Can high-quality Robusta coffee save the industry as Arabica beans face threats from climate change?

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The quiet white-walled room on the outskirts of Buon Ma Thuot, Vietnam, is a stark contrast to the bustling coffee capital it resides in. The occasional sounds of an electronic scale or the pouring of coffee break the silence, as a group of people in white lab coats diligently work on perfecting their craft.

Nguyen Van Hoa, a self-proclaimed “green bean hunter” and owner of Stone Village Lab and Education, is leading the charge in changing the perceptions of Robusta coffee. Often considered inferior to Arabica, Robusta has had a bad reputation in the coffee industry for being mass-produced and lacking complexity.

However, with the looming threat of climate change affecting Arabica production, the focus is shifting towards improving the quality of Robusta. Vietnam, the world’s largest producer of Robusta, is at the forefront of this transformation.

In the heart of the Central Highlands plateau, coffee plantations like Aeroco are taking a more sustainable approach to growing coffee. By integrating coffee plants with other flora, they are creating a balanced ecosystem that benefits both the plants and the land.

The meticulous process of hand-picking ripe cherries at Aeroco ensures that only the highest quality beans are used, even if it means sacrificing productivity. The result is a superior product that is incomparable to mass-produced Robusta.

As the demand for specialty coffee grows in Vietnam, cafe owners are introducing higher-end Robusta options to cater to a younger audience. The shift towards a more refined coffee experience is evident in the rise of local coffee giants and artisanal cafes across the country.

With the global coffee industry facing challenges from climate change, the future of coffee production lies in cultivating high-quality Robusta. By changing the image and perception of Robusta, Vietnam is paving the way for a new era of specialty coffee that celebrates the unique flavors and characteristics of this resilient bean.

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