What is Arabica coffee?
Arabica coffee is one of main coffee varieties. It had been found before robusta and had an older history as compared to robusta. Arabica has a very typical coffee aroma with a very charming taste. It has a lower caffeine content as compared to robusta. The coffee has a pure sour taste thanks to its acidity and is less robust and strong than robusta. In global coffee markets, arabica coffee always has higher prices than robusta’s with an assumption of doubled prices.
What is the history of the name?
The name of Arabica might be originated from Arabia Peninsula. It is said that coffee after being found in Ethiopia of Africa had been introduced into Arabia peninsula as the Arabia is very near to Ethiopia. Arabia also is a main gate to Europe from Africa. The Arabian perceived the giant value of coffee and tried keep it as a secret to the rest of the world for a monopoly. That may be how Arabica was named. Mocha, another name of Arabica, also originated from a Yemeni seaport named Mocha, situated in Arabia peninsula at the other side of Red Sea.
How many types of Arabica are there?
Commercially speaking, there are 4 main original kinds and 1 type of hybrid of arabica. The original ones are Caturra, Bourbon, Mocha and Typica. The hybrid one is Catimor. In Vietnam in the past, the respective main types were Bourbon and Mocha. Mocha in Vietnamese is also called Moka or Moca. Currently, the main type of growing Arabica in Vietnam is Catimor whilst there is a very small percentage of Bourbon and Mocha have been still planted in Da Lat.
On the contrary, Catimor is presently the main kind of arabica in Vietnam planted from Lam Dong to the Middles and North Western areas of the nation. Catimor, in theory, is not an original arabica because it is a hybrid between Caturra (original arabica) and Timor which is compounded from arabica and robusta. Timor coffee has been founded on Timor islands and is blended between arabica and robusta. Most importantly, one reason which Timor is most suitable is that it can be as strong as to live against rust diseases – a main disease in a coffee tree. Therefore, Catimor has been widely planted across Vietnam thanks to its strength against rust.
Where are main plantation of Arabica in Vietnam?
Arabica coffee is like a “princess of coffee”. It is also called mountain coffee because the first condition for arabica is the height from 1,000m to 1,500m above sea level (asl.). In addition to the condition of next to equatorial circle, of the height among mountain peaks, arabica demands for a cool climate with 16 – 25oC in temperature, the yearly average rainfall of above 1,000mm and a big gap of day-vs-night temperature. Since this coffee is grown in such a pure condition, Arabica’s aroma and quality are much more dominant than robusta. The dangerously mountainous areas such as Blue Mountains range in Jamaica always contribute excellent arabica coffee beans.
Vietnam also has famous planting regions for arabica such as Cau Dat, Da Lat which are located on immesely Langbian plateau with high mountains such as Yang Bong (1,749m), Hon Giao (1,948m) or Langbian (2,163m) and cool climate all the year round. A Luoi, Thua Thien Hua with high mountains such as Dong Ngai (1,774m), Co Pung mountain peak (1,615m), Re Lao (1,487m) and Tam Voi (1,224m) also promises to contribute premium arabica coffee beans. Moving backwards to North Western is Chieng Ban’s Arabica (of Son La province) which has been believed to be famed as Kona, Hawaii some day.
Generally speaking, volume of Vietnam arabica has been still small as compared to robusta at around 60,000 metric tons per annum, mainly at Lam Dong. The country had planned to boost Vietnamese Arabica to hit the target of 200,000 metric tons 2020 in which the main focuses are the Middles and North West. Like other countries, Arabica in Vietnam is normally wet-processed after harvests and the domestic demand is rather huge.
How to classify Arabica?
In Vietnam, Arabica coffee is sorted or classified by sieves. The most important ones are screen #16 and screen #18. Screen #16’s diameter is 6.30mm while screen #18 is 7.10mm. In addition to screening, green coffee beans are also sorted by moisture, foreign matter, black and broken and on-sieve percentage. Vietnamese Arabica is sometimes classified by growing origins. In Lam Dong one of Vietnam’s famous growing areas, for example, suppliers also classify arabica into high-landed arabica and low-landed arabica. High-landed or upper-landed one is consider a more premium one such as Cau Dat’s Arabica. Or Lam Dong’s arabica is distinguished against Buon Ma Thuot’s arabica. In general, this is a relative comparison only. However, Cau Dat’s in particular is now a specialty coffee.
What is the consumption of Arabica in Vietnam?
Like global coffee comsumption, Arabica is positionized as premium coffee in Vietnam. Those who drink arabica coffee are really coffee masters. However, arabica in Vietnam is usually called Moka while most of arabica in Vietnam today are Catimor. Beside espresso roast or pure roast, Arabica in Vietnam is popularly roasted with butter. With the catering trend of bold taste, brewed arabica coffee is regularly served with condensed milk and brewed with phin filter (or dripper). Recently, many coffee drinkers love blending between arabica and robusta to have a more balanced cup which is mixed between rich aroma and strong taste.
Due to economic growth and people get busier than ever, Vietnamese phin filter seems not suitable any more because one must wait for long to get a cup and together with the introduction of Westernized coffee brewing, more Vietnamese coffee drinkers are changing from phin to espresso machines or even single serve brewers such as K cups or coffee capsule in order to save time and experience a new way of coffee preparation. In addition to classical “ca phe sua da” (brewed coffee with condensed milk), the youngster also falls in love with Western-styled coffee cups such as cappuccino, latte or machiato, etc.
To sum up, arabica has a long-lasting history and has been loved by many coffee fans all over the world. Arabica might originate from the word “Arabia”. This coffee possesses a featured sour (acidity) taste with low caffeine content, rich in aroma and very charmingful. It should be planted in high altitude with cool climate, good rainfall and big gaps of day-vs-night temperature. In Vietnam, arabica is mainly understood as Moka. However, the main type in the country is Catimor which is a hybrid of arabica and robusta to protect it against leaf rust disease. Although the young Vietnamese tend to drink coffee with Western styles, this coffee in Vietnam is still mainly brewed with phin filter and mixed with condensed milk as a traditional coffee recipe. Vietnamese arabica is very delicious as well with well-known single origins such as Cau Dat, A Luoi and Chieng Ban.