Arabica got its name around the 7th century when the bean crossed the Red Sea from Ethiopia to present-day Yemen and the lower Arab peninsula (hence arabica).
Arabica is also the Merlot of coffee, its mild taste a seductive evocation of sweetness, light and mountain air.
As Ernesto Illy wrote in the June 2002 issue of Scientific American, Arabica is "a medium-to low-wielding, rather delicate tree from five to six meters tall that requires a temperate climate and considerable growing care. Commercially grown coffee bushes are pruned to a height of 1.5 to 2 meters. Coffee made from arabica beans has an intense, intricate aroma that can be reminiscent of flowers, fruit, honey, chocolate, caramel or toasted bread. Its caffeine content never exceeds 1.5 percent by weight. Because of its superior quality and taste, arabica sells for a higher price than its hardy, rougher cousin."
Illy is chairman of illycvaffè, a family coffee firm founded in Trieste, Italy, in 1933, that specializes in roasting and distributing one blend of arabica coffee.