Why Do Singaporeans Love Arabica Coffee So Much? Our expert editors explore its benefits and history.
One of the world’s most popular drinks is coffee, which all starts with a magical bean. You probably already know that the coffee bean is a seed that comes from the coffee plant.
Whether you like coffee or not, you’ve probably heard the word “Arabica Beans” before. “100% Arabica Coffee!” This claim is made in ads, on coffee packages, and anywhere else a coffee maker might talk about their coffee beans or ground coffee. While Arabica is “The” cup of coffee, is that such a big deal?
Coffee has different tastes, which is a big reason why coffee blends can give us all the flavours and effects we expect from our favourite bag of grounds. The four most common coffee beans are Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa.
What is Arabica Coffee, and why are its beans so popular in SG?
If you drink coffee, you’ve probably heard the word Arabica often. It is by far the most common kind in the world. It takes between 60 and 70% of all the coffee in the world.
But what is Arabica coffee?
It is easy to explain what Arabica coffee is. It’s just coffee made from beans that grow on a plant called Coffea arabica.
But it’s almost impossible to say what Arabica coffee tastes like. First, there are many different kinds of Arabica, each with its traits. And because there are so many different ways to breed and grow plants and process their beans, coffee from other farms and crops can taste very different.
Still, there is one thing we can say. Arabica coffee is one of more than 100 different kinds of coffee, and Arabica plants make the best-tasting beans in the world.
The Culture and History of Arabica Coffee
You were right if you said “Arabia.” Ethiopia is thought to be where the first Arabica plants grew. In the 7th century, they were brought to Yemen, which was then called Arabia. This is why Arabica coffee was first called “Arabian.”
During the Middle Ages, people in Arabia were the first to grow Coffea arabica for their use. Since Muslims were not allowed to drink alcohol, coffee made from Arabica beans quickly became a popular “social beverage”. Travellers from other countries who tried the drink told people back home about it, but Arabia banned the export of Coffea arabica plants to keep control of the crop.
But around the middle of the 17th century, a pilgrim who went to Mecca brought back a few plants to India. They did well, and the news of the Indian coffee plantation spread quickly throughout Europe. In a short time, Arabica coffee was grown, traded, and sold all over the world.
Where is Arabica Coffee Mainly Grown, Harvested, Processed and Refined to an End-Consumer Product?
Most places in the world find it hard to grow coffee. It only grows well in the area between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. This area is called the “Bean Belt” or the “Coffee Belt.” Most countries in that area have rich soil and tropical or subtropical climates, which are great for growing coffee plants.
Arabica plants are even pickier. The best temperatures for them are between 15 degrees Celsius and 21 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees Fahrenheit). If the heat is too high, the beans grow and mature too quickly, lowering their quality. And if the temperature goes above 29 degrees Celsius (85 degrees Fahrenheit), it can hurt the plants significantly. Arabica plants also do best in places with a lot of rain and shade at high altitudes. Arabica plants usually grow between 2.4 meters and 4.5 meters (8 and 15 feet) tall and must be produced at an altitude of more than 600 meters (2000 feet).
This makes it harder to grow Arabica coffee in some places. Countries like Bolivia, Panama and even the United States only make a small amount of it. But only a few countries produce most of the world’s Arabica beans. Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico are at the top of that list, with the combined output of Arabica from Brazil and Colombia being much higher than the rest of the world. Vietnam and Indonesia, which make a lot of coffee, mostly grow Robusta beans.
What are the unique palate notes and profile of Arabica Coffee?
We’ve already mentioned how Arabica coffee beans from different countries and farms nearby taste very different.
Arabica coffee is usually fragrant, sweet, and smooth and has low to medium acidity. It usually has hints of chocolate or nuts, but a cup of coffee made from Arabica beans can also taste the fruit, sugar, caramel, or any combination of these flavours.
In the end, a label that says “100% Arabica” won’t tell you how the coffee will taste, nor will it guarantee that it is good. It only says that the mix doesn’t have any Robusta beans.
What can affect the taste, characteristics and profile of Arabica Coffee beans and grounds?
Varietal: There are different kinds of Arabica cultivars, each with its traits. Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, Kona, and Pacamara are some of the most common, but there are many more, and each one makes beans with a different taste.
Environment: A plant’s altitude, temperature, type of soil, and even how much shade it gets can have a significant effect on the taste and smell of its beans. How the crop is grown on the farm also makes a big difference.
Processing: It is also essential to learn what happens to the beans after they are picked. After being harvested, most Arabica beans are washed, making the coffee cleaner, lighter, and more acidic and fruity. The beans can be dried naturally in Brazil, Ecuador, Ethiopia, and a few other smaller coffee-producing countries, making a product with low acidity and a lot of body.
The primary flavours of an Arabica coffee will also depend on how the beans were roasted, how they were brewed, and how fresh they were.
The best way to “guess” how an Arabica will taste is to find out where it came from and, just as important, where in that country it was grown. To sum up, there are too many regions, but here’s a general idea of what to expect from the major Arabica-producing countries.
What are the popular Arabica Coffee in Singapore?
Brazil Cerrado: It is usually clean, has a good body (creamy mouthfeel), low acidity, is well-balanced, and often tastes nutty, caramelly, or even malty when it is light-roasted. If it is dark-roasted, it tastes more like chocolate.
Brazil Santos: It is delectably smooth and medium-strength with a touch of sweet acidity and hints of nuts and cocoa-like aroma.
Colombia: It has a mild, smooth acidity that tastes like citrus. It is a medium to full body, fruity flavour, and sometimes chocolate notes.
Ethiopia Sidamo: It has a light to medium body, high acidity, and complex flavours that often have hints of fruit.
Ethiopia Yirgacheffe: It has e a clean, mild flavour with hints of berries, nuts, chocolate, lemon, and wine.
Ethiopia Harrar: It has hints of fruit, wine, and mocha. It isn’t known for being very acidic like Sidamo but for being well-balanced and full-bodied.
Ethiopia Guji: Dark chocolate, floral, and sweetly tart acidity are among the flavour notes of Guji’s coffee beans.
Jamaica Blue Mountain: It has a well-balanced and smooth taste, bright and clean acidity, and almost no bitterness. It has a rich and creamy flavour with a touch of floral and herbal refreshment; it also leaves a nutty aftertaste.
Kenya: It has a full body, a strong flavour, and pleasant acidity. The aroma is floral and fragrant, and the finish is winey with berry and citrus overtones.
Indonesia Aceh Gayo: It is intense and complex with a strong aroma and extremely mild bitter taste
Indonesia Bali Kintamani: It has a mild flavour, medium acidity and fruity taste, an incredibly smooth body, and a strong and sweet aroma.
Indonesia Java Arabica: It has a low-toned richness but a full body that is clean and thick, a medium acidity, and earthy qualities, but it is less earthy than some other Indonesian coffees like Sulawesi and Sumatra.
Indonesia Sumatra Mandheling: It has a syrupy body with hints of chocolate and brown sugar. It is well-known for its smooth and full-bodied flavour, which is earthy and intense, with a herbal aroma.
Indonesia Sulawesi Toraja: It is well-balanced, with undertones of ripe fruit and dark chocolate and a relatively low-toned yet vibrant acidity, though it is typically slightly more acidic and lighter in the body than Sumatran coffees and more earthy than Java Arabica.
Vietnam: It’s a medium full-bodied roast with rich, lively notes of chocolate, vanilla, and caramel. Vietnamese Arabica is known for its smoothness and lower acidity, making it ideal for coffee novices and enthusiasts.
How does Arabica Coffee stack up against Kyoto, Columbian, Robusta and Balako Coffee?
Arabica and Robusta are the two types of beans that are most often sold.
Robusta plants (Coffea canephora) are more resilient than Arabica plants and can grow in a broader range of conditions. They can handle higher (and lower) temperatures, grow at lower altitudes, and are more resistant to pests and diseases. Even though Arabica beans are usually thought to be better, these are some reasons why Robusta beans make almost 40% of the world’s coffee. It grows in places where Arabica doesn’t.
There are also other reasons.
- Arabica plants make less coffee than Robusta plants.
- Robusta is cheaper to grow because the plants are hardier and can be ploughed under at the end of the season and used for planting the following year.
- Robusta beans have almost twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans, so they are often mixed with Arabica beans to make them more caffeine-rich.
- Robusta beans make espresso with a richer crema, giving espresso blends more body. These two things make the market for Robusta beans bigger.
What about the difference in taste?
We’ve already talked about the different tastes that Arabica beans can make. On the other hand, Robusta coffee has a more robust flavour and can’t make subtle flavours or undertones. Some critics say that the taste of Robusta is like that of oatmeal.
Arabica has a more pungent smell than Robusta, which may be because it has 60% more lipids.
We can’t ignore the fact that Liberica and Excelsa are two other types of coffee beans grown in Asia that rarely make it to the West. Excelsa was recently reclassified as a member of the Liberica family, but it tastes nothing like Liberica.
Liberica coffee is hard to get used to because it mostly tastes like nuts and wood. It’s prevalent in the Philippines, but most people in the West don’t like it. Only about 2% of all coffee in the world comes from Liberica. Excelsa coffee, on the other hand, has an odd mix of light and dark flavours. Sometimes it tastes fruity and “roasty” at the same time.
Excelsa beans only make up about 5% of the world’s production, though, and they are quickly bought up by Asian markets or companies looking for a way to add flavour depth to coffee blends.
In short, Arabica is the best coffee you can find in terms of taste.
Is Arabica Coffee good for your health?
Coffee has long been acknowledged to be beneficial to one’s health.
Coffee has been linked to better heart health and better control of blood sugar. It may also help you burn fat and lose weight. Regular coffee drinking seems to protect against some common neurodegenerative diseases, lower the risk of liver disease and some types of cancer, and even help people live longer.
But studies have shown that Arabica coffee is healthier than Robusta coffee. It has higher levels of good things like chlorogenic acids, choline, and trigonelline.
Free radicals damage the body’s systems and organs, leading to severe illness and disease. Chlorogenic acids are antioxidants that fight these free radicals. Choline is an essential nutrient for the body’s metabolism. Trigonelline is a powerful weapon against bacteria, viruses, and even tumours.
So, coffee is good for your health in many ways, but Arabica coffee gives you the most benefits.
Conclusion and summary – Arabica is still the crowd winner among Singaporeans.
Choosing a high-quality Arabica coffee with a flavour you enjoy isn’t enough. You can take steps to ensure it has all of the flavour and aroma you expect.
Here are just a few:
- Don’t buy ground coffee. Instead, buy coffee beans. If the ground stuff sits in the bag or can for a long time, it loses a lot of its flavour. A small investment in a home grinder pays off in the long run because it lets you keep the beans’ flavour and aroma until just before you’re ready to brew.
- Buy coffee from just one place. Single-origin means that all the beans came from the same field, farm, or plantation. When all of the beans come from the same place, it brings out the coffee’s taste, smell, and acidity.
- Buy organic coffee. Organic products are better for your health for obvious reasons. But the clean soil that organic coffee grows in also makes it taste better.
- Buy beans from coffee roasters. The roasted coffee beans in supermarket bins or store shelves may have been there for days, months, or even years. When you buy your light roast, medium roast, or dark roast beans directly from the source, you’ll usually get them just a few days after they’ve been roasted, which means they’ll be fresh and tasty.
Arabica coffee is the best on the market, and there are so many kinds of Arabica beans that it could take years to find your favourite.
What could be more fun than that?