Arabica Coffee Beans – The Ultimate Guide

Arabica coffee beans are the most popular and widely consumed type of coffee beans in the world, accounting for 60% of the world’s total production. But what exactly are they, and where do they come from? In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about arabica beans, including:

Let’s get started!

What is Arabica Coffee Bean? – An Overview

An arabica coffee bean is the seed of a coffee cherry, a red or purple fruit produced by the coffea arabica plant. These seeds have a flat and elongated oval shape with a prominent center crease called the bean’s cleft.

When raw, arabica beans have a light grassy green color with a hint of light brown. After they are roasted, they turn into darker shades of brown, like the ones we commonly see. The longer the roast time, the darker the color.

Arabica coffee beans are special not only because they are the first to be discovered among 124 other types, but also becuase of their sweet and smooth flavor, with suble yet complex notes. You can expect hints of citrus, floral, spicy, and chocolate, depending on the variety.

Some famous ararbica varieties include: bourbon, typica, caturra, geisha, and kona. Most of them evolved from natural mutation or hybridization; others were specially engineered to resolve a specific problem, such as production.

Origin of Arabica Coffee

Arabica coffee beans originated from Ethiopia in 1000 BC. They were first discovered in a region called Kaffa, which gave rise to the word “coffee” that we use today.

According to a local legend, a goat herder named Kaldi found one of his goats very energetic after eating red berreis from a bush-like tree. He tried the berries himself and felt the same effect. THis was how coffee was found.

Back then, people didnt drink coffee as a beverage. The Oromo tribe in Kaffa directly ate the coffee bean, by grinding and mixed it with fat. They shaped this mixture into balls, like ping-pong balls, and ate them when they needed energy or stamina.

Spread of Arabica Coffee

In the 7th century, arabica beans crossed the Red Sea and reached Yemen and lower Arabia. This is where it got its name “Arabica”, meaning “from Arabia”.

The Arabs were the first to largely cultivate, trade, and brew arabica beans as a beverage.  The first recorded use of coffee as a drink was by an Arab scholar in the 9th century. He mentioned that coffee was “useful to prolong their working hours.”

That is why in Arabic, the word “coffee” refers to “qahwa” (“kahwa” or “gahwa”), meaning “wine of the bean.” Arabs also considered arabica as stimulant and a source of energy.

As arabica coffee became more popular and well-konwn, it started to be cultivated and spread far beyond Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula.

In 17th century, arabica coffee beans were introduced to Venice, via the Venetian merchants who traded with the Ottoman Empire. Only when Pope Clement VIII baptized arabica coffee did it become widely accepted throughout Europe

After that, arabica coffee bean were cultivated in other regions and countires suitable for growing coffee plants, such as Java in Indonesia and America. Since, Arabica has been  researched and innovated to improve quality and production, developing new varieties.

Where is Arabica Coffee Grown?

Present day, arabica coffee is mainly grown in Central and South America, Western Africa, and Southeast Aisa, specifically in the regions that belong to the “coffee bean belt.” Here, they grow in places with rich soil, cool and dry climate, and higher altitudes.

Let’s take a closer look at these areas:

Central and South America

Arabica coffee grows mostly in Centural and South America, where the climate and altitude are ideal for the arabica species. Among them, the major Arabica producing countries are Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Notably, Brazil is the top producer of coffee beans in the world, contributing a third of the world’s coffee. Its main arabica producing regions are Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo, and Bahia. Brazil’s arabica variety has low acidity, nutty flavor, and chocolate notes.

Western Africa

Africa is home to the arabica coffee plant. Its long history with Ethiopia still stands as African Arabica is one of the most highly sought-after coffee beans. Often, they have floral, citrus, spicy, and chocolatey flavor notes.

In addition of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania also produces high quality arabica coffee beans that have fruity, floral and wine-like notes.

Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is an important producing region of arabica coffee beans.

Within, Indonesia is the third largest producer in the coffee market and sources arabica beans to Starbucks. Indonesian Arabica beans are known for its earthy flavors and also for “kopi luwak” or cat poop coffee beans.

The Philippines and southern states of India, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, are grow arabica coffee beans. It’s known for its mild and balanced flavor.

Growing Arabica Beans and its Influence on Price

Learning how arabica coffee plants grow is helpful, as you will understand how different growing condition generates the bean’s distinct flavor and relatively high price.

Arabica coffee plants are small shrubs that can reach 9 to 12 meters tall in wild, but they are usually pruned to about 2 meters for easy harvest. It takes about 7 years for arabica tree to mature and produce quality coffee beans.

The arabica coffee flower is small, white, and fragrant, like jasmine. They are followed by red, purple, or yellow fruits called  coffee cherry, which contain 2 coffee seeds each. Havesting coffee cherries require a keen eye an hand-picking as they do not ripen at the same time.

Not only is harvesting arabica beans labor-heavy, they also require a stringest growing environment. The opitmal conditions are:

  • A subtropical climate, with the temperature from 15 to 24°C (59 to 75°F).
  • Gentle sunlight, shade and frequent rainfall.
  • High altitutes, preferably on hillsides and mountains between 1,100 and 1,900 meters (3,600 and 6,300 feet) above sea level.

 At these elevations, the hot days and cool nights slow down coffee bean maturation, giving them time to develop a more delicate flavor.

Even if all these conditions were fulfilled, cultivating arabica beans are challenge because they are pest and disease-vulnerable. A disease called “coffee leaf rust” in the 19th century almost eliminated all of the arabica trees worldwide.

With these conditions and a low yield, it’s understandable why Arabica can be so pricey!

Arabica Coffee Bean Varieties

Arabica coffee has the most sub-varieties compared to other species.

Aside from natural mutation, coffee farmers and specialists collaborate to perform cross-hybridization or genetic alterations to produce better quality arabica beans with higher yield and climate or disease resistance.

Let’s have a look at some famous and well-known arabica coffee varieties.

Typica and Bourbon

Typica and Bourbon are the two most common arabica coffee varieties that evolved through natural mutation. Typica coffee bean has clean and sweet flavor with hints of nuts and spice. While bourbon beans are bright and acidic with hints chocolate and fruit.

They are known for their premium quality, but they have low yield and are suscptible pests and diseases. Because of this, typica and bourbon coffee are often crossed with other varieties or genetically modified to create novel species that can have a higher production.

That is why, Typica and Bourbon are the parents of many popular sub-varieties of Arabica coffee, such as Geisha and Caturra.

Fun fact: Typica was considered the first sub-variety to be discovered.

Gesha Coffee

Also spelled “geisha”, gesha coffee is a rare and exquisite variety that was discovered in the Gori Gesha forest in Ethiopia around 1930s. It’s unique flavor coming from its unique genetic make-up distinguishes it from other arabica varieties.

Gesha coffee has delicate hints of tropical fruit, jasmine, and honeysuckle. Additionally, it gained more popularity when it won the Panamanian Cup of Excellence competition in 2004.

It is one of the most expensive coffee beans in the world due to a limited yield and very high demand.

Jamaican Blue Mountain

Jamaican Blue Mountain a typical sub-variety that embodies premium quality due its unique geographic environment.

It grown at an altitude of 3000 to 5500 feet above sea level, where the cooler temperatures help the development of complex flavors. To add, mineral-rich volcanic soil and frequent rainfall also influences the gradual ripening of the coffee cherries, helping to produce a more nuanced flavor profile.

Jamaican Blue Mountain has sweet and mild flavor to accompany its light body and creamy texture. This distinct taste profile separates it from typica. Like Geisha, it is one of the rarent and most expensive coffees in the world.


Caturra coffee is a natural mutation of the bourbon coffee. It was found in Minas Gerais, Brazil in the early 20th century. Because the caturra plant evolved to grow smaller, its name is dervied from the Guarani word meaning “small”

Now, Caturra thrives mainly in Central and South America at high altitude, where produces decent quality coffee beans in high yield. It has bright and acidic taste, with notes of chocolate and fruit.


Kona coffee is another one of the world’s most expensive arabica variety.

It which grows on the Big Island in Hawaii. Specifically, this specialty coffee is exlusively cultivated on the slopes of Mauna Loa and Hualalai volcanoes in the North and South Kona Districts, where it benefits from the rich volcanic soil, mild climate, and frequent rain. Kona coffee has been cultivated there since 1825 under the governance of Chief Boki.

The strict growing location gives kona coffee extremly high quality, which makes it welcoming among the world. It has a light body, with sweet and fruity flavor.

SL-34 and SL-28

Although their names are incredibly unattractive, SL-34 and SL-28 are two of the most famous arabica cultivars, or genetically modified varieties, that’s definitely worth trying.

Scott Agricultural Laboratories or “SL” in Kenya developed these two coffee varieties around 1930s. SL-34 and SL-28 are the majority of Kenya coffee exports famous for their sweet, fruity and wine tastes, known as “blueberry bombs”.

Arabica Coffee vs. Robusta Coffee: Which is better?

Besides arabica, robusta beans are also popular. Here we quick summarize their characteristics and differences, so you can choose the best one for you.

Flavor. Arabica is sweet, mild, and fruity, while Robusta is bitter, stronger, and earthy.

Acidity. Arabica coffee also contains higher acidity than robusta, giving a brighter taste.

Caffeine. Robusta has higher caffeine content, containing 2.7g caffeine per 100g beans. Meanwhile, Arabica only has 1.6g caffeine per 100g beans.

Production. Arabica, with its inviting taste and diverse varieties, commands 60% of the global coffee market, leaving about 40% to robusta coffee.

Price. Arabica coffee is pricier than robusta. In December 2023, robusta reached 2.987 USD/Kg, while arabica was priced at 4.646 USD/Kg.

Things to consider when buying Arabica coffee beans

Having known the charm of arabica coffee above, you probably can’t wait to try it! But hold on, how do you choose quality arabica beans?

Follow our guide so you won’t be cheated.

Opt for 100% arabica coffee to savor its full richness. When trying specialty coffee, avoid coffee blends. Be sure to check out ingredients as some coffee brands would mix other coffee beans to cut costs.

Buy fresh, whole arabica beans. Although coffee beans won’t expire, they would start to losing freshness once roasted. Much more, grinding beans can accerlerate this process. So, check the “best by date” before you purchase, and grind just before your brew.

Choose reputable brands. Whether it is from your local roaster or big coffee establishments, known brands already have a proven track record and they can’t risklosing their fame by decreasing their product quality. Research authorized, guaranteed brands before you buy arabica coffee beans.

The Takeaway

Arabica coffee beans the global coffee market. It has superior quality, and is expectedly, expensive. It tastes mild, sweet, fruity and a little acidic. It originated from Ethiopia, but now grow mainly in Central and South America.

Arabica coffee has many varieties, like Bourbon anf Typica, each has their distinct characteristics that makes them special. Overall, try experimenting with different sub-varieties and tell us which you like most!


What are the 4 types of coffee beans?

The 4 types of coffee beans are arabica, robusta, liberica, and excelsa. While arabica and robusta dominate the market, they have contrasting flavors. Arabica is sweet and smooth, while robusta is bold and bitter. On the other hand liberica and excelsa are often used to enhance coffee blends. Liberica adds a woody note, while excelsa adds complixity ranging from fruity and tarty to nutty and chocolate.
Check our article “different types of coffee beans” to know more about this topic.

Photo of author


Mesphird Yang

I have been brewing and drinking coffee for almost 6 years now. At first, I was just dazzled by how baristas look and that's why I started learning. In the long run, I became obsessed with its charm. I have tried many coffee brewing methods, with different kinds of beans in various roast levels. If I could have more than 4 cups of coffee a day, I definitely would!

Leave a Comment