Humans have cultivated and consumed coffee for at least 400 years. There are stories suggesting that we knew of its energising effects as far back as the 9th century, but most of these were written hundreds of years after they were supposed to have taken place.
Types of Coffee
Coffee doesn’t have the extensive history that tea has, but it has just as many varieties. As with tea, these are produced by varieties of the same plant, with the method of production and preparation, as well as the variety of plant, creating all these wonderful types of coffee.
Arabica vs Robusta
— Coffea arabica, or Arabian Coffee, is thought to be the first ever species cultivated and it accounts for a dominant share of the total coffee produced every single year. This variety is said to produce a sweeter, softer, and more complex taste, which is why it is often the bean of choice for premium blends.
— Robusta is sturdier, easier to grow, and yields a higher caffeine content, but it also has a harsher taste. It is the bean of choice for instant coffees and other cheaper mixes because it’s much easier to produce, but higher-quality varieties are also used in espresso.
Differences between Arabica and Robusta
- Taste: There is no “better” taste as preference plays a part, but robusta is generally considered to have an astringent taste whereas arabica has been compared to wine with regards to its complexity.
- Production: Robusta production accounts for around 35% to 40% of the total coffee produced every year, with arabica making up the rest.
- Price: According to official statistics, arabica costs 36% more than robusta when purchased wholesale.
- Regions: Most of the world’s arabica is produced in Brazil, with Vietnam producing the lion’s share of the robusta.
- Caffeine: There is more caffeine in robusta than arabica, about 2.7% yield to 1.5%.
Popular Types of Coffee
There is also a variety of coffee known as Kapeng barako, which grown in the Philippines. But this is nearly extinct and has been for more than 100 years following an infestation.
That leaves arabica and robusta as the main varieties. There are many strains of these two varieties, each producing slightly different tastes, but it’s the preparation that really sets different types of coffee apart.
Instant coffee is one of the most popular coffees in the United Kingdom, where we’re happy to take time with our tea, but prefer our coffee quick. It’s basically dried coffee. They make a highly concentrated liquid coffee and either dry it into a fine powder in very hot and dry conditions or freeze-dry it into granules.
By adding some hot water, you’re turning that powder back into liquid and diluting it sufficiently at the same time. It’s coffee at its quickest and easiest. This method is even used to produce some coffee substitutes, although the taste differences are even more notable in these cases.
A short drink designed to provide a hit of caffeine and to be consumed in a mouthful. It’s mistakenly thought that there is more caffeine in an espresso than a normal cup of coffee. If the same amount is consumed, this is true, but a shot of espresso doesn’t come close to a full drink of strong coffee.
Different versions of this drink exist, including macchiato, which is similar but not entirely the same, and a double espresso, which is just a double shot.
One of the most popular coffee drinks here in the UK, Americano, or “Long Black”, is basically an espresso diluted with a cup of hot water.
Latte, Cappuccino, and Mocha
A latte contains a shot of espresso and steamed milk, while a cappuccino is the same but with more foam and often a little powdered chocolate on the top. Cappuccino also tends to be served in a large-rimmed cup, while a latte is served in a tall cup or glass. A flat white is also very similar to a latte but is made without foam.
A mocha, on the other hand, is like a cross between a cappuccino and a hot chocolate, combining espresso, chocolate powder, steamed milk, and foam.
Other Types of Coffee
If you’re interested in novel and unusual coffees, there is no shortage of those out there. Take a look at some of these more unusual types of coffee.
This is a coffee concoction that should be made with butter, coffee, and a type of coconut oil, but it’s often made with just butter and coffee. It is supposed to improve concentration, remove toxins, and help in a few other ways.
Advocates do report feeling some of these benefits, but most people have learned to run a mile whenever they hear about something that can “remove toxins”.
There may be something in its apparent ability to prolong the caffeine high, and it could also be a useful drink for someone on a low-carb diet, as it was initially intended. But as a simple replacement for your morning coffee, it probably won’t do much. Except maybe increase your daily saturated fat consumption.
There are a few exceptionally highly caffeinated coffees on the market, typically with an irreverent marketing angle, such as the Death Wish brand in the United States and F**king Strong Coffee here in the UK.
Contrary to what you might think, these are not basic coffees boosted with powdered or liquid caffeine, but rather they use specific beans and roasting methods to draw out more caffeine. In the case of Death Wish, it contains exceptionally high amounts and is something you should not take lightly.
Kopi Luwak and Other Animal-Excreted Coffee
There are so-called “premium” coffee beans that are eaten and excreted by animals before being picked, roasted, packed, and sold. These include coffee picked from the excrement of birds, monkeys, and elephants.
The animal’s digestive system and the semi-fermentation that results is supposed to produce a better taste, as is the case with Kopi Luwak, often called the world’s most expensive coffee. It is produced by the Asian palm civet, a tree-dwelling animal that eats the beans and then digests them before they are collected.
It may be rare, but it has been called one of the worst-tasting coffees in the world, and this £500 per kilo drink has been cause for concern with animal-rights groups.
Your taste buds may suffer, your bank account probably will, and the animals almost certainly will—maybe you should just skip it and make a cappuccino instead.