Western and Central Africa
Eastern and Southern Africa
Eastern Europe and Central Asia
Until very recently, the Western hemisphere and many South and
Central American countries have been the producers and exporters of
specialty coffees. While 75%-80% of specialty coffee exports
originate in Central or South America, the Caribbean and Hawaii,
and over half the remaining 20%-25% are produced in Africa, Asia's
contribution barely exceeds 10%.
Historically, Colombia, Ethiopia, Jamaica and Kenya, which are
considered as producers of gourmet coffees, produce only arabica.
The North American consumer market, where the specialty phenomenon
was born, has so far mostly bought robusta for use only as a filler
or for soluble coffee preparation.
Robusta coffees are strong in body and can be neutral and
buttery in the cup. There are robusta varieties in Africa, India
and Indonesia whose cup quality, when washed, is supremely soft and
buttery. This taste profile, with the added attributes of high
altitude and fairly low caffeine content, could help in creating
designer and premium robusta coffees. (Liquor requirements and the
liquoring of coffees for use in espresso blends are different from
those used for traditional preparation. See Traditional versus
espresso, in chapter 12, topic 12.09.04.)
Using only arabicas limits the diversity of coffees available
for consumption. Robusta origins, and the special acceptable tastes
inherent to robusta beans, could provide a solution. Price could be
an additional reason for creating exemplary and specialty robustas.
Robustas are traditionally cheaper than arabicas, so there is an
opportunity to develop premium robustas that are less expensive
than premium arabicas, thus catering to a new group of
A point worth mentioning is that on the consumer side there has
been no rejection of quality robusta. Even before the birth of the
gourmet and specialty coffee phenomenon, select food stores all
over the world were offering roasted coffees by origin: monsooned
robustas from India, washed robustas from Papua New Guinea, and
from Indonesia the famous well washed robusta (originally called in
Dutch 'West Indische bereiding' or WIB = West Indian preparation,
or pulped), have been very popular. Some have earned the status of
being described as exemplary coffees. Increasing consumer awareness
of the attractions of top quality robustas will in itself also help
to promote such coffees.
Quality robusta can be used in the preparation of
today's coffee beverages.
Clean and fresh, strong bodied, neutral, with hardly any acidity
and with an undercurrent of chocolate and malt notes, unwashed
robustas can be used in the making of espresso, canned or liquid
coffee, and regular or filter coffees.
Well washed, soft robustas provide the aromatic crema for strong
espresso, provided they do not show fresh or fruity tastes that can
be unpleasantly accentuated by the espresso extraction process.
High quality washed robusta coffees are excellent for fortification
of milk-based drinks such as cappuccino or café au lait (latte),
and as a component of high caffeine blends.
However, there are different tasting requirements when using
arabica or robusta in espresso. The concentrated espresso cup
exaggerates certain sensory aspects, not always positively. Only
well matured and absolutely clean cupping coffees can be
considered, and their suitability can only definitively be
established by submitting the sample to actual espresso extraction.
See 12.09.00 Coffee tasting.Robusta, espresso and specialty…
Global consumption of Espresso today is such that it has become
a separate, stand-alone market alongside the market for Whole Bean,
and that for Roast and Ground coffee. But, also in the Espresso
market one finds blends* that consist of commonplace, if not
ordinary coffees alongside really good quality. Basically an entire
range of qualities that are all sold as Espresso. So the the fact
is that Espresso can be both mainstream and specialty…
Views on this tend to differ between the United States and
Europe. The US view is that, mostly, it ranks as specialty. This is
probably due to the fact that for many in this market Espresso is a
relatively new consumer product and, one that is 'different'. But
Europe has known Espresso for many, many decades and consumers
there definitely look at it as a separate life style product. But
one whose quality, as is the case with traditional coffee, can
range from ordinary to truly exceptional.
But, what is beyond dispute is that the strong growth in the
espresso segment has resulted in increased and new interest in
robusta coffee, with the most recent shifts in opinion accepting
not only that specialty (or gourmet) robustas do exist, but that
there is also a market for them. As such the line up for the 2008
World Championship for Cup Tasters, to be held by the Specialty
Coffee Association of Europe (www.scae.com), will include
*The vast majority of Espresso brands are blends.