I Tasted the Best Robusta Coffee Brands in the USA (Review & Photos)

coffee beans

By Darren Oliver

Entering the world of high-quality coffee surely you have come across a basic distinction: arabica and robusta. These are the two most popular (though not the only!) varieties of coffee on the planet. You’ve also certainly encountered the opinion that arabica is really the only variety worth considering. This stereotype has its basis, which of course we will mention. 

However, people associated with specialty coffee are known to break stereotypes and expectations. More and more coffee shops and roasters want to redefine what robusta is, and so in their offerings you will find high-quality beans of this very variety.

Why Is Robusta Cheaper?

To understand how the modern coffee industry breaks stereotypes, one must first understand their source. Think for a moment about the first associations that come to mind when you think of robusta coffee? We can bet that it will be something in between the lines of bitterness and unpleasant tasting notes. 

In many cases, this is indeed a legitimate stereotype. Robusta, which accounts for about 40% of the grains on the market, is known for just that: sharp, distinctive flavor notes and higher caffeine content than arabica. The latter is usually prized because it is more complex and more delicate in flavor.

However, the disadvantages of robusta are not in its nature. As it is a much more robust variety, resistant to pests and harsh weather conditions, its cultivation is often given less attention. Robusta is grown at lower altitudes and does not receive as much attention as specialty arabica. This makes it cheaper to produce, which is the ideal basis for treating it as a “stuffer” for commercial coffee blends.

But imagine a different situation: what if we started treating robusta the way we treat arabica, if we gave it as much attention and care as we give to the variety commonly considered “better”? This is precisely the question that the pioneers of a new approach in the world of premium coffee have asked themselves. So let us now introduce a few of them, who show that robusta can be something quite different than it has been assumed to be.


Portland Ca Phe Robusta Coffee Beans

The Good Morning Portland roast is made of 100 percent robusta beans from Vietnam.

They call it a dark roast, but you can see from my photo that the beans were not oily, and they ran easily through my superautomatic espresso machine without a problem. The tasting notes for this roast are dark chocolate, licorice and vanilla. You can definitely taste that it’s a robusta, which is not a bad thing!

https://www.portlandcaphe.com/shop/p/good-morning-portland-roast


Vietfive Coffee

Vietfive out of Chicago uses all Vietnamese robusta beans, offering three different options of dark, medium and light roast.

I chose the dark roast, which was not oily and was suitable for my superautomatic espresso machine. Vietfive describes the notes as Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut, Dark Fruits, and I could definitely taste the robusta difference.

They use robusta beans that are grown on their own family farm in Vietnam, in the central highlands at around a 1,700 foot elevation.

https://www.vietfive.com/shop


black sheep robusta beans

Black Sheep Coffee

To quote the roastery itself: “Serving the world’s first specialty grade robusta beans on the market. we are innovators in the coffee industry. with coffee shops and cocktail bars across the uk, france and the philippines, come soak up the vibe and enjoy a perfect cup.” And now the brand is opening its first location in Dallas, USA

Their flagship robusta is called Robusta Revival for a reason – that’s what they do, they revive robusta and give it new meaning. Their blend is designed primarily for espresso machines and coffee makers, and features fairly classic flavor notes of nuts and dark chocolate. But even here they have managed to take coffee quality to another level. 

The beans come from India’s Sethuraman region, known for the best robusta in the world. It owes its uniqueness to its fertile soils and is located in the Bhadra River belt. 

To get an idea of the quality of the beans, one only needs to look at the reviews they enjoy among consumers – reading them many times, one can find the opinion that for many people this was the best coffee of their lives, even if they approached it with caution because of the variety.

Learn more about Black Sheep Coffee: https://leavetheherdbehind.com/blogs/locations/mockingbird-lane


Nguyen Coffee Supply

In this case, we are already talking about treating robusta as a means to fulfill the mission the company has set for itself – it considers robusta to be the future of specialty coffee. One has to appreciate that Nguyen Coffee Supply realizes the social importance of its business and consistently fights for a better, fairer coffee industry.

Robusta serves them precisely as a means in that fight: “America’s first specialty Vietnamese coffee company and proud champion of the resilient robusta bean” is what Nguyen Coffee Supply is all about. The company places great emphasis on direct trade, a method of coffee trade that eliminates middlemen and thus allows farmers to receive decent compensation for their hard work. 

This is how Truegrit was created – a 100% robusta variety of peaberry, and the strongest coffee in Nguyen Coffee Supply’s range. What sets it apart are the flavor notes that are not obvious for this variety – Scotch, Grapefruit Zest, Bitter Melon – these are what make these beans successful in pour-over methods as well as the classic Vietnamese phin brew.

Learn more about Truegrit Coffee:
https://nguyencoffeesupply.com/collections/vietnamese-coffee-organic/products/grit-100-peaberry-robusta


voi ca phe robusta coffee beans

Voi Cà Phê

This is a Vietnamese coffee shop located in Seattle, founded by second-generation Vietnamese Americans, fascinated by coffee. In their opinion, Vietnam is the underdog in the world of quality coffee – so it’s about time to change that!

Most valuable, however, is their approach to coffee: “[their] motto is not, “How do we make coffee taste good?”, but rather, “How do we make coffee right?”: “Right from the growing process, to harvesting, to preliminary processing. Right from the roasting technique, to the art of making a perfect cup of coffee. Right in farmer relationships and farm households – we make sure every drop of sweat is worth it“.

This is what lies at the root of the exceptional Cay Fine Robusta coffee available in their range. Are you ready to be surprised? It’s a honey-processed robusta, subjected to slow fermentation. Another surprise? You’ll find toast, hazelnut, bell peppers (wow!), cinnamon, pepper (wow, again!) in the flavor notes. This is a Vietnamese dark roast coffee, where it will therefore perform better when brewed in a phin.

Learn more about Voi Cà Phê:
https://www.voicaphe.com/whole-beans


What Is the Best Robusta Coffee?

I think my favorite of the ones I tried was the Nguyen. I don’t think that the flavor profile was necessarily the best, but for whatever reason I would get an interesting state of flow after I drank it. Was it because it had more caffeine? I don’t know.

We hope this short article will give you an understanding of what robusta is, and what it can be. It’s not just a variety of coffee, it’s a means to fight for equality, for better treatment of farmers in the Global South, and for changing the nature of the entire coffee industry. 

So be open-minded and try a robusta specialty at the earliest possible opportunity, for you may be in for a wonderful surprise!

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