Beans tell the story. Identifying the varieties


The Coffea genus includes numerous species of small tropical trees from which the black brew is obtained. Simply put, on a commercial level coffee can be divided into two main varieties, the Arabica bean (Coffea arabica) and the bean commonly known as Robusta (Coffea canephora), cultivated in an equatorial zone spanning close to 5000 km across about 80 different countries.

The first variety comes from the high plains of Ethiopia and has a higher acidic content than the Robusta – which comes from Zaire. It has a finer aroma with a lower caffeine content. It contains roughly one third of the caffeine contained in the Robusta, with significant differences in bitterness: in fact, in the cup, bitterness is primarily a factor of cloro genic acids, which are usually more abundant in coffees with high caffeine content: as a result, they are considered to have an inferior aroma.

But how can you tell the difference with the naked eye? There is a quick, empirical method to determine if a variety is Arabica or Robusta. It’s enough to carefully observe the bean: in the first case, it is distinguished by a curvy, s-shaped crack and a thin profile; the second variety of bean has a straight crack and fuller profile. Of course, in the case of ground coffee or a savoury cup of steaming espresso one should follow one’s own senses, excluding sight.