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Arabica Coffee: The World’s Most Popular Coffee Bean

30 September 2020
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Perk up, coffee fans. It’s National Coffee Day on 1st October every year and there’s no better way to celebrate this caffeinated day other than learning more about the world’s most popular coffee bean, the Arabica.

Arabica plants are considered to produce some of the world’s finest coffee beans and contribute to approximately 60% of global coffee production – the highest amongst other coffee varieties. 

But what is Arabica coffee, and why is everyone in love with it? In this article, learn more about the history of this bean and how to enjoy it like a pro.

How the Arabica Was Discovered

Known as the “Adam and Eve” of coffee, the discovery of the Arabica coffee bean dates back to about 1,000 BC in the highlands of the Kingdom of Kefa, known as Ethiopia in present day. It is said that native tribes used to crush the beans, mix it with fat, shape it into balls and consume it as an energy booster.

It was not until the 7th century when the bean made its way to Yemen and lower Arabia. It was then that the bean got its name “Coffea Arabica”. In Yemen, Arab scholars discovered that making coffee from roasted Arabica beans helped them to stay awake while studying.

Soon after, this magical stimulant called coffee spread among the Egyptians and Turks, and subsequently, the rest of the world.

Learn about coffee and its beans from around the world.

Where and How It Is Grown

Tall coffee trees in a forest
Arabica trees thrive in high altitudes and can withstand colder climates. Photo from Tejj.

The Arabica is grown in various countries located between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. This region is known as the Bean Belt, consisting of countries that share a tropical climate which is perfect for Arabica trees.

Find out how climate and 8 other factors affect the taste of your coffee.

Ever wondered why Arabica coffee beans are often more expensive than other commercial beans? This is because Arabica trees are difficult to cultivate and take approximately seven years to fully mature. Moreover, depending on the tree’s individual character and the season’s climate, each tree can only produce 0.5kg to 5.0kg of beans in its lifetime.

Green and red coffee cherries growing on a plant
Coffee cherries are ready for harvest once it darkens from a leafy green to glossy red. Photo from Rodrigo Flores.

The Arabica grows best in higher altitudes and can withstand low temperatures just above the sub-zero point. Two to four years after planting, the tree produces small, white, and fragrant flowers that smell like jasmine. Coffee cherries are ready for picking once they darken to a glossy, deep red.

Varieties of the Arabica

Bags of coffee beans from Papua New Guinea
With Arabica varieties grown in many parts of the world, each differs in taste due to varying growing conditions.. Photo from Diego Catto.

Dozens of Arabica coffee varieties are widely cultivated around the world and each has unique characteristics due to the different growing conditions.

There are two common varieties of the Arabica – Typica and Bourbon. The Typica was the first variety to be discovered but is a low-yielding plant. Coffee connoisseurs highly value the Typica for its excellent cup quality and clean finish on the palate. The Blue Mountain Coffee, produced in Jamaica, is a renowned Typica variety.

On the other hand, the Bourbon variety is favoured for its buttery chocolate flavour and exquisite aroma. Due to its versatile taste notes, coffee farmers have cultivated many high-quality subtypes and blends of the Bourbon. Popular Bourbon Arabica coffee includes the Mundo Novo that is mostly produced in Brazil.

If you are a fan of coffee blends, check out this award-winning coffee roaster that specialises in seasonal blends.

Taste and Caffeine Profile

A cup of latte on a wood table
Arabica coffee has a delicate and fruity taste, with a slightly acidic finish on the palate. Photo from Lex Sirikiat.

The Arabica tends to have a smoother, sweeter taste, with flavour notes of chocolate and sugar. Coffee made from Arabica beans are light to medium-bodied, and have hints of fruits and berries. 

Compared to other coffee varieties such as the Robusta and Liberica, the caffeine content of Arabica coffee is considered mild. If brewed perfectly, the resulting cup of coffee is less bitter and will not give you caffeine jitters.

Did you know that your brewing method can affect caffeine extraction? Learn more here.

How to Enjoy Arabica Coffee?

Due to its flavourful but lighter body, we recommend drinking it black without milk and sugar to fully enjoy its taste profile. Here’s a beginner’s guide on how to enjoy black coffee like a pro.

But before you do that, only use roasted coffee beans that are not more than 5 weeks old. This ensures that your beans are fresh without compromising its intensity and flavour profile. Always store your coffee beans in a vacuum coffee canister like this.

Moreover, to retain the bean’s delicate flavours, grind the Arabica bean just before brewing. Don’t have a grinder at home? We’ve got you covered.

Last but not least, the trick to perfecting a cup of coffee is using a good coffee machine – one that takes care of all the nitty-gritty technicalities for you. From espresso to americano and latte, these automatic coffee machines are a dream come true for every coffee lover.

Now that you know the Arabica inside out, how does it compare to other common coffee beans such as Robusta and Liberica? Find out here.