Robusta Coffee Origin and Biological Characteristics 2
Coffee Bean

What is Robusta Coffee?- Origin and Biological Characteristics

Robusta, also known as Robusta coffee of the genus Canephora, along with C. Arabica this is one of the two types of coffee grown commercially in the world. Robusta is also an essential variety of Vietnams coffee industry, contributing to maintaining the second position in coffee production. However, it should be noted that Robusta accounts for less than 30% of the total global coffee production structure; the rest belongs to Arabica and its offspring.
Robusta Coffee Origin and Biological Characteristics 0

Origin of species

Coffea Canephora – Robusta coffee was first discovered in Congo – Belgium (Africa), in the 1800s. Coffea canephora is also a native tree of the tropical forests surrounding Lake Victoria in Uganda. Robusta coffee was introduced in Southeast Asia in the 1900s, after the Coffee Leaf Rust wiped out all the Arabica varieties in Sri Lanka in 1869 (or 1867 according to Wiki), and attacked most of the plantations in Java – Indonesia in 1876. Currently, Robusta accounts for 30% to 40% of total world coffee production, popular in West and Central Africa, Southeast Asia, Central – South America, mainly Brazil (where it is called Conillon). The popularization of Robusta coffee trees began near the Lomani River, a tributary of the Congo River in Central Africa. Through an incubator in Brussels, Robusta coffee from the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo) was shipped to Java. From here, it was successfully propagated to establish plantations in other countries such as India, Uganda and Ivory Coast – The Craft and Science of Coffee. Central Africa is considered to be the source of two dominant commercial coffee species, Coffea Arabica (i.e., Arabica) and Coffea canephora (i.e., Robusta). Although Robusta has long been regarded as the ugly cousin of Arabica, recent studies show that this is not the case. It turned out that Robusta was actually the parent of the Arabica breed. By analyzing the genetic sequences of coffee-genus species, scientists have discovered that, in southern Sudan, Coffea canephora has crossed with another species called Coffea eugenioides producing Coffea Arabica – Arabica coffee.  

Distribution and botanical characteristics

Robusta farming began in the early 19th century – as noted above – because of the significant damage caused by CLR to C. arabica plantations in Asia. According to credible tree documents (Charrier and Eskes, 1997), Robusta coffee was brought to Java, Indonesia, in 1901 Democratic Republic of Congo (Republic of Congo). These Robusta plants were quickly introduced to Africa and were accepted by the first African farmers for their vitality, productivity, and resistance to CLR. At the same time, some other robusta species such as Kouilou, Maclaudi & Game, Niaouli, or Coffea Uganda are also deployed in different countries such as Ivory Coast, Guinea, Togo or Uganda, respectively.
Robusta Coffee Origin and Biological Characteristics 1
Since the 1960s, new clones of Robusta have been developed in Uganda, Congo, and later in Ivory Coast. However, not much has changed in characteristics compared to the original plants. Today, only a few countries continue with the selection program for trade, with some improvements. Typically in Ivory Coast – where productivity is increased from 30% to 110% and grain size increased by 50%. Some new varieties were also developed in Brazil, where it is called Conlon.

Botany characteristics

Even if some coffee trees are found at places up to 2300 meters above sea level, most species (67%) are adapted to a height limit range below 1000m. And Robusta is typical in that “adaptive” group, so they are grown in areas lower than Arabica (only in the field of 0 – 800m). In return, Robusta requires a large amount of rainfall (from 1200 – 2500mm), so most of the species are widely distributed on the African continent (i.e., C. canephora, C. eugenioides) often found in moist environments. Robusta coffee has some outstanding advantages compared to Arabica coffee plants such as resistance to rust (Coffee Leaf Rust), stem borer, nematode diseases… and much higher yield than Arabica coffee. For these reasons, the cost of growing Robusta is relatively low compared to Arabica varieties. On the other hand, unable to tolerate prolonged drought conditions, poor cold tolerance (optimum temperature range (18 – 36oC), unstable yield compared to Arabica, here are some negative attributes of Robusta coffee.  

Robusta coffee flavor characteristics

The taste of Robusta coffee has always been rated as inferior to Arabica ever, with a more robust flavor, acrid, and more bitter, especially the acidity – Acidity is higher than Arabica. Since Arabica coffee is said to have a smoother taste with higher acidity and a richer flavor, they are often considered superior. Also, the Robusta coffee growing and processing areas are mostly concentrated in dry processing (instead of wet processing like Arabica varieties), leading to a more bitter taste, with an earthy, burnt smell when roasted. In nature, Chlorogenic Acid (CGA) and caffeine play a role in helping coffee against insects, because Robusta is more resistant to insects than Arabica. However, in return for disadvantage in taste, Robusta coffee has an average caffeine content twice as high as that of Arabica (2% -2.5% compared to 1.1% -1.5%). Therefore, the combination of Arabica and Robusta coffee with a total quality is relatively higher than Arabica coffee, because this type of Italian coffee (Espresso) always has 10 -15% of Robusta coffee to enhance the flavor and create a more attractive Crema layer. And from production practices, Robusta coffee, when processed wet, can give higher quality than regular Arabica varieties (because Arabica has many types and not all are good). So the comparison of Arabica and Robusta is sometimes not entirely accurate.  

Distribution robusta coffee with arabica coffee


Robusta coffee trees with stems up to 4.5 – 6.5m so that the need for ambient temperature conditions up to 18 – 36 degrees C and annual rainfall from 2200 to 3000mm, temperature and quantity This rain is higher than the environmental conditions of Arabica coffee. Besides, the yield when growing Robusta coffee will have better returns than Arabica Coffee, so that production costs will be lower.

Coffee beans

One of the most noticeable differences that help consumers distinguish between these two types of coffee is that while the Arabica coffee beans are elliptical, grooved in the middle of the wavy, Robusta beans are usually smaller and round. More, the middle groove is the straight line.


First, the difference is that the caffeine content of Robusta coffee beans is very high, averaging from 3% to 4%, of which Arabica coffee is only about 1% to 2%. Also, the fat and sugar content of Robusta coffee is also much lower than Arabica coffee. It is this difference that leads to the flavor of two types of coffee also have characteristics different.

Market evaluation

Currently, depending on the perspective of each consumer that will have different assessments. However, according to the majority of Robusta coffee is rated lower than Arabica coffee because of its less delicious taste as well as more acrid, less aromatic. However, Robusta coffee is very suitable for weather conditions so the time for harvesting and yield will be better when planting Arabica coffee. Hopefully, The Tenshi Coffee will help you gain more knowledge about the coffee industry and help you choose for yourself the best coffee flavor.

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