Contrary to popular belief the survival of the fittest does not always mean the survival of the
nicest. In the world of coffee this can be clearly seen.
There are two main species of coffee grown – arabica coffee and robusta coffee. Arabica coffee
is more highly regarded than robusta coffee and about three quarters of coffee cultivated
worldwide is therefore arabica coffee.
Arabica coffee is considered superior thanks to its preferred flavours and aroma. Robusta coffee
contains about 40-50% more caffeine and is used for espresso blends due to its full-bodied
taste and better foam head (crema).
Even though the world prefers arabica coffee it’s much harder to grow this variety. This is
thanks to the plant preferring higher altitudes and a cooler climate. Furthermore, arabica plants
are more likely to be attacked by the lethal coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix), which robusta is
much more resistant to.
Coffee has many other enemies as well – over 900 species have been identified as pests of
coffee crops worldwide. In general, arabic coffee plants are more sensitive and more likely to
suffer an attack – it appears neither human, nor any other form of life can resist this plant! Much
of what we consider to be pests are really only other forms of life trying to get at what we want
to preserve for ourselves.
Spraying coffee plants with insecticides has not proven effective, as the plant is more likely to
die than the pest and instead integrated pest management has developed. Maybe we should
be thankful for this as it will keep our coffee fairly “clean.” It also prevents overall pollution as
pesticides don’t only affect the plant they were targeted at.
So now you know a little bit more about one of our favourite plants of all time!