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The Complex Flavors of Specialty Robusta Coffee

The Complex Flavors of Specialty Robusta Coffee

Introducing Robusta Coffee

Robusta coffee refers to beans from the Coffea canephora plant, which is one of the two largest commercially produced coffee species along with Arabica. Compared to Arabica, robusta beans contain nearly double the caffeine and are more resistant to diseases, allowing them to be grown at lower altitudes and temperatures.

Robusta has gained a reputation for having a harsh, bitter taste, so it has traditionally been used in commercial coffee blends and instant coffee. However, specialty-grade robusta exists! When skilled growers use processing methods like honey and anaerobic fermentation to draw out robusta's inherent sweetness and fruitiness, the result is specialty robustas that will surprise you with their complexity and quality.


Reputation and Perceptions

Robusta coffee has long had a reputation among specialty coffee drinkers as being inferior to arabica coffee. This perception comes from the use of lower quality robusta in many commercial coffee blends, where it is valued for its high caffeine content and lower price, rather than flavor.

However, there is a growing appreciation for high quality, specialty grade robusta coffee within the specialty coffee community. When properly grown and processed, robusta can offer pleasant flavor profiles with chocolate, caramel, and nutty notes. The perception that robusta is inherently bitter is misguided - proper farming and processing techniques allow robusta's flavors to shine.

With a new generation of microlot, perceptions are changing, and the best robusta beans are helping showcase what is possible from this underrated coffee variety. Robusta has a rightful place alongside arabica within specialty coffee when sourced ethically and crafted carefully.


Where Robusta is Grown

The majority of the world's robusta coffee is grown in Brazil, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Together these three countries produce around 70% of global robusta supplies. Other major robusta producers include India, Uganda, and countries in Central America and Africa. Robusta thrives in the low-lying tropics, unlike arabica coffee which prefers higher altitudes. This allows robusta to be widely cultivated across equatorial regions.

How coffee is processed after harvesting has a significant impact on the final flavor and quality. Robusta coffees can develop sweet, complex flavors when advanced processing methods are used.

The three main processing methods used are:

  • Washed processing - the fruit covering the beans is removed before they are dried. This results in a cleaner, brighter coffee.
  • Honey processing - the beans are dried with some of the fruit still attached, creating fruitier flavors.
  • Natural processing - the beans dry fully inside the fruit before being hulled. This leads to even fruitier and sweeter coffees.

Recent innovations in processing for robusta focus on extending fermentation time, softer depulping, and drying on raised beds. These advanced coffee cultivation methods allow the sugars and acids within the cherries to break down and penetrate into the beans, resulting in a juicier, complex robusta.


Robusta Coffee Flavor Profiles

Robusta coffee is often described as having a harsh, bitter taste compared to the sweeter, more complex flavors of arabica. However, when processed carefully, robusta can offer pleasant and unique flavors beyond just bitterness.

Robustas are known for their deep, earthy notes like chocolate, caramel, nuts, and wood. The chocolate and nutty flavors are quite pronounced due to the higher natural sugar content in robusta beans. These earthy, bitter notes pair well with the sweetness.

With advanced processing methods like honey and washed processing, robustas can also take on fruitier and juicier flavor profiles. The fruit notes are often darker fruits like black cherry, plum, and grape as opposed to the bright citrus flavors common in arabica. When processed with care, robustas can showcase complex, sweet fruit balanced by the signature earthy robusta flavor.


Brewing Robusta Coffee

While often used in blends, specialty robusta coffee can also shine when brewed on its own. The key is using the right techniques to smooth out robusta's naturally bold, intense flavor.

Robusta is traditionally used for espresso, and for good reason - its heavy body stands up well to the pressure of an espresso machine. A properly dialed in robusta espresso will have a syrupy mouthfeel and rich, chocolatey flavor. Try our Espresso Classico blend for a balanced espresso with a tart berry and chocolate finish.

Cold brewing is another excellent way to enjoy specialty robusta's qualities while mellowing its rough edges. The longer cold brew steeping time helps extract sweeter notes and results in a smooth, full-bodied cold brew.

The French press is a classic brew method that pairs well with robusta too. Use a coarse grind and extend the brew time a bit longer than normal. This helps extract more sweetness and tempers the intensity.

No matter the brew method, focus on using a good coffee to water ratio, finer grind size, and lower temperatures to balance out robusta's natural intensity. With care, you can experience the chocolate, caramel and fruit flavors that specialty robusta offers. The naturally low acidity also makes it an approachable coffee for sensitive stomachs. Try out a variety of our robusta offerings and see how the processing affects the flavor!


Enjoying Specialty Robusta Coffee

Specialty robusta offers a uniquely satisfying experience for the adventurous coffee drinker. With its full body and bold flavor, robusta can be an incredibly gratifying coffee when processed and prepared properly.

Here are some recommendations for savoring your specialty robusta coffee to the fullest:

  • Experiment with brewing methods - robusta's bold flavor profile shines through in a French press or cold brew. The immersion methods allow you to extract maximum flavor.
  • Try it straight - enjoy your freshly brewed robusta black to fully appreciate its pure flavor notes. No milk or sugar required!
  • Food pairings - the intensity of specialty robusta stands up well to bold flavors. Try it alongside dark chocolate, nuts, or even spicy savory foods.

The complexity and body of high-quality robusta offers a uniquely satisfying, almost meaty coffee experience. Savoring specialty robusta is an immersive adventure for your taste buds. Next time you encounter a single-origin robusta coffee handled with care, take a moment to brew a cup and appreciate its nuances. It may just become your new favorite morning ritual.


Why Paradise Roasters Believes in Robusta

Simply put, we believe robusta coffee is an important and often overlooked variety that deserves more recognition in the specialty coffee world. Robusta makes up about 40% of global coffee production and provides the livelihood for millions of smallholder farmers, many in developing regions like Southeast Asia and Africa. By sourcing high-quality robusta and creating specialty robusta products, Paradise Roasters supports these smallholder farmers and brings attention to the untapped potential of the variety.


Try Specialty Robusta Coffee Yourself!

After learning all about the unique flavors and craft behind specialty robusta coffee, it's time for you to experience it for yourself! We invite you to join us on the journey of discovery with a robusta coffee subscription.

Browse our full range of specialty robusta offerings and find the perfect introduction to these exotic, flavorful coffees. For those new to robusta, we recommend starting with our Espresso Classico blend, crafted to showcase the rich, creamy mouthfeel that makes robusta shine as an espresso. The chocolate and caramel notes will delight your senses.

More experienced coffee explorers will enjoy our single origin robustas like Ecuador Taza Dorada, with its soft, tart acidity with a very creamy mouthfeel and notes of caramel, tamarind, banana and cacao.

Whichever bean you choose we can't wait to be your guide on the robusta journey. Let the adventure begin - order your specialty robusta coffee subscription today!



Robusta Coffee FAQ

What is robusta coffee?

Robusta coffee refers to beans from the Coffea canephora plant, one of two commercially produced coffee species. Robusta is known for its high caffeine content and disease resistance.

What does robusta coffee have a reputation for?

Robusta coffee has traditionally been used in commercial blends and instant coffee, where quality was not a priority. This has given robusta a reputation for being bitter and harsh. However, specialty-grade robusta exists and can produce pleasant, complex flavors.

Where is most robusta coffee grown?

The majority of robusta coffee is grown in Brazil, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Robusta also thrives in India, Uganda, and Central America. Unlike arabica coffee, robusta can be grown at lower altitudes across the tropics.

How is specialty robusta coffee processed and what flavors does it have?

Specialty robusta is processed using methods like honey processing and anaerobic fermentation to develop sweetness. It can have flavors of chocolate, nuts, fruit, and caramel when processed properly. Advanced methods and careful roasting are used to smooth out robusta’s naturally bold flavor.

Why does Paradise Roasters believe in robusta coffee?

Paradise Roasters believes robusta deserves more recognition. By sourcing high-quality robusta and creating specialty products, they support smallholder farmers and show the variety’s potential. When processed with care, robusta offers pleasant flavor and body. Paradise Roasters works with growers using sustainable methods to produce complex, specialty robustas.



Paradise Roasters Offers The Most Exclusive & Rare Coffees

Our specialty coffees have been rated 93 - 97 points by Coffee Review on over one hundred occasions since 2002! 

Paradise Coffee Roasters combines passion and precision in every cup. Our selections are characterized by their unique identity, seasonal flair, and the stories of budding origins. We believe in fostering direct relationships with our farmers, ensuring every bean is sustainably cultivated. Each cup of Paradise coffee is a fresh narrative, as we roast to order exclusively for you.

For a taste of paradise delivered to your door, start a coffee subscription today!

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