gesha coffee, we cannot overlook the connection it shares with Panama Geisha coffee beans. Panama, renowned for its coffee cultivation, has embraced the Geisha variety and developed a reputation for producing exceptional coffee beans. This Panamanian connection adds to the allure of Gesha coffee, as it further showcases the exceptional quality and remarkable flavour of this unique coffee variety.

The Origins of Gesha Coffee and Its Connection to Panama Geisha

The roots of Gesha coffee can be traced back to Ethiopia, and interestingly, it shares a genetic similarity with the Geisha coffee variety grown in Panama. This connection adds to the intrigue surrounding Gesha coffee and its exotic flavour profile.

Legend has it that Gesha coffee was discovered in the 1930s by British colonialists who stumbled upon the unique variety in the Gesha forest of Ethiopia. Recognising its potential, they introduced Gesha coffee to the rest of the world, setting the stage for its rise in popularity.

Fast forward to Panama in the 1960s, when a Panamanian coffee farm introduced the Geisha coffee variety. This variety, unrelated to the Japanese geisha, intrigued coffee lovers with its enchanting flavour and delicate aroma. It wasn’t until later that scientists discovered the genetic similarity between Gesha and Geisha, sparking curiosity and further research.

Gesha CoffeeGeisha Coffee (Panama)
Origins: EthiopiaOrigins: Panama
Aroma: Floral and tea-likeAroma: Tropical and fruity
Flavour: Delicate and complexFlavour: Bright and vibrant
Characteristics: Subtle acidity with notes of bergamotCharacteristics: Balanced acidity with hints of jasmine

The Confusion: Gesha vs. Geisha

The confusion between Gesha and Geisha has resulted in inappropriate appropriation and the perpetuation of Orientalist representation in coffee marketing. While the correct spelling of the coffee variety is Gesha, it is often mistakenly spelled as Geisha, which is associated with Japanese entertainers. This misappropriation has led to the use of geisha images in coffee advertisements, reinforcing stereotypes and cultural appropriation.

To avoid further confusion and promote respect and accuracy, it is crucial for the coffee industry to use the correct spelling of Gesha and abandon the use of Geisha. By doing so, we can dismantle Orientalism and showcase a more informed and respectful approach to marketing this unique coffee variety.

Gesha coffee has its origins in Ethiopia and shares genetic similarities with the Geisha coffee variety cultivated in Panama. However, referring to it as Geisha perpetuates Orientalist representations of Japanese women and undermines the cultural authenticity of both coffee varieties.

The misidentification of coffee varieties is not exclusive to Gesha and Geisha. In the coffee industry, misidentifications are widespread due to incidental cross-pollination on farms and the lack of organisation in research and nurseries networks. It is vital to address these challenges and prioritise accurate identification and labeling of coffee varieties to ensure transparency and maintain the integrity of the industry.

Misidentifications in the Coffee Industry

The misidentification of coffee varieties is not limited to Gesha or Geisha, as research reveals that widespread misidentifications occur due to cross-pollination and poorly organised research and nurseries networks. Coffee farms, with their proximity and shared bee populations, are susceptible to incidental cross-pollination, leading to the unintentional hybridisation of different coffee varieties. This cross-pollination often results in misidentified plants and confusion within the industry.

Additionally, the lack of organisation in research and nurseries networks exacerbates the problem of misidentifications. As new coffee varieties are developed and introduced, it becomes challenging to keep track of their accurate identification and distribution. Poorly organised research and nurseries networks contribute to the dissemination of misidentified plants, further perpetuating the confusion surrounding coffee varieties.

To address this issue, the coffee industry needs to prioritise improved research methods and better organisation within nurseries networks. Implementing more rigorous and standardised identification protocols, such as DNA testing, can help ensure the accurate classification of coffee varieties. Additionally, establishing comprehensive databases and sharing information among nurseries can promote transparency and minimise the spread of misidentified plants.

Misidentification Causes:Prevention Measures:
Incidental cross-pollinationImproved isolation techniques
Lack of organisation in researchStandardised identification protocols
Insufficient communication among nurseriesEstablishment of comprehensive databases
Gesha Coffee Discovery
Gesha Coffee Discovery

The Enchanting Flavour of Gesha Coffee

Prepare to be enchanted by the exquisite taste of high-quality Gesha coffee – a specialty single-origin coffee like no other. The enchanting flavour of Gesha coffee is renowned among coffee drinkers for its unique characteristics that tantalise the taste buds. With its delicate yet complex profile, Gesha coffee offers a truly exceptional and unforgettable coffee experience.

The enchanting flavour of Gesha coffee is a result of meticulous cultivation and processing methods. Grown in specific regions with ideal climatic conditions, the Gesha plant produces beans that are known for their distinct aroma and enchanting taste. Each sip of Gesha coffee reveals a symphony of flavours, often showcasing notes of jasmine, bergamot, and tropical fruits, combined with a remarkable sweetness and a velvety smooth finish.

As a specialty single-origin coffee, Gesha beans are carefully hand-picked and processed to ensure that only the highest quality beans make it to your cup. With its limited availability and meticulous cultivation, Gesha coffee has become highly sought after by coffee connoisseurs around the world. The rarity and exceptional flavour of Gesha coffee have made it a true gem in the coffee industry, creating a unique and enchanting experience for those lucky enough to savour its incredible taste.

The Panamanian Connection: Panama Geisha Coffee Beans

Panama’s Geisha coffee beans have gained widespread recognition for their exceptional quality, further enhancing the reputation of Gesha coffee. Cultivated in the rich soils of Panama, these beans have captivated coffee drinkers worldwide with their distinct taste profile and complex aromas. The combination of Panama’s unique climate and meticulous farming practices contributes to the unparalleled taste of Geisha coffee.

The cultivation of Geisha coffee in Panama is a testament to the dedication and expertise of local farmers. The beans are carefully nurtured on high-altitude farms, allowing them to develop. Each step of the cultivation process, from selective harvesting to processing, is meticulously executed to ensure that only the finest beans make it to the market.

The flavour profile of Panama Geisha coffee beans is truly exceptional. With its delicate floral notes, subtle hints of jasmine, and fragrant undertones of bergamot, Geisha coffee offers a sensory experience like no other. It is no wonder that coffee connoisseurs seek out Panama Geisha beans for their superior quality and captivating taste.

Gori Gesha Forest
Gori Gesha Forest

Conclusion

The coffee industry can no longer ignore the identity crisis between Gesha and Geisha, and must strive for accurate usage and appreciation of the enchanting flavour that Gesha coffee offers. The confusion surrounding the spelling and pronunciation of Gesha and Geisha has led to inappropriate appropriation and the use of geisha images to market the coffee. This not only perpetuates Orientalist representation and reinforces stereotypes but also disrespects the cultural significance of the geisha profession.

With its enchanting flavor and high-quality reputation, Gesha coffee has captivated the palates of coffee drinkers around the world. Embracing and promoting the unique characteristics of Gesha, including its cultivation practices and distinct aroma, will further elevate this exceptional single-origin coffee as a sought-after specialty choice. Additionally, recognising the connection between Gesha coffee and Panama Geisha coffee beans cultivates an appreciation for the exceptional quality found in these regions.

Ultimately, by embracing the correct spelling of Gesha, the coffee industry can unravel the puzzling identity crisis and unlock the true potential of this exquisite coffee variety. It is time to eliminate the confusion, show respect for cultural heritage, and savour the remarkable flavour that Gesha coffee brings to the cup.

Coffee’s Biggest Identity Crisis: Gesha or Geisha? Read More »