The Reason Starbucks Only Uses Arabica Coffee Beans

A cup of coffee is only as good as its beans, and no amount of syrup or foam will mask the taste of bad beans. Starbucks understands that, which is why it only uses high-quality arabica coffee beans for all of its coffee beverages.

Along with arabica beans, robusta coffee beans are the most commonly grown in the world. When compared, robusta has a higher percentage of caffeine by weight (2% compared to 1%). And what may appeal to a coffee company about buying robusta over arabica beans is that the former is cheaper to purchase and is more plentiful thanks to the trees growing more cherries, which is the fruit of the coffee plant and from which the coffee bean (actually a seed) is extracted.  Another benefit of using robusta over arabica beans is that they contain more chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant. 

So why does Starbucks only use arabica beans to make everything from its cold brew to its mocha? It all comes down to how robusta and arabica beans taste when brewed.

Superior dynamic flavor

When it comes to purchasing coffee beans for its drinks, flavor reigns supreme for Starbucks. Brewed arabica beans result in a cup of coffee with dynamic and nuanced flavor. "It can be elegant. It can be complex. It can have body and acidity that is interesting and can be used and played with and blended into new, interesting tastes," said Starbucks coffee engagement manager Aaron Robinson.

The taste of arabica beans tends to be fruitier compared to robusta beans, which are described as having a bitter flavor. Additionally, with fewer oils, robusta beans develop earthier flavors. The reason robusta and arabica beans have such different taste is because of where the trees are grown. The hot days and cool nights of the high elevations where arabica trees thrive mean the cherries mature at a slower rate and have more time to develop flavor, resulting in complexity. Robusta trees are grown at lower altitudes and ripen faster.  With the cheaper cost and more caffeine content, robusta beans have traditionally been used for instant coffee. But, when it comes to Starbucks, its most important criterion is flavor, hence, why it proudly only makes coffee with arabica beans. Plus, it is a versatile bean that can be blended to create different flavors.

Next time you enjoy your favorite Starbucks coffee, know that its robust, complex flavors are thanks to arabica beans.