Talking History

Roasted coffee beans come from the seeds of berries in the coffea plant in the subtropical Africa and some islands in Southern Asia. The two most common types are: Robusta & Arabica.

Given the nature of coffee being slightly acidic, we recommend espresso machine owners to wash the brew head and the brew unit regularly.

Earliest coffee drinking in history dates back in the mid-15 centuries in the Sufi shrines of Yemen. This is where coffee seeds made its first appearance in the local roaster and breweries, which is similar to how it is prepared nowadays.

The tradition of coffee drinking originated from the Yemni merchants, who brought the seedlings to cultivate them back at home. As it became more popular, the habit of coffee drinking spread from Middle East, Persia, Turkey, Northern Africa to Europe, and the rest of the world.

Origin of Robusta & Arabica naming

Did you know that coffee is classified as part of the vegetable sub-kingdom in the past? Very few of us come to realize the history, botany, and taste profiles of the modern species we have now: Arabica & Robusta.

In fact, the coffee tree was first described as part of the botanical family of Rubiaceae by a Sweish botanist, Carlus Linnaeus (1707 – 1778). The Rubiaceae is also known as the Madder family with 500+ and 6000+ species.

The name for Madder family is referring to a red vegetable dye used in pre-historic times. The family name Rubiaceae was originated from the generic name: Rubia (A family name for species with the greatest concentration of red dye)

Coffea is the most populated member among all other species in the Rubiaceae family. In general, most of the members are tropical trees and shrubs in the low-lying area of the forests.

See below for coffee’s full classification by class, sub-class order, family, genus, and species:

Coffee Class Family Order Classification Chart

The official birth place of coffee tree is in the South West of the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia. Also known as the Wild Coffee Trees with a higher genetic variations compared to species cultivated in the rest of the world.

Although the indigenous coffee trees were native to Ethiopia, the first commercially cultivated coffee trees came from Yemen. It was actually commercialized by the Yemeni merchants. These coffee trees are conspicuously lower in genetic diversity relative to other wild species in Ethiopia. The trees are also reproduced through their Ethiopian parents.

The Yemeni invented the first arabica varietal: Typica Coffee. So arguably, they claim that their home country is the birth place of coffee trees. Later at the beginning of the 18th century, the Typica Coffee became popularized in Amsterdam and Paris. It went on to populate in other countries with friendly climates for coffee growing.

Robusta 

Robusta was first discovered in 1898 in the Belgian Congo. It was named after the trade name of a Belgian horticultural house which promoted this coffee species in the early 20th century. The name means more robust in nature for taste and kick while harvesting. Currently, it is the second most cultivated coffee shrub at about 25% of the world-wide coffee production.

In general, robusta is lower in quality, due to the inferior taste. It is packaged as instant ground coffee and cans. While some experienced coffee roasters can boost the quality of the robusta by 5 – 15% by adding some roasted robusta into the fine espresso blends.

Liberica 

Liberica is a rare variety of commercial specie with less than 2% of the overall production in the world. Similar to the robusta, it comes from a low altitude of West Africa. It can grow larger cherries than those frfom the arabica plants. The liberica trees can grow up to 18 meters, with seeds shape like a money cowry seashell from a small sea snail. Compare to the arabica and robusta beans, the liberica has more of a boat shape than an oval or round shape. Due to the epedemic of coffee rust disease in Indonesia, this plant was brought from Liberia to Indonesia at the end of the 19th century to replace the affected arabic species. The liberica is similar to the robusta found in parts of Central and East Java.

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