Growing Robusta Coffee
The History of Robusta Coffee
There are multiple types of coffee grown around the world. One of the most popular is the Robusta Bean, second only to the Arabica Bean. Considering there are hundreds upon hundreds, even thousands of types of coffee grown worldwide, being the second most popular coffee in the world is extremely impressive. There is no true knowledge of where coffee in itself originates from, much less Robusta coffee from. There are numerous myths and legends but there is nothing that has the factual stamp of approval on how coffee came to be. What is well known, is how coffee is grown. This article is going to focus on Robusta coffee.
Where and How
Robusta coffee plants are primarily grown in the Eastern Hemisphere, specifically Africa and Indonesia thought it and can occasionally be found growing in South and Central America as well (enjoyjava.com). The largest producer of this specific type of coffee is Vietnam. The plant is grown at low altitudes, from sea level up to about 600 meters. It is very resilient and can withstand high temperatures, 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. It does require a lot of sunlight and water. It is a hungry plant that likes to spend its time in the sun. The Robusta plant, scientifically known as the coffea canephora, can grow to be 10 meters tall in the wild (thekitchn.com).
A Robusta plant is considered a shrub or small tree. The cherries, or fruit, that the beans can be found inside are rounded and take up to 11 months to mature (coffeeandhealth.org). The seeds or beans, of the Robusta plant are smaller than the Arabica beans which explains the higher caffeine content. It also produces more fruit than the Arabica plant does, which makes it less costly to purchase as a consumer.
Since Robusta Beans have more caffeine than the Arabica Bean at about a full percentage more than Arabica, Robusta coffee has a stronger, somewhat earthier taste. Many times, the coffee purchased in the typical grocery store is going to be Arabica with a small amount of Robusta blended in to save on costs for the manufacturer, unless the coffee container states specifically 100% Arabica. Robusta coffee is the coffee typically found in instant coffees since it does have a higher caffeine strength.
Another difference between Arabica and Robusta is that Robusta plants require cross pollination. This means that there needs to be multiple plants of differing genetic composition in close proximity of each other. One can not simply plant one Robusta plant and successfully produce fruit. Though it is easier to grow Robusta plants than it is to grow Arabica plants due to its resiliency, it is not typically grown just anywhere. As mentioned above, the plant requires a lot of sun and water. If the region is not getting both, the plant will not thrive.
A Few More Words About Robusta Coffee and Harvesting
Robusta coffee is not typically consumed on its own. Robusta is used primarily as a filler, due to its high caffeine content and somewhat bitter taste. Being as Arabica has a sweeter taste, it is less uncommon to find 100% Arabica coffee, than it is to find 100% Robusta coffee.
When harvesting the plants, most of the coffee farmers have two ways they will harvest. The first is the easiest and least time consuming, therefore most cost effective. This process is strip picking the plants with a machine or by hand. Essentially, all the fruit is stripped from the branches at one time. The other form of harvesting is tedious and more time consuming. This process is selectively picking the fruit from the tree. Only the ripe fruit is picked by hand and the pickers will be sent out to the fields every 8 to 10 days. Selectively picking the fruit is reserved for the higher end, Arabica plants.
Once harvested, the cherries are then put through a process to remove the beans (or seeds) from the cherries. The method used for Robusta cherries is not going to be a very technical or costly process. The cherries are cleaned and looked over for damaged cherries. They are then laid out to dry. This can be either on a cement patio or for some farmers, they use a matting on a raised trestle (coffeeandhealth.org). After about 4 weeks, the fruit is dry enough for the beans to be removed.
Easier and Cheaper
Robusta coffee is the second most popular coffee in the world but has a much simpler and less costly form of growth. However, this bean has a stronger taste and more caffeine than the more popular Arabica Bean and finds itself blended into other coffees to keep the costs down.
Robusta Coffee Beans [ID 119050154 © Dmytro Synelnychenko | Dreamstime.com]
Harvesting Coffee [ID 163392607 © Prakasit | Dreamstime.com]