Coffea Canephora - the big world of coffee plants

The world knows more than 100 different types of coffee plants. One of them is Coffea Canephora. And, along with Coffea Arabica, it is one of just two types of coffee that are important for the world market. Coffea Liberica and Coffea Excelsa can also be found, but even together they do not account for much more than 1 percent of the world market share. So why only Arabica and Canephora? And why is the latter called Robusta? Let's get to the bottom of the matter!


Coffea Canephora – Robusta and the like

Coffee is grown in around 90 countries, all of which are located in the so-called coffee belt. This lies between 23 degrees north and 25 degrees south latitude – roughly in the tropics. The genus Coffea belongs to the family of madder plants and is therefore related to gardenias and woodruff. There are over 100 species of Coffea alone, most of which are found in Africa or Madagascar. Around 70% of the genera are currently threatened with extinction. Most genera are of no importance for the world market because they grow too slowly or produce too low a yield. The two most important ones include Coffea Arabica, known as Arabica, and Coffea Canephora, known as Robusta .

Coffea Canephora – the unknown species

The 10 most popular types of coffee include the two most important ones:

  • Coffea Liberica, less than 1% of the world market share
  • Coffea Excelsa, less than 1% of the world market share
  • Coffea Mocha
  • Coffea Congensis
  • Coffee Stenophylla
  • Coffea Abeokutae
  • Coffea arnoldiana

None of the species mentioned is important for the world market. There is also Coffea Timor, for example, a naturally occurring hybrid of Arabica and Robusta. There are also low-caffeine and even caffeine-free species, such as Coffea Kianjavatenis, Coffea Mauritiana and Coffea Lancifolia.

Coffea Canephora – I am Robust(a)

The origin of the colloquial name "Robusta" for Coffea Canephora is almost obvious. It is robust and can often withstand more than Arabica . For example, it grows at lower altitudes and is therefore exposed to more pests. With an ideal temperature of 22 to 30 degrees, Robusta can tolerate more heat than Arabica. It also needs and tolerates more water. And direct sunlight doesn't bother it as much as Arabica plants. It was only discovered in Africa in the 19th century, about a thousand years later than Coffea Arabica . Even though Robusta grows faster than Arabica, it only makes up a third of the world market share, while Arabica coffee takes up the other two thirds. The largest producer of Robusta coffee is Vietnam. The Robusta grown there is mostly used by industrial coffee roasters to blend with Arabica coffee.


Characteristics of Coffea Canephora

Robusta beans are smaller than Arabica beans and are also more round than oval. On the flat side, Robusta can be distinguished from Arabica beans by the straight notch. The taste of Robusta coffee is earthy, woody and bitter. Overall, Robusta has fewer aromas than Arabica , which is why the latter is often seen as being of higher quality. Which is not entirely true, as there are excellent Robustas – as well as pretty bad Arabicas . Robusta, on the other hand, has twice to four times the amount of caffeine as Arabica. It is stronger and often has a bigger body. Robusta is often used in blends – especially espressos – to increase the caffeine content and make the blend more powerful. It is often used in Italian espresso roasts.

Coffea Canephora vs. Coffea Arabica

Further differences besides those already mentioned are the inflorescence and the fruit. Arabica flowers usually have five leaves and sit in clusters at the leaf bases, Robusta flowers have six, seven or more leaves and sit in clusters of up to 40 flowers at the leaf axils . Both, however, have a pleasant scent of jasmine. The fruits are also arranged differently: with Arabica, the cherries are evenly distributed over the branch, whereas with Robusta, groups of agglomerated cherries are formed. For one kilogram of green coffee, you need four to seven kilograms of Arabica cherries or two and a half to four kilograms of Robusta cherries. The pricing of both on the world market alone suggests that Arabica is of higher quality than Robusta. Arabica coffee is always significantly more expensive than Robusta coffee. But that doesn't really say anything about the general quality.


Coffea Canephora at Wild Coffee

We also have Canephora, or Robusta coffee. For example , this year's Christmas espresso is an Arabica-Robusta blend with 40 percent Robusta. Both coffees come from Hoysala in India and produce a festive espresso with hazelnut and chocolate aromas. Our new Espresso Out of the Dark also has 30 percent Robusta beans from India. The Arabica portion comes from Brazil and El Salvador. And of course, our classic Wilderer cannot be missing from this list, which is also very dark and strong with 20 percent Robusta.


Coffea Canephora from Hoysala

Speaking of Robusta, we have a new cooperation partner from India when it comes to Coffea Canephora: Hoysala Coffee and Spices. The company from Karnataka, India grows the best quality Arabica and Robusta coffee. Both coffees are processed in three forms: washed, natural and honey. Hoysala also grows black pepper and cardamom. The plants on the farm are grown on slopes with two-tiered shade, consisting of native jungle trees and Erythrina Lithosperma trees. This canopy not only houses over 200 species of animals, birds, insects and reptiles, but also creates a unique micro-environment for the coffee. The soil is rich in humus and organic matter with numerous natural minerals that host some of the most diverse and rare soil microbes and soil fungi. Best practices are used, using organic and inorganic raw materials, with Hoysala always mindful of its impact on the local ecology and the long-term sustainability of the plantation . Hoysala has been growing coffee and spices in the Western Ghats since the 19th century. The Western Ghats are a mountain range in western India that runs along the edge of the Deccan plateau and separates it from the narrow strip of coastal plain and the Arabian Sea.


Coffea Canephora – the darkest roast

Robusta coffee, as well as beans from other coffees, are also used in medicine. For this purpose, the coffee beans are roasted even darker than with Italian roasts. The beans are almost completely charred, creating coffee charcoal , which is used to treat diarrhea and inflammation of the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat. The ground , medium-fine, black-brown powder has a very large surface area , which creates an adsorbing effect. This means that excess fluid, harmful substances, toxins, pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, and fermentation products from the intestines can be effectively bound to the charcoal and then excreted. The positive properties of this powder can also be used to support the elimination of toxins from the body. Coffee charcoal also has an astringent effect on the mucous membranes, which reduces the release of fluid into the intestines and thus the risk of diarrhea.

Coffea Canephora – Conclusion

So much for Robusta coffee. It is still popular, especially in espresso blends, where it increases the caffeine content and gives the blend strength. Some roasters even offer 100% Robusta blends. On the world market, however, Coffea Canephora only makes up a third. However, this is more because Robusta's strengths - even if there are some that taste good - lie in its caffeine content and strength. Arabica, on the other hand, boasts more and finer flavors. In the end, it's always a matter of taste: whether Robusta coffee, Arabica coffee, a mixture of the two or perhaps tea - what you like is what you need!