What is the coffee growing belt and where do we find it? Come with us on a (caffeine fuelled) road trip!
Question: Where does coffee grow?
Answer: The coffee belt!
The coffee belt is the place where almost all arabica coffee grows. It loops around planet earth like the most stylish accessory EVER and provides perfect growing conditions for the coffea arabica plant.
If you’ve ever had a good cup of coffee – and we really hope for your sake that you have – then you can pretty much guarantee that it will have come from the coffee belt.
Fancy a holiday? We thought so – let’s check out this glorious coffee growing belt!
Where is the coffee belt located?
The coffee belt, or coffee Bean Belt, isn’t hard to miss. It forms an imaginary loop around the planet, stretching from Central America to Papua New Guinea and Australia in the Pacific Ocean.
Got a map handy? Cool beans. Because we can tell you exactly where you’ll find the coffee bean belt.
See the equator? The coffee belt runs horizontally along it, spanning 25 degrees north and 30 degrees south of the equator. It lies snuggly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
This coffee-growing region is mahoosive: it’s not Sunday morning stroll material. Well, not unless you fancy a 3200 miles (5100km) trek!
Coffee belt countries
Around 70 countries sit along the coffee belt, but not all are pinpoint-perfect for coffee growing. Of the 70, around 40 make the grade as coffee belt countries. These countries sport climates the coffee plants love, and produce substantial amounts of coffee for us to roast and enjoy.
The coffee belt stretches through five continents (we said it was long…):
- South America
- North America
And here are some of those special coffee belt countries:
- South America – Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
- North America – Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Jamaica
- Africa – Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe
- Asia – Thailand, India, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia
- Oceania – Australia
Why can coffee grow in the coffee belt?
When it comes to arabica coffee, location is key. They like a south-facing patio in a suburban area, with good schools nearby.
Just joking. Here are the actual ideal coffee growing conditions:
- Tropical climate
- High-quality soil
- Fresher temperatures
- Ample rainfall
- No frosts
- Shade to protect from harsh sun
- Few pests
The countries in the bean belt are a tick-list of these coffee growing conditions. Many have high altitude areas and pleasant temperatures somewhere between 21° and 29°C (70° and 85°F). Arabica coffee plants love both.
Most coffee belt regions have a clear difference between their rainy and dry seasons. This is ideal for coffee, as rainy seasons give farmers the best conditions for planting coffee seedlings. Countries closer to the equator can have more than one rainy season, too.
Then there’s the Pacific Ring of Fire. No, it’s not a motorbike move. Or a fire eating stunt. The Ring of Fire is a region around the Pacific Ocean where we find 75% of the world’s volcanoes. Volcanic activity gives some stellar soil; it’s fertile, mineral-rich and just right for coffee plants!
Coffee belt countries such as Guatemala, Papa New Guinea and Peru sit in the Ring of Fire, and many more sit around it.
When did coffee start to grow in the coffee belt?
You might have heard Ethiopia crowned ‘the birthplace of coffee’. This isn’t strictly true, as we can trace coffea arabica trees back to Sudan in North Africa. But it was in the bean belt country of Ethiopia that arabica really started to flourish.
In early Ethiopia, we find coffee beans growing in the wild. We eat them as a fruit rather than drink them in mug-shaped form.
In the 1600s, we start exporting arabica beans from Ethiopia to Yemen and the Middle East, where coffee shops are popping up. This marks the start of coffee harvesting and trading. While beans in Ethiopia are harvested from the wild, Yemen starts setting up specific coffee plantations to satisfy the coffeeholics’ demand. More coffee trading arrives in Ethiopia in the early 19th century.
Can coffee grow outside the coffee belt?
Nope, very little coffee is grown on a large scale outside the coffee belt. We know nothing is impossible, but coffee-growing beyond the coffee belt comes close to it. Outside the bean belt, the conditions just don’t cut the mustard.
Coffee buffs (we love ya’!) might try growing coffee at home. But we’re talking single-plant-named-Alan rather than a seven-acre coffee farm.
Not that Alan the coffee plant isn’t awesome, of course.
Want to learn more about single-origin coffee growing? Come with us (on another holiday)…
More about coffee!