Colombian coffee vs Arabica – You don’t have to be a licensed barista to consider yourself a coffee aficionado. You have researched many things about coffee, the processing, flavors, and serving methods.
However, you have always found yourself stuck to a corner asking yourself when it comes to coffee beans: which is better between Colombian and Arabica coffee?
There is no definite answer as to which coffee type is better as personal preferences are a significant determining factor. However, most people with an extended interest in coffee would agree that Colombian coffee is a bit better when compared to Arabica.
You don’t have to agree with the crowd when it comes to preferences. However, to provide more empirical and theoretical judgment, it does help to read more about the differences between Colombian and Arabica coffee.
How different is Colombian Coffee from Arabica Coffee, and are they even different at all?
For this question, I have all but one response: reasonable inquiry and excellent background knowledge! Although Colombian coffee and Arabica coffee may seem like they are different types of coffee, they are technically the same. Before you get all confused, let me explain why this is the case first.
Colombian coffee has a “same people, different vibes” relationship with Arabica coffee, kind of like the Johansson twins. Although technically in the same species, Colombian coffee actually has vital differences with Arabica that we will discuss later.
The differences are enormous enough to categorize these two as different types of coffee.
However, it would help if you remembered that although Colombian coffee is classified as a different class compared to Arabica coffee, Colombian coffee is technically a variety of Arabica coffee.
Arabica coffee is an umbrella term for all Arabica beans grown on all corners of the globe; meanwhile, Colombian coffee refers to Arabica coffee grown in Colombia exclusively.
Is Colombian coffee better than Arabica, or is it the other way around?
We have answered this question earlier, but here, we’ll spare you a bit more detail in this section of the article. Many qualities constitute to which one is technically “better.”
Many coffee drinkers see Colombian coffee as the lighter, cleaner cousin of Arabica coffee when it comes to taste.
Does this mean it is better? Not necessarily. However, most coffee aficionados and baristas correlate Colombian coffee’s taste profile as superior to your regular Arabica coffee.
Added with its consistently high price tags and a consensus of preference to Colombian coffee, this coffee bean family has always been deemed the superior bean of the two, despite having the Arabica dominate the coffee market.
As a result, most coffee beans you find from Starbucks to your local cafes are mostly Arabica coffee.
Getting to know Arabica Coffee
Today, Arabica coffee is world-renowned as it currently accounts for more than 60 percent of all coffee bean production worldwide. The name came from its origins, in which it originated in Ethiopia, where it was mixed with fat as stimulants of the Oromo tribe.
It wasn’t until much later, when they arrived in Arabia, wherein Arabian scholars first brewed them to prolong their work times. Ultimately, the name Arabica coffee bean was named after.
Most Arabica coffee plants are taller than a person, reaching up to 9 to 12 meters in the wild and 2 to 5 meters commercially. They are picked by hand, as machines waste many coffee beans compared to their human counterparts.
It has made the export and harvesting of Arabica coffee beans heavily reliant on human labor. Not only that, Arabica coffee plants take five to seven years to mature before they can actually produce coffee beans.
Today, Arabica coffee is highly regarded, especially compared to other varieties such as Robusta, as the latter is usually correlated to harshness and strength.
At the same time, Arabica is usually associated with its smooth chocolate, nuts, and caramel notes. Additionally, cold-brewed Arabica has been known to develop these taste notes on higher levels.
Most Arabica coffee is grown in high altitude, subtropical climates in temperatures between 15°C and 24°C (59°F and 75°F) and likes to be grown in the shade.
They are grown mainly in the South and Central Americas, in countries like Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Brazil, and Colombia. In addition, some plantations are from Ethiopia, India, and Rwanda.
With Arabica growing in different parts of the world, it is often challenging to assign a “one size fits all” answer to how Arabica tastes; thus, vague answers are usually associated with Arabica coffee.
While some consider this as something negative, most coffee aficionados obsess over the fact that Arabica coffee beans can have subtle taste note differences, especially when comparing Arabica coffee beans from one region to another.
Getting to know Colombian Coffee
You may have seen the packets that tell you about 100% Colombian coffee. However, why does Colombian coffee matter anyway? How is it inherently different?
For starters, Colombian coffee is a variety of Arabica coffee beans exclusively grown in Colombia. Many people don’t understand the origins of the distinctive Colombian coffee taste notes because it’s less about the bean’s genetics and more about its processing.
Unlike most coffee, Colombian coffee is washed during the preparation process, thus giving it the names “washed Arabica” or the “washed Arabica variety.”
To ensure that what you are drinking is 100 percent authentic Colombian coffee, make sure that the coffee you are getting has the marks “100% Colombian Coffee” on it.
For quality assurance purposes, this tag is monitored and regulated by the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros (FNC) of Colombia.
Colombian Coffee VS Arabica: critical differences
We have discussed that Arabica Coffee and Colombian Coffee have differences. This section of the article will dive more into their differences, from their production methods to caffeine content. To make it easier, we have compiled it as a list.
1. Location of Production
We have already touched upon this topic before. Honestly, the production location is essentially one of the most significant lines on the differences between Colombian coffee and Arabica coffee.
While all Colombian coffee is Arabica, not all Arabica is Colombian coffee, mainly because it is not fully grown in Colombia.
Arabica can be found in South America, Central America, and Africa. The coffee you are most accustomed to drinking is probably from a coffee farm somewhere in the Americas, more specifically South America.
Most western coffee shops shy away from buying African Arabica coffee not because it tastes terrible, but because it tastes “wacky” (just another exaggeration for different).
African Arabica coffee is mainly associated with its tea-like notes compared to the South American nutty and chocolatey flavors. This distinction of flavor notes is one of the driving reasons why Arabica coffee from Africa is often not favored.
As for Colombian coffee, it is most of the time produced in Colombia, known for its coffee production called the Huila region. In 2016, just the Huila region produced 2.6 million 60-kilo bags, which accounted for 18% of the country’s coffee.
This region is unique, not only with its quantity of coffee produced but also world-renowned for its exquisite quality of produced coffee.
With this excellence, the Huila region’s Colombian coffee is now on par with such region-associated concoctions such as champagne from the region of champagne and some varieties of cheese tied explicitly to one region of a country, having awarded the highly coveted Denomination of Origin status in 2013.
2. Processing: It is a big difference
Although it may be easy to attribute Colombian soil and climate as the major factors in developing Colombian coffee’s exquisite and favored taste, the real difference maker is when it comes to the harvesting and processing the coffee.
We have discussed earlier that Colombian coffee is “washed Arabica.” This is because most non-Colombian varieties of coffee, including Arabica, of course, dry the coffee cherries (the coffee fruit) in the sun. However, when it comes to Colombian coffee, after being processed, they are washed.
So one may ask: how exactly does washing increase the quality of the coffee? According to experts, having the Colombian coffee washed helps the coffee beans develop the light and bright flavor most commonly attributed to the said variety of coffee beans.
So with the “wet processing,” coffee beans processed using the “dry processing” methods will pale compared to the color of the overall taste. However, wet processing also requires more work output, a lot of water, specialized workers, and thus we see higher prices.
3. The prices. They are a big deal
So if Arabica coffee is “inferior” to Colombian coffee, why is every other cafe, including Starbucks using it?
First of all, Colombian coffee is pricey even when compared to the already pricey Arabica coffee. This stark pricing means that Colombian coffee is not generally viable when used for cafes aiming for competitively priced commercial coffee.
The reasoning with the price of Colombian coffee is that it is susceptible to climate and temperature, just like Arabica. However, unlike Arabica, Columbian coffee’s production is way lower, and it also incorporates more processes when produced.
With a basic understanding of supply and demand, you’ll realize the answer as to why Colombian coffee is not used in every other cafe.
4. Preparation Methods
Because Colombian coffee and Arabica coffee at their heart is not that different, that means that their preparation methods are not that jarringly different either. However, just because they are not jarringly different doesn’t mean that their preparation methods are the same.
However, since Arabica is much stronger when compared to Colombian coffee, the taste may be very different and be more bitter even when it is brewed using the same methods as Colombian coffee. This fact would imply that to produce less bitter coffee, one will need to reduce the concentration of Arabica coffee compared to Colombian coffee.
Another thing Arabica coffee is known for is that once it is brewed, it must be consumed as fast as possible (less than 30 minutes). This rush for time is because Arabica coffee is notorious for turning bitter the more you cool it off.
This fact, of course, does not mean that Colombian coffee can be left out there in the cold, as it too turns bitter the more you cool it off. However, unlike Arabica, Colombian coffee has a broader period before it turns excruciatingly bitter. This broader time is a product of Colombian coffee’s less bitter, lighter, and brighter taste.
This characteristic of Colombian coffee makes it a perfect bean for espressos, as it can be brewed and concentrated without getting too bitter. This would mean that if you are not a massive fan of bitterness but would still like to get that strong punch from coffee, Colombian coffee is for you.
Colombians are known to consume Colombian coffee directly without brewing it.
However, because some Colombian coffee beans are not approved for export, Colombian coffee farmers and locals would indulge in this concoction by making Colombian coffee through a very reminiscent method of instant coffee. They either boil them directly or use pour-over methods to consume the said coffee.
As for Arabica coffee, dry processed Arabica beans are optimal, especially in traditional brewing methods. The traditional methods often create a thick, strong coffee.
5. Taste: how well do both coffee varieties fare with each other?
Colombian coffee is known to have a lighter, cleaner, and brighter taste compared to Arabica coffee. It is a product of the wet processing method, making Colombian coffee taste highly coveted by baristas and coffee aficionados alike. This allows for more robust, less bitter coffee.
On the other hand, although more substantial than Colombian coffee, Arabica is smooth, creamy, and has the infamous notes of chocolate and nuts. Just because Colombian coffee is better doesn’t mean Arabica is inherently flawed. Quite the contrary.
Arabica coffee is a gold-standard variety of coffee and is the most widely traded coffee variety worldwide. However, arabica coffee by itself isn’t aggressive either– especially when compared to varieties like Robusta.
Robusta coffee is notorious for its more aggressive, more robust texture, which some (especially Vietnamese people) consider good. However, Robusta coffee’s robust and aggressive texture is a deal-breaker to most of the western world.
6. Caffeine Content: Which coffee variety has more caffeine? Arabica or Columbian coffee?
As we know at this point, Colombian coffee and Arabica coffee are very similar genetically. Thus, it reflects not only within its somewhat similar signature taste but also with its nutritional content.
Since they are at their core, both sport almost the same amount of caffeine, despite Colombian coffee tasting lighter and less bitter.
Compared to Robusta, Arabica and Colombian coffee only have half of their caffeine content. Despite this, Arabica and Colombia top the charts regarding sugar, as both have twice the sugar from Robusta while having 60 percent more lipids.
Exploring the bitter beans from Colombia: Three Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Colombian Coffee and Arabica Coffee.
Is the Colombian Roast made out of 100% Colombian Coffee beans?
Just because a package sports the name “Colombian Roast” doesn’t mean it used 100% Colombian Coffee beans.
Most coffee roasts contain beans of different varieties of unspecified ratios. It would mean that buying a Colombian Roast means that it can be a bag containing 80 percent Colombian coffee beans, or it can be a bag containing 5 percent Colombian coffee beans.
Is Colombian Coffee dark roast?
Colombian coffee comes in varieties and may be light, medium, or dark. However, be aware that most dark roasts are intentionally made dark to hide that they are made out of subpar, below-passing quality beans.
To be assured that what you are consuming is actually high-quality Colombian coffee, buy a light to medium roast as they are more difficult to fake.
Aside from Colombian coffee, what are the different varieties of Arabica coffee?
There are many varieties of Arabica coffee. For simplicity, we will only talk about ten varieties of Arabica coffee in moderate detail.
Two of the most interestingly named varieties are SL-34 and SL-28, both major exports from Kenya, with other less intimidating names called “Blueberry bombs” and fruit-like tastes.
Another is called Jackson and is known to be produced in some regions of Africa with its acidic signature. Finally, Gesha is a variety that is known to be one of the world’s most expensive.
Typica is one of the first coffee varieties. The Bourbon variety is known for its fruit and chocolate taste. Creamy and mild, Jamaican Blue Mountain is grown in Jamaica.
Kona is a variety known for its expensive price, most commonly grown in Hawaii. Known for its size, Maragogype has a lively fruit flavor. Pache is known to be popular with coffee blends and has a flat, smooth flavor.