Coffee is grown all around the world.
From Mexico and Guatemala to Vietnam and Indonesia. Although some people believe that all coffee tastes the same, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Coffee is mainly grown in four parts of the world. These are South America, Central America, Africa and Asia. These areas are known for their unique coffee tastes, and when you take a further look into the countries, the tastes change even more.
But why and how does the taste of coffee differ from country to country? Furthermore, if it changes from country to country, just imagine the differences between farms in the same country. The taste profiles are endless! Keep reading to find out more.
Similar to wine, the terroir can make a huge difference to a coffee bean. Terroir includes things such as soil, rainfall, climate and sunlight.
Soil management is a crucial part of growing coffee. Think of the soil as a home for the coffee. If the soil is well managed, the beans can grow to become healthy. However, if the soil is not well managed, this can affect the way the beans grow and can cause them to become defective.
If the soil is kept well, it can help to maintain the moisture level, allowing the beans to receive the correct amount of water. This can be very helpful in dry spells or throughout a drought.
The amount of rainfall can have a massive effect on a crop’s yield. Generally, coffee plants thrive with 60-90 inches of rainfall a year. Anything below 30 inches a year will cause the coffee plant to produce a very low yield of cherries, and therefore, coffee beans. In addition to this, low rainfall can have a negative effect on the overall health of the plant.
The amount of rainfall a coffee plant needs is dependent on the condition of the soil and terrain. Heavy rainfall can lead to erosion which can cause waterlogged roots which in turns leads to disease and rotting. Even with a proper drainage system and food, high levels of rainfall can bring mould and fungus to a plant.
When growing coffee beans, there are two climates that are ideal growing conditions.
The first being subtropical regions such as Mexico and Brazil. This is where coffee is grown at temperatures between 16 and 24 degrees. In these regions, there will be distinct rainy and dry seasons and coffee will be grown anywhere between 1800-3600 feet. The conditions of these regions mean there is one growing season and one maturation season. The latter takes place during the coldest part of Autumn whereas the growing season will take place during the warmer summer months.
The second growing climate is in equatorial regions such as Kenya and Colombia. In these regions, coffee is grown at altitudes between 3600-6300 feet. Due to this higher altitude, the beans experience much lower temperatures from about 15 degrees and under. There is constant rainfall in these regions which helps the plants to continually flower, resulting in two harvests every year.
Country of Origin
As mentioned before, coffee is mainly grown in three parts of the world which each have their own advantages. This is due to each area having unique growing conditions which affect the way the beans grow and result in unique beans being created.
Africa is known to be the birthplace of coffee. Originating in Kaffa, Ethiopia, African coffee is known to have very complex flavours with a natural sweetness and acidity. Countries that grow coffee in Africa are known to have some of the best growing conditions in the world and equally produce some of the best coffee in the world.
Generally, coffees from Africa tend to hold lighter, fruity and floral flavours such as jasmine, lemon and blackcurrant.
The growing countries of Africa include Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.
There is a huge range of coffee profiles and tastes in Central America. You will find distinct differences in taste as you move from country to country.
Costa Rican coffees are known to be full-bodied and have a natural sweetness with a distinct richness.
Guatemala is known to produce some of the finest coffees in Central America as its soil is incredibly nutritious, offering ideal growing conditions. Guatemalan coffees have a rich chocolatey flavour and usually a toffee-like sweetness. They are typically full-bodied and have a bright acidity.
Mexican coffees are generally light or medium coffees, and their flavours reflect that. They have a mild and balanced acidity with delicate fruity notes. The main growing regions of Mexico are Oaxaca and Chiapas. Each region has its own unique taste.
Oaxaca produces coffee with a medium body and milk chocolate notes.
Chiapas coffees are bright and sweet with a slight spice which adds to the fruity notes aforementioned.
South America is home to some of the largest producers of coffee in the world. Brazil is the top coffee producing country in the world. Colombia is third, coming in behind Vietnam.
As mentioned above, Brazil is the largest coffee producer in the world. The country mainly exports naturally processed coffee; however, some washed coffees are produced. Brazilian coffees are well known for their heavy body and nutty flavour. Some coffees from Brazil will have a slight acidity too.
Colombia produces coffees with a great body, acidity and a crisp, slightly fruity finish. Almost all the coffee that comes from Colombia is washed coffee. It is also one of the only countries in the world to only produce Arabica beans.
Peruvian coffees are generally very bright and light-bodied. You will find nutty notes, along with a chocolatey aroma in these coffees too. Peru also has several varietals which are grown without synthetic fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides.
Flavour Profiles of Farms
As shown above, the flavour profiles found in the countries of origin are unique from one another. The same can be said for the areas and individual farms within these countries. For instance, the Terroir can change from farm to farm within a country of origin, meaning two neighbouring farms could produce coffees which are incredibly different from one another.
Altitude can make a massive difference to the taste of a brew. For example, you could have a fruity coffee that has been grown at a higher altitude in the country of origin. You could also have a chocolatey coffee, grown in the same region, just at a much lower altitude.
The flavour profiles that are described above are a general overview of what you can expect to find in each country. The small holdings and estates within the country of origin have their own variation of these flavour profiles.
So there you have it, that’s how the country of origin can impact the taste of your cup.
Next time you get a bag of our coffee or receive your monthly coffee subscription, take a look at its country of origin and see if you can pick out the flavours.