Looking for topics this week, I stumbled upon this NYTimes.com blog post called Robusta Economy by Oliver Schwaner-Albright. In a
coffee bean nutshell, the post declared that if there’s one thing diverse roasters could agree upon, it was that “Arabica is good, Robusta is bad.” He was speaking about the two main species of coffee beans that are commercially cultivated – coffea arabica and coffea canephora (commonly known as robusta).
Arabica beans are the prize, certainly among specialty and gourmet coffee roasters, the kinds you’ll find on ROASTe. Starbucks and Peet’s only sell Arabica. Even Dunkin’ Donuts brags their coffee is made only from Arabica beans. Apparently only death-row inmates and reality TV stars drink Robusta beans.
What could Robusta possibly have going for it then? In a word, Jolt. When you tell me that Robusta beans have double the caffeine than Arabica, sorry but you’ve got my attention. Schwaner-Albright’s post goes on to describe a current coffee trend of sneaking a small percentage of Robusta into high-end blended coffees, to give it that kick. Still, it’s a pretty serious beat-down when people like the author of The Joy of Coffee Corby Kummer describe Robusta’s tastes as, “like putting a child’s unvarnished building block in your mouth.” LOL!
I don’t know about you, but if you tell me not to do something, it only makes me want to try it. So, I went down to a farmer’s market, bought some 100% Robusta beans from Colombia and promptly brewed them up in my new French press.
Guess what? Once again, the experts weren’t lying; the stuff is dreck. Its light body was hugely boring, and I was disappointed by how extremely flat it tasted. I may have described some organic chocolate cream flavored coffee as flat a few weeks back, but compare to this Robusta, that chocolate cream was Pamela Effing Anderson.
The dominant defect I tasted in this Robusta, however, was how incredibly alkaline it was, meaning it gave me more dry-mouth than Snoop Dogg probably feels on Mardi Gras. That, and the unpleasant creeper aftertaste it left behind. By the second cup, it had mushroomed to the point I was sure I needed antibiotics. I also had to keep refraining from wanting to shave my tongue. Have you ever heard how, during a clinical trial, if the drug being tested is found to be harmful, scientists will abort the experiment so as not to inflict real harm on the test subjects? I swear, it was like that for me – I almost poured out the rest of the robusta brew; it was that bad, and there was no need to torture myself.
But biscotti is a trooper, so I endured the full brew – and another two cups a few days later to reconfirm things as I wrote up this post.
You owe me.