Arabica is the species of plant from which all specialty (and also most commercial) beans are currently derived. It’s a princess of plants: fragile, susceptible to attacks by pests and relatively needy – requiring particular degrees of moisture, sun, shade and soil richness to thrive. But, it’s also capable of producing a wide taste range. There are a number of varieties, strains and cultivars of Arabica.
Robusta is the other species that’s commercially farmed. It’s just beginning to emerge onto the specialty coffee market, but is commonly used in instant coffee brands. It’s a hardier plant with a higher yield of beans that are higher in caffeine but have been described as having ‘a neutral to harsh taste range’. Still, a small number of coffee growers are experimenting with specialist Robusta – time will tell if it catches on.