When walking down aisles of the grocery store there is one with an unmistakable aroma. No, not the cleaning supplies aisle, the coffee aisle! You may think from the variety of selections that there are hundreds of types of coffee beans.
Surprise! There are only 4 main types of coffee beans! Get ready to impress your co-workers and greasy spoon patrons alike, because you are about to learn them now.
The Four Main Types of Coffee Beans
We start with Arabica not because it’s first alphabetically, but because it is the most popular coffee consumed. It makes up 60-75% of all coffee globally.
Although it comes originally from Ethiopia, Brazil is the largest supplier of Arabica beans now. It’s believed to get its name from first being made into the beverage coffee in Arabia.
There isn’t a single type of Arabica bean, in fact, there are over 20 varieties. Of all the types of coffee, Arabica is the most expensive, as the trees are not a hearty plant and best yields of the “cherries” are done by hand making it labor intensive.
Moving on to Robusta as the second most popular type of coffee bean globally making up 24-39% of the coffee consumed. The plant, like the people who like these type of coffee beans, has a more bitter flavor is a heartier lot.
This type of coffee bean is much easier to grow, consequently making it significantly less expensive. In addition to stronger flavors, the caffeine in Robusta is around twice the amount you find in Arabica.
The high levels of caffeine and the low cost lends to it being blended with the more popular Arabica bean. Often times roasters will mix 3 parts Arabica to 1 part Robusta to save on the cost of raw beans.
Brazil loses out to Vietnam for largest supplier of the Robusta bean and be prepared to an extraordinarily strong cup of coffee if ordering from the locals.
Robusta is best sampled black to get a full sense of it’s bitter notes but this is the perfect coffee for those of you who love to add a bit of cream and sugar to your coffee!
Our third type of coffee bean only makes up 1-2% of total coffee. This number was largely improved by it coming to coffees rescue. In South East Asia the Arabica crop was completely decimated by coffee rust or “rust rot”. The bean from Liberia migrated over to the region where it remains the main coffee crop today.
Liberica is the largest bean with the least caffeine of the group. Its rarity in the West makes it quite expensive, though coffee aficionados say the taste is worth it.
This type of coffee bean is produced mainly in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The fourth (sort of) type of coffee bean has gone the way of Pluto. It was once its own category, but since 2006 it is now considered to be Liberica.
As you would expect, the plants grow mainly in South East Asia and are of similar size and shape to the Liberica. Those true coffee connoisseurs still consider it a separate category as to them, the flavor profiles are unique to each group.
Next time you are walking down the coffee aisle, look to see what types of coffee beans are in your favorite blends.
Or better yet, use your newfound knowledge to WOW your next coffee conversation. Be careful though, if you keep on this path of cool coffee information. you may find your self an actual coffee connoisseur.