Locked in each coffee bean is a unique aromatic oil that gives the bean its distinct flavour. The characteristics of a coffee bean could be likened to the personality of a human being. How's that? The factors that influence the quality of a coffee bean are similar to the factors that shape our personalities. In a nutshell there are two basic factors which shape a personality: genetics and environment.
There are essentially two main types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta.
Robusta beans are genetically inferior in quality and flavour. Robusta coffees are generally thinner in body and have a flat, muddled taste. A Robusta bean, grown even under the very best conditions, will never compare to a good Arabica bean. Of course, a Robusta bean grown in poor conditions (low-lying, damp areas) results in the worst coffee of all.
Arabica coffees have a more distinct and "pure" flavour. This higher quality bean is more difficult to grow, but the rewards are well worthwhile. The perfect environment for coffee cultivation combines rich soil, such as that found on extinct volcano slopes and a high altitude. The higher a bean is grown the sharper and cleaner its flavour will be. These high-grown beans blend well with other beans. Their finer qualities come to the fore when the heat (of roasting) is on.
The basis of a coffee is the bean, but there are many more factors to consider when choosing a fine coffee. Watch for updates on roasting, geography and blending.