Recently I read a forum post asking what makes the best coffee. Asking whether or not the following are so important:
- 100% Arabica -it is that important?
- Where is it grown
- Hand instead of machine picked beans
A number of people started going on about Robusta, and how they believe it is essential to coffee. Here are a few notes about this and the above:
Firstly I think it is important that I state that I only drink double espresso or espresso. There is a history of many cultures who up until the 1940′s had limited access to hand picked, highland and shade grow quality Arabica, and hence the cultural taste has been a lower quality Arabica (which are normally cross bred with Robusta varied breeds).
However it is a simple fact is that Arabica has 3 times more oil in it than Robusta. Crema is the measure of good extraction, and crema is oil. So if you want a good crema, which is where the flavour comes from, you need a good quality Arabica. And that normally means shade and highland grown, and hand-picked to makes sure it is at the proper ripeness. When machines pick coffees they are not sensitive to the ripeness of the coffee, and hence you get a mix of ripe and unripe in the bucket, meaning that the oils are not fully developed.
All this said the problem Arabica suffers from, is that it only produces great crema for the first 2-4 weeks (depending on roast level and origin) after roasting. So this does mean for standard retail based brands there is a dependence on Robusta to boost the body and the crema for coffees that are sold past this 2-4 week period.
I have heard this Robusta argument a number of times, but in then blind tastings we have run where we only use fresh roasted coffees I have never had someone select a coffee made with a Robusta Contingent as a favourite.