Robusta (C. canephora) Coffee

"[Another] species of coffee grown commercially around the world is C. canephora, the best-known variety of which is Robusta. The plant was first spotted by explorers in Uganda in 1862, where it was then used by the native Buganda tribe in a blood-brother ceremony. However, it was not until its rediscovery in the Belgian Congo in 1898 that it was thought worth cultivating. This was after outbreaks of hemileia vastatrix or 'coffee rust' had devastated the Arabica coffee plantations of Ceylon and the Dutch East Indies. Robusta coffee is, as the name implies, more robust than its Arabica cousin. It grows at lower altitude (and contains as much as double the amount of caffeine, perhaps in oder to deal with the more persistent insects of the tropical lowlands), it tastes coarse and rubbery, and has very little to recommend it other than resistance to disease, which is in itself a recommendation only to planters. It was initially banned from the New York Coffee Exchange as a 'practically worthless bean'. Being considerably cheaper than Arabica, it can be found in all sorts of less salubrious locations: instant coffee, cheap blends, vending machine coffee and the link. Its harsh flavour and heavy caffeine kick are easily identified. Introduced only a century ago with the sudden rise to prominence of Vietnam, it threatens to become a major force in the market, replacing the subtle refined flavours and aromas of Arabica coffee with its pestilential presence. It has some uses in espresso blending, but otherwise it is Arabica coffee's crude, boorish, sour , uncivilized, black-hearted cousin, and true coffee aficionados rightly give it a very wide berth... Nonetheless, nearly half of the coffee sold in the UK is Robusta, and even in Italy, a country which celebrates its coffee culture like no other, a third of the coffee drunk is Robusta, whilst nearly a quarter of the coffee drunk in the USA is Robusta. The country that has thus far remained more immune to its pernicious influence is Norway, where it is still virtually unknown."

-pp. 21-22, Black Gold: A Dark History of Coffee by Antony Wild (2005)

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