Canephora or Robusta Coffee Species

Coffee Species (Canephora or Robusta)

The canephora species of coffee is very different from the arabica; it is as robust in taste as it is in its resistance to diseases and pests; unfortunately, in this case strong is not the best, and its flavor is not as desirable as that of arabica. Consequently, robusta accounts for less than 30 percent of world coffee production, in spite of being cheaper in price. Robusta's commercial use is primarily in blends, where its full body is appreciated, and in soluble, or instant coffee, where the processing reduces its more obtrusive flavor. Although robusta trees must be pollinated or grown from cuttings, they are far easier to grow, and when many arabica plantations were destroyed by rust disease in the second half of the 19th century, many estates were replanted with robusta trees. It is now grown throughout the tropical zone, but most of the world's robusta comes from the West and Central Africa, South-East Asia, and Brazil, where it grows in altitudes from sea-level up to 700 meters.

Robusta can withstand heavier tropical rainfalls of 300 cm or more, although, as with all coffee, the trees should never stand in water. Conversely, the shallow roots of robusta enable it to live successfully where rainfall is unpredictable or even scanty. Similarly, it survives when equatorial temperatures sour, although its happiest at an average temperature somewhere between 24-30oC.

Robusta trees flower rather irregularly, and take 10-11 months to go from blossom to mature cherry. The ripe cherries are generally picked by hand, except in Brazil where the flat terrain and vast spaces allow machine harvesting. Robusta is processed mostly by the "unwashed", or dry method, and the beans are smaller and more hump-backed than those of arabica; they are also often distinguished by small points at either end of the central "crack" on the bean.

Robusta trees produce a slightly higher yield per hectare than do arabica trees. The most common varieties of robusta are conilon from Brazil, the Java-Ineac, Nana, Kouilou and congensis.

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