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312. “Robusta is indeed a big deal”

A lot has been said already in social media about “Let’s Talk Robusta,” a three-part program we sponsored as part of Sustainable Harvest‘s 10th annual Let’s Talk Coffee event earlier this month in Colombia.  I will share more in the coming days about the event, and I am confident that the contested concept of fine Robusta will be part of the specialty coffee conversation for many years to come.  In the meantime, there is no better summary of Let’s Talk Robusta than the two paragraphs that follow, which Sprudge included in its list of the top five takeaways from Let’s Talk Coffee.

Robusta had a real seat at the table at Let’s Talk Coffee, and our Twitter coverage on this topic garnered hundreds of retweets and replies, some snarky, some exclamatory, and some just plain curious. We tried to approach the topic with an open mind, and came away learning that some of our preconceived notions about robusta were exactly that – preconceived, and based on reputation rather than on facts. Which is not to say that we’re about to run out and advocate that our roaster friends switch over to robusta right away. The “Fine Robusta Workshop” we attended, which was the very first of its kind outside of India, yielded plenty of skeptical looks and maybe a few heart palpitations – robusta does have twice the caffeine content of arabica after all, and we were cupping at 2000 meters. Still, to call the robusta cupping we attended “unique” is to be perilously guilty of understatement, and one of the 7 coffees we cupped – a naturally processed high elevation robusta from Tanzania – was cupped out by experts at around 82.5 to 83, yielding acetic, fruit-like characteristics and a cleanness in the cup wholly unexpected from the robusta samples we’d tried previously.

We learned that almost all the robusta we’d tasted before Let’s Talk Coffee was suffering from defects, or had been grown at low elevation, and arabica with those two characteristics can be every bit as gross. Still, the smell in the room as dozens and dozens of samples of robusta were ground is something that we’ll probably never be able to forget. A very unique and unusual opportunity indeed, and look for more robusta coverage on Sprudge in the coming days.

Thanks, Sprudge, for the summary.  Looking forward to your ongoing coverage of specialty Robusta.

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