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What is an Arabica Coffee Bean?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated Feb 02, 2024
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The Arabica coffee bean, from the plant variety called coffea Arabica, is hailed by many as the first cultivated coffee species. It has been grown in the southwestern regions of Arabia for more than 1,000 years, mainly in Yemen. Arabica coffee beans make up about 75% to 80% of the total amount of coffee produced every year around the world.

Robusta coffee is the other most widely-grown species and differs from the Arabica coffee bean in that its flavor is considered less desirable, and its caffeine content is higher. The Arabica coffee bean produces a product with a caffeine content lower than any other species of coffee commercially produced. Another distinguishing factor between these two popular varieties is that Arabica coffee plants are self-pollinating, and Robusta is a cross-pollinating plant.

From the time it is sowed, an Arabica coffee plant fully matures in approximately seven years. The plant thrives in a climate where rain falls evenly throughout the year, with total measurements of about 40 to 59 inches (about 1 m to 1.5 m). Coffea Arabica prospers in moderate temperatures, around 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Centigrade) and can tolerate occasional cold spells as long as they do not drop below freezing. The best altitude at which it flourishes is between 4,265 feet (1,300 m) and 4,921 feet (1,500 m).

Growing seasons for Arabica coffee plants vary from region to region. Java, an island off the coast of Indonesia, is considered to have the perfect climate and growing conditions. Arabica coffee is planted and harvested there all year long. In less pristine conditions, such as those in parts of Brazil, there is a specific growing season, and the plants can only be harvested during the winter months.

The history of Arabica coffee varies according to the cited sources. Most historical accounts support the fact that Arabia was the birthplace of the commercial coffee trade. The tale prevails that a goat herder named Kaldi discovered coffee on the Arabian peninsula after he noted his goats becoming more energetic after eating the raw beans of a coffee plant. The scientific community, however, can trace the first coffee plant back to Kaffa, which is now Ethiopia, a country in northeastern Africa. It was reportedly transported from there to Yemen, where it was distributed throughout the world.

There are more than 40 species in the coffea family, and they are grown all over the world. Of those species, only two, the Arabica and Robusta types, produce beans suitable for roasting, brewing and human consumption. Of those two kinds, the Arabica coffee bean is indisputably considered the king of beans.

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Discussion Comments

By SteamLouis — On Apr 12, 2013

I read in the paper the other day that Arabica coffee harvesting is in danger because of rising temperatures. Apparently, Arabica coffee beans do best around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. But the temperatures in many coffee producing countries are getting much higher than that. Scientists think that Arabica production will go down a lot because of this in the next decades.

I hope that doesn't happen. It will be bad for coffee suppliers as well as farmers who rely on Arabica coffee for their living. It will also be bad for coffee drinkers who love the taste of this coffee.

By ddljohn — On Apr 11, 2013

@ysmina-- No, I think Arabica is superior to Robusta. Arabica used to cost so much more than Robusta coffee beans but in the last decade, coffee brands have been preferring Robusta to lower costs. So Arabica and Robusta don't have such a huge price difference anymore.

I personally prefer Arabica to Robusta, especially Java Arabica. It has a great, rich flavor.

By ysmina — On Apr 11, 2013

Are Robusta coffee beans better than Arabica coffee beans?

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