Every morning, millions of people start their day enjoying a cup of coffee. But did you know that the flavor of your coffee is shaped by its growing conditions? Region, soil type, climate, elevation, and processing method all affect the taste of the drink we all know and love. The coffee tree is a living thing, and just like us, it thrives with optimal nutrients, sunlight, and care.
Is a coffees’ growing region a flavor?
Certain regions are known for delivering similar coffee flavor profiles. That means if you know someone who “loves Guatemalan coffee”, they are probably finding the notes of chocolate, fruit, and caramel that they enjoy time after time. Processing method (how fruit is removed from the coffee seed and its drying process) can influence the cup as well.
The primary coffee growing and exporting areas are all near the Earth’s equator.
- Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania.
- Asia: China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Yemen.
- Central America: Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico.
- South America: Brazil, Ecuador, Peru.
- Hawaii, Cuba, Vietnam, and many others.
The main coffee growing regions are Central and South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. This area between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn is known as the "Bean Belt", or coffee belt. Nearly all of the commercially grown coffee in the world comes out of these regions, as these areas are considered to be supreme growing conditions for coffee trees. The best beans produced are those grown at high altitudes, in rich soil, a mountainous tropical climate, and processed with care.
Central and South America is one of the top coffee producing regions in the world. Brazil and Colombia lead the way in volume of coffee production, but Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama also produce great coffee. In terms of flavor, these coffees can have a massive range from heavy and chocolate to vibrant and fruity. Colombia is a well-known coffee producing country and is unique because of its exceptionally mountainous landscape and rich volcanic soil.
The most famous coffees from Africa and the Middle East originate in Kenya, Ethiopia and the Arabian Peninsula. Kenyan coffee is generally grown in the foothills of Mount Kenya and can be full bodied and very fragrant. Ethiopia, considered the birthplace of Arabica, has a rich history of coffee that started with the harvest of coffee from wild trees. Ethiopia’s main sources of coffee are from Sidamo, Harer, or Kaffa -- delivering full flavored and bodied, or even tea-like and bright coffees. The fruity and floral coffee from Ethiopia opens many coffee explorers’ eyes to the diversity of flavor that coffee can have.
Southeast Asia is particularly popular for coffees from Indonesia and Vietnam. The Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi are famous around the world for their rich, full-bodied coffees with earthy flavor and little acidity. You can find interesting coffees from Asia due to processes like monsooning and giling basah, which result in a higher moisture content and a heavy bodied, spicy profile with very little acidity.
Variety of coffee has a massive impact on flavor. Specialty grade coffee is generally Arabica, which is brighter and sweeter, and grown at high altitudes. The variety Robusta is usually commodity grade and has a heavier and more bitter flavor.
Influencing the flavor of coffee: the region, processing method, and the roast
After harvest, coffee beans are processed and shipped out to be roasted and distributed to consumers and cafes. Processing methods affect coffees’ flavor profile significantly, and new processing methods can alter the unique quality of coffee.
Experimental processing methods such as anaerobic fermentation and carbonic maceration have begun to alter this concept of attributing certain qualities to regions.
These fairly new methods of preparation can yield unpredictable, yet tasty results. The fruit of the coffee cherry is removed through fermentation in a sealed drum or container, this will add different aromatic compounds altering the final flavor. The character of a regions’ coffee can be vastly different than expected with these methods compared to washed or naturally processed coffee.
Check out our Unique & Limited Release coffees, you may even find some of these!
Taking time to think about where your coffee comes from and how it got to your cup, may add an extra dimension to your morning ritual
What does this mean for your cup? Each of the coffee exporting areas produce coffee that is distinctive of its climate, topography, and growing practices. Different processing methods can also add a new perspective on a coffees’ flavor. This means if quality specialty coffee is what you’re after, each one is worth trying! So next time you brew a delicious cup of coffee, take notes on the flavors and smells you pick up, and try to find what makes your tastebuds the happiest!