Arabica vs. Colombian Coffee, What They Really Mean

bag of columbian coffee arabica beans

by Erin Marissa Russell and Matt Gibson

You’ve probably seen lots of Colombian coffee described as Arabica coffee beans, and you may be left wondering what the difference is between Arabica coffee beans and Colombian coffee. Because almost all of the coffee beans you’ll encounter that were produced in Colombia will be Arabica coffee beans, this can be a confusing topic.

The easiest way of explaining is that the word “Arabica” refers to the type of coffee beans, or the variety of coffee plant that the beans came from, while “Colombian” refers instead to the country where the coffee beans were grown. But we’re here to explain exactly what Colombian coffee and Arabica coffee are, how they are related, and the differences between the two.

What Is Colombian Coffee?

Colombian coffee is just Arabica coffee that was grown in the country Colombia. Colombia is responsible for growing some of the best coffee in the world. The high altitudes, tropical climate, and the shade provided by banana trees combine to make the perfect environment for growing coffee. With over 600,000 coffee farms in the country, there is a lot of coffee produced in Colombia, and some of the best coffee grown in the country is exported. 

When we discuss Colombian coffee, we usually only talk about how the beans are grown, not how they are roasted, as Colombia is known for growing top notch coffee beans, not for roasting, which is usually handled after the beans have been exported. The rich, flowery flavors that are produced by Colombian coffee beans lend themselves better to light and medium roasts than to dark roasts. 

For the best example of Colombian coffee, look for a Colombian Supremo or Popayan Supremo coffee. Try light and medium roasts for the best example of Colombian coffee flavor. Colombian coffee has earned a reputation for growing some of the finest coffee beans in the world. Once you try a cup of coffee from Colombia, you will agree that the coffee they produce lives up to its reputation. 

What Is Arabica Coffee?

Arabica coffee beans come from the Arabica variety of coffee plant, and they are the most commonly consumed variety of coffee beans in the world. The name of Arabica coffee beans comes from the place where these coffee beans originated, which is the Arabian peninsula—specifically, from the Republic of Yemen. However, the coffee beans are now grown and used in many places across the globe since they have become so popular worldwide.

Arabica coffee beans are known for producing brewed coffee with a delicious, flavorful aroma and a rich, sweet flavor. Arabica beans often have tasting notes that include fruit flavors, chocolate, honey, vanilla, and floral botanicals. However, more than just the variety of coffee plant impacts the flavor of coffee beans. Their taste is also influenced by the climate and soil where they are grown, which is why there is a difference in the taste of Arabica coffee beans grown in Colombia and Arabica coffee beans that are grown somewhere else.

You will often find coffee on the shelf that is made up solely of Arabica coffee beans. People look for Arabica coffee because they enjoy its high quality. But commercial coffee blends are common that combine Arabica coffee beans with Robusta coffee beans. By mixing the Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, coffee companies are able to balance the higher cost and higher quality of the Arabica coffee beans with the more economical but less desirable Robusta coffee beans to produce tasty and affordable blends.

Arabica vs. Robusta Coffee

There are more than two types of coffee beans in existence, but most coffee consumers will only ever encounter the main two types: Arabica and Robusta coffee beans.

Robusta coffee beans produce brewed coffee that isn’t quite as mild in flavor as the coffee brewed from Arabica coffee beans. However, Robusta coffee beans produce coffee with a higher level of caffeine than Arabica coffee contains—in fact, Robusta coffee has twice as much caffeine as Arabica coffee does. Robusta coffee is also known for being low in acidity, in contrast to the higher acidity of coffee brewed from Arabica coffee beans.

The downside to coffee brewed with Robusta coffee beans is the flavor. Robusta coffee does not only fall short of the complex yet mild taste and nuanced tasting notes you’d find in Arabica coffee. Robusta coffee also tends to have a noticeably bitter taste. That’s why you’ll commonly find Robusta coffee beans included in blends, where the bitterness can be balanced out with the flavor of other types of coffee beans. 

So although people prize Arabica coffee beans more due to their more desirable taste, Robusta coffee beans account for a large portion of the world’s coffee consumption. For example, in addition to Robusta coffee beans being included in blends where they are mixed with other types of coffee, Vietnamese coffee consists solely of Robusta coffee beans. 

Instant coffee, also known as soluble coffee, also tends to most frequently be made from Robusta coffee beans. Instant coffees were once made solely from Robusta beans, but as Arabica beans have become more widely produced in recent years, the falling price of Arabica beans has led some companies that make instant coffee to add some of the less expensive Arabica beans to their recipes.

Coffee growers around the world grow either Arabica or Robusta coffee beans. Robusta beans produce a coffee that is more robust with a fuller body, while Arabica beans produce a coffee that is sweeter and milder in flavor, with a lighter body. Arabica coffee is the main type of coffee produced in the country of Columbia. Though Arabica coffee and Columbian coffee are two completely different things, most Colombian coffee is made from Arabica beans. For a great light or medium roast with sweet, fruity, and floral notes, try a light Columbian coffee made from Arabica beans. You may find your new favorite type of coffee. 

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