There are two main types of coffee in the world. The first is Arabica, which grows in mountainous regions at altitudes of between 600-2200 meters above sea level and is considered "pampered". It needs lots of water but little sunshine. The second type, Robusta, grows at altitudes of up to 800 meters above sea level, and is considered to be hardier and less "spoiled". Robusta is less affected by diseases and pests, and can tolerate more sun.
About 75% of the world's coffee production is of Arabica, which is considered superior. The rest, 25%, is Robusta, which is cheaper, but not of lower quality. It is used for instant coffee or to reduce the price of espresso, filter or ground coffee blends. About 10% of the Arabica coffee grown around the world is considered to be "Specialty Coffee". This grade is awarded to coffee beans grown in the world's most exclusive plantations, with optimal growing conditions. The result is that they are most expensive. All Arcaffe's blends are graded as "Specialty Coffee".
Arabica coffee is usually carefully handpicked and sorted; a process that is both expensive but rewarding quality-wise. Robusta is picked by stripping. This cheaper method obviates sorting the beans but results in lower quality. The amount of caffeine in Arabica is about half that of Robusta, which means it is healthier.
Here at Arcaffè we use selected Arabica coffee beans exclusively. Nothing beats Arabica beans for its rich, fragrant coffee flavor.
Defining the quality
Just as with wine, it is difficult to define the formula for that perfect coffee flavor. To reach some uniformity, professional coffee tasters agree on four concepts to be used for defining coffee quality: First, flavor, which refers to the immediate impression of the fragrant aroma and taste when sipping a small quantity. Accepted designations include rich, bitter, unsophisticated, delicate, sweet, and acidy.
The second concept is acidity, a characterization of the flavor. The more acidy the coffee, the more it "nips" under the tongue. All categories of coffee are somewhat acidy, but different types have varying levels (from low to high).
Thirdly, the concept of the coffee's body. This reflects the feeling of thickness or "heaviness" that the coffee's consistency leaves on the tongue. Related terms: full, heavy, dense, thick, and robust. Arcaffè's blends are characterized by a soft, velvety flavor, achieved by coordinating the acid balance with the roasting process.
The fourth concept by which experts define the coffee's quality is the "crema" (cream). The crema is the consequence of the minerals and sugars found in the beans. Normally, the crema is assessed by swirling the cup of coffee and then examining the crema line left on the sides of the cup.
Why then are coffees blended?
A basic rule of the art of coffee preparation is that no one coffee type – no matter how good – can produce the perfect flavor. Achieving the perfect cup of coffee is only possible by mixing several types of beans, where each type enhances the overall flavor of the coffee beverage by adding its own unique flavor. An example of this is the way Kenyan Arabica (from East Africa) perfectly complements the coffee grown in El Salvador (Central America), separated as they are by the Atlantic Ocean.