Coffee is grown in more than 50 countries around the globe, mostly between latitudes 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South, which encompasses an area along the Equatorial zone known as “the Bean Belt.” What region and country a bean was grown is usually its most defining characteristic. The quality of dirt, climate, altitude, the amount of rainfall and sunshine, all have profound affects on what you taste in your cup.
Defining a coffee by the region it was grown tells you a lot of what to expect in aroma and flavor. Like fine wines and the grapes they are made from, a coffee bean can greatly be defined by the region that gave it birth. Let’s explore some of the more well known coffee regions around the world and what to expect from each when you plunge your French press.
Mexico and Central America
Beans grown in Mexico and Central America tend to be mild, fragrant, but have subtle complexities and undertones. Expect moderate acidity, medium body, and an approachable flavor that lacks the intensity of other coffees. Most coffees grown in this region are wet processed, says John Giuliano at the Brewing Coffee Manually blog. These beans are mild, easy drinking with a likability that is not overwhelming. This can create some of the best flavored decaf you can imagine.
Beans grown in South America typically come from two of the region’s biggest coffee producers: Columbia and Brazil, which make up 43% of the global coffee market combined. But these two countries produce vastly different coffees. Columbia produces coffees similar to Central America – mild, wet processed, and subtle. Brazil tends to produce dry processed coffees that tend to have more robust flavors. This process lends itself to also creating good decaf, and also candy bar flavored coffee.
Legend has it that coffee first originated in Ethiopia and wild coffee tree forests are still the primary harvesting source, according to the National Coffee Association. Ethiopian coffees are generally wet processed but feature a full bodied, down to earth flavor. Kenyan coffee, grown in the foothills of Mount Kenya, tends to be sharp with a fruity acidity and a rich, fragrant full bodied flavor.
Indonesian coffees tend to be grown on several of the larger Indonesian islands, Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi, and are valued for their high quality, full flavor, richness and mild acidity. Indonesia is also famous for fine aged coffees, where the bean sits for a period of time to fetch not only a stronger, richer flavor but a higher price.
In Vietnam, coffee farming has been recently reintroduced to the region and it has quickly become one of the largest sources in the world for beans, according to the National Coffee Association. Small plantations, typically in southern Vietnam grow mostly Robusta coffee with light acidity, and a well balanced mild body. It’s an ideal coffee for blending.