Arabica vs Robusta
Charles Dickens famously opened his novel with a juxtaposition of striking duality, and in his footsteps we'll follow with our tale of two beans.
Perhaps the best of beans, Arabica is the most commonly cultivated and sought-after coffee variety. The multi-faceted Arabica beans have wide-ranging flavor and aroma profiles, reflecting the characteristics of their environment, to yield anything from sweet and subtle to peppery and commanding notes.
Arabica plants are quite delicate, requiring a precise combination of moisture, shade, and sun. They are usually grown at an altitude -- between 1,300 to 1,500 meters above sea level -- yet can not tolerate frost. For the most part, the cherries have to be handpicked to ensure that they are not harvested too early nor too late. Prized Arabica beans are often used to produce premium coffee and espresso, including Gaggia 100% Arabica.
Robusta makes up about 20% of the world's coffee supply. This hearty variety produces strong, earthy coffee with more bitterness and higher caffeine content -- 2.7% as opposed to Arabica's 1.5%. It is usually regarded as the inferior coffee, due to its less pleasing flavor and aroma profile. However, Robusta does have its place. When blended with Arabica, Robusta can help produce a thicker layer of crema on espresso. It can also lend some oomph to let the coffee stand out better in milk-based beverages, such as lattes and cappuccinos. Blends, including Gaggia Intenso, use small amounts of Robusta, Indian Robusta in this case, to give the coffee a pronounced presence.
Depending on your palate and preferences, beverage of choice even, Arabica, Robusta, or a blend of the two may yield the best of drinks.