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Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora; syn. Coffea robusta) is a variety of coffee which has its origins in central and western sub-Saharan Africa. It is a species of flowering plant in the Rubiaceae family. Though widely known as Coffea robusta, the plant is scientifically identified as Coffea canephora, which has two main varieties – Robusta and Nganda.[1] It is mostly grown in Vietnam, where French colonists introduced it in the late 19th century, and also in Africa and Brazil, where it is often called conillon. Approximately 20% of the coffee produced in the world is robusta.

Robusta is easier to care for and has a greater crop yield than the other major species of coffee, Coffea arabica, and, because of this, is cheaper to produce. Since arabica beans are often considered superior, robusta is usually limited to use as a filler in lower-grade coffee blends. It is also often included in instant coffee, and in espresso blends to promote the formation of “crema”. Robusta has about twice as much caffeine as arabica.

Description

The plant has a shallow root system and grows as a robust tree or shrub to about 10 metres. It flowers irregularly, taking about 10–11 months for cherries to ripen, producing oval shaped beans. The robusta plant has a greater crop yield than that of Coffea arabica, and contains more caffeine – 2.7% compared to arabica’s 1.5%.[2] As it is less susceptible to pests and disease, robusta needs much less herbicide and pesticide than arabica.

Native distribution

Originating in upland forests in Ethiopia,[3] Coffea canephora grows indigenously in Western and Central Africa. It was not recognized as a species of Coffea until the 19th century, about a hundred years after Coffea arabica.

Cultivation and use

Approximately 20% of the coffee produced in the world is robusta.[4] It is mostly grown in Vietnam where French colonists introduced it in the late 19th century, though it is also grown in Africa and Brazil, where it is often called “conillon”.[5][6] In recent years Vietnam, which produces mostly robusta, has surpassed Brazil, India, and Indonesia to become the world’s single largest exporter of robusta coffee. Brazil is still the biggest producer of coffee in the world, producing one-third of the world’s coffee, though 80% of that is Coffea arabica.[7]

Robusta is easier to care for than the other major species of coffee, Coffea arabica, and, because of this, is cheaper to produce.[8] Robusta beans make strong, full bodied, but bitter coffee.[9] Since arabica beans are smoother tasting with a richer flavour,[10] the harsh robusta beans are usually limited to use as a filler in lower-grade coffee blends.[11] However, the powerful flavour can be desirable in a blend to give it perceived “strength” and “finish”, noticeably in Italian coffee culture. Robusta is often included in instant coffee, and in espresso blends to promote the formation of “crema”.[12] Robusta has about twice as much caffeine as arabica.[13] Once roasted, robusta tends to deliver a distinctive earthy flavour, usually with more bitterness than arabica, which is due to its pyrazine organic compound.[14]

Written on June 20th, 2012 , Fruits Tags:

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