As an adventurous coffee club, our aim is to curate an exploratory trip through the many coffee producing regions of the world. Coffee is grown within an equatorial band pretty much right around the globe. Each region produces unique characteristics based upon the terroir, micro-climate, common varieties used and regional processes. So where is coffee grown?
Coffee is native to Africa. Specifically the great rift valley in Ethiopia and South Sudan. These countries along with Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, D.R. Congo, Malawi and Uganda are common stops for high quality specialty Arabica. East African coffees like these are typified by bright acidity and pronounced fruity and floral flavours.
Coffee is also grown in West Africa but due to lower lying, tropical jungle-like conditions it is Coffea Canephora or Robusta which is most prominent here. There are pockets where Arabica can be found and we have tasted some great lots from Cameroon, watch this space.
The powerhouse of the coffee producing world. Brazil alone produces over 40% of the world's Arabica with Colombia coming in second at around 14%. Conditions in these two countries dictate global coffee prices by sheer weight of volume. If there is an abundant harvest in Brazil prices plummet for other much smaller producing countries, irrespective of their own harvest.
Flavours range throughout the continent depending on altitude, processing and varieties. With the Andes being the backbone of coffee producing countries like Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador - this altitude provides clean fruit-like acidity to otherwise chocolatey bases. While coffees from lower lying Brazil typically offer milk chocolate, nuts and a rich mouthfeel.
The many different producing countries of Central America make up another key region for coffee growing. Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador and Mexico typically produce well-structured coffees with balanced acidity. Each of these countries have contributed greatly to the development of better quality coffees. Whether it be innovations in processing methods or careful cultivation of new of obscure varieties.
Coffee is also grown in parts of the Caribbean such as Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It also grown much farther afield in Hawaii where the famously expensive Hawaiian Kona coffees prevail. These prices however are more indicative of farming costs and scarcity than quality alone.
The first coffee to be transported out of Africa made its way to the ports of Yemen. It then arrived in India in the late 1600s and from there it was transported to Indonesia by the Dutch at the turn of that century. Coffee is still cultivated in these countries today and has spread to countries like Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. The largest producer of coffee in Asia, and the second largest in the world, is Vietnam. However Arabica makes up only about 3% of that total with the remainder being Robusta.
Flavour profiles range widely throughout Asia, much as the geography of these countries does. Coffees from Yemen are always naturally processed and thus typified by that boozy, fruit-like flavour profile found in naturals. While Indonesian coffees generally have spice notes, heavy bodies and some tropical fruit notes.