Coffee Growing Regions
The roughly 70 countries that comprise global coffee production are scattered around the world, generally between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn - between the southern most and northern most latitudes where sun can be directly overhead. These include parts of Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia and North America. Given their proximity to the equator, these countries are able to offer the ideal climate: average 70 degree temperatures, rich soil, and a healthy mix of both sun and rain.
Africa is largely considered to be the birthplace of coffee. Coffees from this continent are best known for their moderate to high acidity. These coffees tend to be light to medium bodied and are often characterized by floral, citrus and berry notes. Coffees from Africa are dynamic and pleasant offering high acidity and fruit forward flavor.
Coffee producing countries in Africa:
- Ivory Coast
The Arabian Peninsula
In Yemen, where coffee was first commercially cultivated, coffee is still grown in the age-old manner within the small, terraced gardens of family farms.
In Yemen, where coffee was first commercially cultivated, coffee is still grown in the age-old, century-proven manner. Within the small, terraced gardens of family farms, you can almost always find a few coffee trees. Since water is scarce in this arid land, coffee beans grown here tend to be smaller, and more irregular in size and shape. Lack of water also means that the coffee cherries will be dry processed after harvest. The result is that Yemeni coffee has a distinctive taste that is deep, rich and like no other.
In ancient times, when coffee was shipped from the famous Yemeni port of Mocha to destinations all over the world, the word Mocha became synonymous with Arabian coffee. The Dutch combined Arabian coffee with coffee grown on the island of Java to make the first coffee blend -- and one that is still well-known today -- Mocha Java.
These coffees tend to be the fullest in body with greater earthy qualities and a mild level of acidity. They can be heavy, syrupy, smoky and herbal. The processing of these coffees tends to be less developed due to a lack of sophistication in processing methods. This usually has a notable influence in the cup profile of the coffee.
Coffee originally came to Vietnam in the mid-nineteenth century when French missionaries brought Arabica trees from the island of Bourbon and planted them around Tonkin. More recently, coffee has been re-introduced and the coffee industry is growing so fast that Vietnam is rapidly becoming one of the world's largest producers. Today, small plantations, located in the southern half of the country, produce mostly Robusta coffee. With light acidity and mild body with good balance, Vietnamese coffee is frequently used for blending.
Coffee producing countries in Asia/Indonesia:
- New Guinea
- East Timor
Central American coffees tend to be the most balanced of any growing region. They are generally medium to full bodied with a moderate acidity. These coffees have a high level of perceived clarity and cleanliness, especially in the finish. Typically, their acidity is less citric than African coffees, and has a more apple-like flavor. Fruit flavor notes include peach, apple, melon, etc., with body and sweetness similar to milk chocolate.
Coffee producing countries in Central America:
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
North America & The Caribbean
United States - Hawaii
Though coffee farms are found throughout the Hawaiian islands, it is Kona coffee, from the large island of Hawaii, that is best known and always in high demand. Here, nature provides just the right environment for the coffee trees on the slopes of the active Mauna Loa volcano. Young trees are planted in black, volcanic soil so new that it often seems the farmers are growing seedlings in rock. Afternoon shade from tropical clouds forms a natural canopy over the trees to protect them from intense sun, and frequent island showers give the plants just the right amount of rain. Kona coffee is carefully processed to create a deliciously rich, aromatic cup of medium body.
Small Mexican farms are more common than large plantations, but with over 100,000 coffee farmers, Mexico is one of the world's largest coffee producing countries.
Small Mexican coffee farms are more common than large plantations, but with over 100,000 coffee farmers, Mexico ranks as one of the largest coffee producing countries in the world. Most farms are in the southern states of Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas. A cup of Mexican coffee generally offers a wonderful aroma and depth of flavor, often with a pronounced sharpness. It is an excellent bean for dark roasts and is often used in blends. A Mexican coffee designated Altura means that it was grown at high altitudes.
Coffee was brought to Puerto Rico from Martinique in 1736, and by the late 19th century, the island was the sixth leading exporter of coffee in the world. However, major hurricanes and competition from other coffee producing countries forced the island to seek other means for economic survival. Today, the coffee industry is being revived with carefully cultivated coffee from quality Arabica varieties that are produced to the highest standards. There are two major growing regions on the Caribbean island: Grand Lares in the south central region, and Yauco Selecto in the southwest. Both regions are noted for their beans’ balanced body and acidity, as well as a fruity aroma.
Some aspects of Central American coffee cup profiles can also be found in South American coffees. They are balanced, medium body cups with moderate acidity. However, because South America is the largest coffee growing region with huge variance in territory, along with disparate development and processing techniques, its diverse coffee producing nations should be considered as separate and distinct from Central America. Coffees from South America will vary in elevations and processing techniques and, as a result, will vary in flavor. For example, coffee from Colombia, has a wide range of flavors, but is categorized generally as producing balanced, medium body coffees with a soft acidity.
Coffee plantations in Brazil often cover immense areas of land, needing hundreds of people to manage and operate them to produce huge quantities of coffee.
Brazil is the biggest coffee producing country in the world, with seemingly endless expanses available for its production. Coffee plantations in Brazil often cover immense areas of land, needing hundreds of people to manage and operate them to produce huge quantities of coffee. Both Arabica and Robusta are grown, and the climate, soil quality and altitude determine which variety will grow best in which region. A fine cup of Brazilian is clear, sweet, medium-bodied, and low-acid.
Coffee producing countries in South America:
Adapted from ncsusa.org