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Updated: May 24

Coffee companies use specific language on packaging to describe their coffee—

this can occasionally be confusing and conflicting, if not outright misleading.

Understanding the terminology makes it easier to choose the coffee you want.


Some coffee packaging only describes coffee as either Arabica or Robusta (the two main coffee species, see pp12–13). This is the equivalent of telling you only if a wine is white or red; you just don’t have enough information to make an informed purchase. Although Robusta is generally inferior to Arabica, labels that tout only “pure Arabica” are also a misleading indicator of quality.

Great Robustas do exist, but they are hard to find, so buying Arabica is often a safer bet—but there is a lot of poor Arabica out there, too. So what should discerning consumers expect to see on the labels? The best-quality coffee beans are usually described with a high level of detail, such as by region, variety, processing method, and flavor (see p33). Consumers grow in their understanding of good-quality coffee, and, as a result, roasters realize that the key to ensuring customer satisfaction is honesty and traceability.

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