Coffee Beans or Seeds.
We call them Coffee beans but actually they are seeds. They’re seeds, from the fruit of coffee plants, and while all beans are seeds, only seeds which are a member of a particular family (Fabaceae, Leguminosae) are actually beans.
Coffee Trees / Plants
Coffee cherries grow on small trees and shrubs of the Coffea Genus. You may be interested to know that there are 124 species of the “Coffea” genus, which is a member of the Rubiacea family. Other plants in the Rubiacea family include shrubs, trees and herbs, and there are lots of them!
There is also species called Liberica which can grow to 20 metres tall but most of the coffee beans that we buy will be Arabica or Robusta or a blend of the two.
Arabica & Robusta
The majority of coffee beans used for speciality single origin coffees are Arabica while Robusta is often mixed with Arabica beans to produce an espresso blend.
Instant coffee is more often than not a blend of Arabica and Robusta. There are some brands of instant which are 100% Arabica, but unless you’re buying a coffee which is specifically advertised as so, it’s likely to be a blend.
Arabica grows at much higher elevations, especially the trees which grow the better quality beans. It’s a far more varied coffee taste profile thanks to the many different tree varieties, where it’s grown, the soil and how it’s processed.
Robusta is hardier, less susceptible to disease such as leaf rust, can be grown at much lower elevations and it is generally cheaper to produce. In terms of taste, Robusta is generally acknowledged as having a very strong taste that is too much on its own for most palates. However when blended with Arabica it can give a nice kick and helps to produce a good espresso crema. It can contain up to double the level of caffeine than Arabica.