Arabica coffee gets its name from Arabia. Legend has it that around 500-600 A.D. a goat herder on the Arabian peninsula named Kaldi observed his goats eating a berry and their behavior became very lively. He decided to try the berry as well and felt the same energy as his goats.
Scientific evidence proves otherwise. Kaffa, now known as Ethiopia, is where coffee beans were first grown and then transported to Yemen. It could be that the word coffee came from the word Kaffa. Believing the coffee came from Arabia it became known as Arabica.
With more than forty species of plants in the Coffea genus only two are viable to make coffee, Coffea Arabica and Coffea canephora the later known as Robusta. Arabica is the better quality of the two.
Robusta tends to be bitter, has less body and a musty flavor. It is higher in caffeine. In France the coffee blend is 55 percent Arabica and 45 percent Robusta. Italians add in 10 percent Robusta to get a better crema head on espresso.
Eighty percent of all coffee produced in the world is Arabica. It prefers a higher elevation and drier climate than Robusta to grow. South America has ideal conditions for growing Arabica coffee beans at 3,000 to 6,500 feet. The higher elevation causes a slower plant maturity giving it time to develop the oils that give it the distinct aromatic flavor people love.
Within the C. Arabica species there are three varieties; Typica, Bourbon and Caturra. The sub-species have been bred to adapt to specific growing regions and to be resistant to disease and insects of those areas. There are subtle differences in taste, acidity and body.
C. Arabica is self-pollinating unlike C. Robusta and perhaps why it is more a prolific producer throughout the world. Theoretically it does better at high elevations where bees are scarce and not active where as C. Robusta prefers a hotter climate where the bees are abundant.