If you have visited any of the trendy coffee shops in Phnom Penh you might have seen or heard the words Arabica or Robusta. For a beginner in the coffee world, these words might be very confusing. Do not worry, we previously have all been at a starting point of our coffee adventure. The basics of these words are quite simple - Robusta and Arabica are two different kinds of coffee beans. In this guide about Arabica and Robusta we take a look at the differences between the two beans. We will also figure out which bean is better and which coffee beans you can find in Cambodia.
Is Arabica or Robusta more popular?
Coffee in general comes from Africa. It is said that it was first discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder who saw that his goats got jittery after eating a certain berry. This was the coffee berry which he later started drying and roasting to consume as coffee. We're actually not sure if it's true but the story is told over and over again.
Today Arabica is responsible for over 60% of the world's total coffee market whereas Robusta has about 25% of the market. There are also a few other varieties but they are not very common and the likelihood that you will find these coffee beans in Cambodia is almost impossible. Even if the home of coffee is said to be Brazil it is not the largest coffee producer in the world. The largest producer of Arabica beans is Brazil and our neighboring country Vietnam is the largest producer of Robusta coffee.
Does Arabica or Robusta taste better?
So, we already know that Arabica is grown more than Robusta in the world, but is it a better-tasting coffee? Generally, people say that Arabica is a better coffee and usually that also shows in the price. On the commodities market, Robusta is almost half the price of Arabica.
If you are looking for a lot of caffeine then Robusta is your choice. Robusta has almost double the caffeine content of Arabica which sounds perfect for the coffee drinker that just wants to wake up. What you need to know is that caffeine has a bitter taste which can be quite unpleasant. Coffee blends often contain Robusta. This is to bring forward certain characteristics of a coffee or for example, create more crema in an Espresso. What many don't know is that Robusta for the most part creates more crema than Arabica. The Crooked Blend we have uses a tiny bit of Arabica just for that reason.
Robusta is the main coffee used in canned coffee and instant coffee. Arabica on the other hand is preferred by coffee fanatics. This is mainly because of the wide variety of flavours it can bring to a cup of coffee.
Does Cambodia grow Arabica?
Robusta is an easier bean to grow and it grows on lower elevations than Arabica. The Robusta plants are also less prone to disease and can handle a large variety of different weathers. The Arabica plant needs to grown at an elevation of between 1000 and 2000 meters. There are very few places in Cambodia with that high elevation so that's why coffee in Cambodia is mainly of the Robusta variety. There are, however, stories about farmers trying to grow Arabica in Cambodia. If you really want a Cambodian Arabica you can definitely find it in the coffee shops in Phnom Penh.
Worth mentioning is that Cambodia still has one of the smallest coffee productions in Southeast Asia, producing about a 100th of what Thailand does.