Several factors make some coffees rank higher than others across the globe. These factors include geography, geology, culture, history, agriculture, and botany among others. Many elements come into play when assessing the quality of coffee. Also, getting the best coffee beans requires the right treatment process.
There’s immense expertise and passion that goes into growing and brewing tasty coffee. In this guide, you’ll learn more about what it takes to grow and brew top-quality coffee. You’ll also learn about the countries that produce the highest quality coffee globally.
Considering that the character and quality of coffee mainly depend on the specifics of the location where it’s grown such as soil, elevation, and micro-climate, coffee connoisseurs work hard to find out where various coffees originate from.
Among the key factors that determine the overall quality of your favorite cup of java is the kind of coffee beans used in brewing. For instance, Arabica coffee beans produce more superior flavor and complexity than Robusta coffee beans. Geography is another key factor that determines the flavor and quality of coffee. In fact, identifying different coffees is first done based on the country they’re grown in.
The way coffee cherries are harvested and processed also influences the flavor and quality of coffee. Also, maintaining the natural aromas and flavors of coffee requires the coffee beans to be stored and shipped properly.
Making the Perfect Coffee Roast and Grind
Coffee roasting is another determining factor in the characteristics and flavor profile of a coffee brew. There’re several types of coffee roasts made by coffee roasters including dark, medium-dark, and light roast. Each roast accentuates different coffee qualities and notes.
Essentially, coffee brewed from lighter roast has brighter acidity. Lighter roast allows the floral and fruity notes of coffee to shine. On the other hand, dark roast produces coffee with lower acidity and highlights deeper flavors such as nuts, caramel, and chocolate.
It’s also important to use the right grind when grinding whole coffee beans. For instance, a tasty cup of Greek coffee requires a fine powdery coffee grind whereas a perfect cold brew or French press requires a coarse grind.
Ethics and Culture in Coffee Production
Ethics and culture are not left behind by responsible coffee lovers. A perfect cup of java is the one sourced responsibly. Thus, it’s important to ensure that environmental sustainability and fair trade practices are considered from growth to consumption.
Culture in Coffee Consumption
There’s a deep culture related to coffee consumption throughout the world. Culture determines how coffee lovers from all corners of the world drink coffee. Also, coffee plays a major role in different cultures. For instance, coffee shops and coffeehouses throughout the globe are a center of intellectual and creative discussion. Strangers, friends, relatives, business people, and workmates often choose to meet in coffee shops for all kinds of discussions. In the process, they get to enjoy their favorite cup of coffee.
Countries that Lead in Growing the Best Coffees
Every coffee-growing country has its unique agricultural practices, processing methods, and terroir that determine the flavor of its coffee. If you’re a coffee enthusiast, it’ll help to know the regions that grow the best and tastiest coffee around the world. It’s also important to know what makes their coffees special. Let’s get started.
It’s believed that coffee originated from Ethiopia. According to history, a herder known as Kaldi noticed that his goats got livelier after feeding on the fruits of a certain plant. These fruits were coffee berries from the Coffea Arabica plant, popular known as the Arabica/Arabian coffee plant.
Also, it’s believed that the name coffee originated from Ethiopia. Kaffa, an Ethiopian province, is named after “qahwa”. “Qahwa” is an Arabic word referring to coffee.
Today, coffee still plays an important role in Ethiopian culture. Actually, Ethiopia holds a coffee ceremony involving roasting coffee beans. Once roasted, they’re pounded in readiness to brew coffee. The coffee is served by pouring it from a high position, where it’s drunk in a total of three rounds. However, you can still enjoy Ethiopian coffee without being a master of their coffee ceremony.
Ethiopian coffee is grown in a highland area known as Sidamo. The highly elevated ground slows down the maturation rate of Coffee Arabica plants. Consequently, the coffee beans get enough time to have a richer flavor.
The Yirgacheffe area of Sidamo boasts of having the most unique coffee in Ethiopia. Yirgacheffe has the highest elevations in Sidamo. The smooth and rich Yirgacheffe coffee has aromas of chocolate and berries.
Yemen has a rich history in the map of coffee. According to history, an Ottoman Empire governor was deployed to Yemen. The governor loved local coffee. As a result, the governor introduced coffee to Suleiman I, who was an Ottoman Empire Sultan. Suleiman I also loved the coffee drink. Consequently, coffee gain popularity throughout the Empire. Its popularity spread to cities such as Budapest and Vienna. Coffee cultures across these regions are renowned. Today, Yemeni Udaini coffee is famous for its spicy, floral, and chocolate notes.
Kenya has several excellent regions for growing coffee. Most coffee-growing zones in Kenya are located between Nairobi and Mt. Kenya. Regions including Murang’a, Thika, and Nyeri are famous for their complex Arabica coffee beans. The main coffee varieties grown in Kenya include African K7 and SL 28. The zesty and rich Kenyan coffee flavors are especially noticeable in the Kenya Twiga AA variety grown in Nyeri.
Coffee beans in Kenya are graded based on their size. The Kenya AA beans and the Peaberry variety are some of the finest coffee beans in Africa. The Kenya AA variety is grown in zones with an altitude of 1700 to 1900 meters. Thus, this variety qualifies for Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) and Strictly High Grown (SHG) designations.
While Kenyan coffee is among the best, the Kenyan coffee industry doesn’t have the best history. Luckily, it’s now making better history. After gaining freedom from the British colonial rule, the coffee industry in Kenya has since improved. Kenya employs a coffee auction system when selling its coffee. The auction allows for a transparent coffee pricing system based on the quality of coffee.
Brazil boasts of being a powerhouse in coffee production. In fact, Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world. Brazil produces about 40 percent of the coffee supply in the world. Brazil’s climate and rain forests allow for coffee plants to thrive.
Not all Brazil’s coffee is categorized as single origin. Both Robusta and Arabica beans are grown in Brazil. Some of the country’s coffees are great for making instant coffee. Also, its coffees are used in making coffee blends such as espresso blends. The reason behind this is that the coffee isn’t grown at high altitudes.
Coffees produced in Brazil are largely characterized by a mild, balanced flavor and low acidity, making them perfect for blending. Coffees grown in Brazil, especially Bourbon Santos and Brazil Cerrado are great for roasting. In fact, most espresso blends use Brazilian dark roast as a major ingredient.
Brazil does produce fine coffees. Among its finest coffees is the Bourbon Santos variety. It’s grown in the north of Minas Gerais. This coffee variety features nutty and sweet flavors. Its acidity is fairly low. Another coffee variety grown in Brazil is Carmo de Minas, which is grown in the southern Minas Gerais region. Another fine Brazilian coffee is known as Mantiqueria de Minas. It’s rich in aromas of nuts, coconut, and chocolate.
- Costa Rica
Among the most notable coffee-growing countries is Costa Rica. The coffee varieties grown in Costa Rica are purely Arabica coffees. The country takes coffee-growing seriously. In fact, there’s a local institute dedicated to researching coffee plants and agricultural practices. Much of the country’s coffee is grown by independent farmers on relatively small plantations.
Costa Rica’s Central Valley area that hosts the capital city, San Jose, experiences sunny and rainy afternoons, which are excellent weather conditions for growing coffee. The region’s volcanic soil and high altitudes also allow for growing top-quality coffee. The country features a narrow landscape with a sea covering both sides. The country’s mountainous terrain boasts of having great coffee-growing zones. Its coffees come with several great flavor profiles.
Some of the country’s best coffees are grown in Doka Estate, a region within Costa Rica’s Central Valley. Also, the Cartago province produces great coffee varieties such as caturra and catuai. A hand-picked coffee variety, known as Peaberry, is grown in the highly elevated Tres Rios area. Peaberry features a citrusy and bright aroma.
The Tarrazu region produces some of the best coffees in Costa Rica. This region is highly elevated. It produces gourmet coffee varieties that are SHG designated. The fine Tarrazu coffee features a delicious flavor including sweet cream and milk chocolate.
There’re certain initiatives in the country that promote coffee growth, including unusual coffee designations such as Bird-Friendly coffee varieties. Coffees certified under this designation are aimed at enhancing biodiversity. Farms certified to grow coffees under this designation also grow taller trees that allow birds to nest.
Shade from taller trees slows the rate of coffee growth. Thus, the plants produce more complex berries, making this strategy beneficial for both coffee drinkers and birds. Coffee certifications in Costa Rica also include organic coffees, rain forest coffees, and fair trade in the sale of coffee.
Coffee beans produced in Costa Rica are great for light, medium, and dark coffee roasts based on the preferred flavor profile.
The potential of growing coffee in Indonesia was discovered by the Dutch colonial rulers. Most notably, the Dutch colonialists introduced coffee growth in Indonesia’s Java Island that features high elevations and a favorable climate.
Indonesia produces both Arabica and Robusta coffee beans. The Arabica beans grown in the country are most notable for their high quality. The best Arabica varieties are grown on the Sulawesi Island (especially the Toraja coffee variety), on the Kintamani region of Bali, on Papua, and on the Sumatra Island.
The coffee grown on Sumatra Island is highly distinctive due to the processing method used. The coffee is processed using a well-hulled processing method known as giling basah. Top-quality Sumatran coffee varieties feature an earthy and rich flavor with cedar, cocoa, and tobacco aromas. It also features low acidity.
A Sumatra variety known as Mandheling coffee is among the best Indonesian varieties. It’s grown across the Aceh area of northern Sumatra. Aceh is also known for Gayo coffee, especially near Lake Tawar. Another coffee variety known as Sumatra Lintong is grown near Lake Toba. Sumatra Mandheling is smooth and fruity, with an earthy and funky flavor. In fact, Sumatra Mandheling is now popular among the world’s leading coffee connoisseurs.
Indonesia is popular for its coffee processing methods, especially Kopi Luwak or civet coffee. The Kopi Luwak brew is processed from coffee beans that are passed through the palm civet’s digestive tract. The palm civet is an Asian mammal. This processing method makes Kopi Luwak one of the world’s most expensive coffee varieties. Its processing method makes it a controversial coffee. Once found across the wild nature, Kopi Luwak coffee beans are now commonly found in civet farms. Palm civets are enclosed in civet farms to feed on Kopi Luwak beans, making it a controversial coffee processing method.
Colombia is known to produce some of the best coffees in the world. Its coffee is highly popular due to the country’s unique marketing strategies. The country has a federation that promotes its coffee industry. Colombia also improved its popularity in producing coffee by establishing a character known as Juan Valdez, whose role was to promote Colombia’s image in coffee production.
Besides Colombia’s mass coffee marketing strategy, which has been a huge success, the country also produces top-quality coffee beans. The country produces Arabica coffee, mostly grown on small plantations by independent farmers.
Colombia has excellent coffee growing conditions. The volcanic soil and high altitude in coffee-growing zones allow for the production of high-quality coffee. Also, coffees in the country are often grown under shades such that they grow slowly, thereby allowing them enough time to gain more complexity.
The majority of Colombia’s coffee farms are found on the highlands region of Sierra Nevada as well as the slopes of Andean/Andes Mountains. Coffee in the Andean slopes grows at a high altitude of about 1650 meters. The coffee has a fruity and sweet acidity, combined with rich and toasty aromas.
Colombia’s coffee is also popular due to its farming and harvesting method. Considering the rough terrain in Colombia’s coffee-growing regions, harvesting is done by hand. As such, harvesting is done when cherries are fully ripe. In some farms, the cherries are allowed more time to mature further before harvesting.
Guatemala is yet another Central American region where coffee production thrives. Coffees grown in Guatemala are some of the best varieties you can find. Their high quality is a result of excellent conditions that allow coffee plants to thrive. The regions where coffee thrives have their own conditions that allow for the production of coffees with distinct characteristics.
The Huehuetenango area, near Mexico, has high altitudes of between 1500 to 1800 meters. The high altitudes allow for the growth of coffee beans with rich acidity and brightness. Also, its coffees are complex and fruity.
Coffee farms near Lake Atitlan have volcanic soil, which allows for the production of coffee beans characterized by notes of nuts and chocolate. The Guatemalan Antigua region also features volcanic soil that allows for the production of sweet coffees with notes of fruits and chocolate.
The Guatemala Cobán coffees, grown in the Guatemala Cobán rainforest, are spicy and rich with even and floral winey notes. The region of Fraijanes Plateau, which is a mountainous area surrounding Guatemala City, features an altitude in the range of 1200 to 1500 meters. The area also features rich volcanic soil. Coffees grown in the Fraijanes region have a rich acidity. Volcan Tacana, located in San Marcos, features a warm and wet climate that favors the production of coffees with vibrant acidity.
Coffee Cultures and Specialty Coffees
The quality and origin of coffee matter a lot. Regardless, coffee offers deep cultural experiences worldwide. There’re several coffee cultures in the world, including coffee cultures in countries such as Ethiopia, India, Italy, and Greece. They all offer distinctive experiences. Although the level of roast, brewing method, the grind used, and preparation method are crucial factors in the coffee industry, the history and cultural context of coffee also matter. Some of the most notable coffee cultures in the world include:
- Coffee Culture in India
While India is often associated with tea, the country has a rich coffee culture. For instance, the South Indian Mysore coffee, also known as filter coffee, filter kaapi, or degree coffee, offers a great coffee drinking experience.
Making this coffee requires having the right coffee filter. Essentially, the special Indian filter is relatively similar to the one used in making Vietnamese drip coffees. To make the coffee, place ground coffee on the coffee maker and pour hot water over the grounds. Next, cover the coffee pot. It’ll take several minutes to brew the coffee. Brewed coffee will collect inside the vessel set below. Since South Indian coffees are potent, you’ll require to add hot milk for the best taste.
The popularity of coffee in India varies in different regions. For instance, coffee is most common in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. Baba Budan, a Sufi Muslim, introduced coffee to the South India region from Yemen. The popularity of coffee in South India grew during the British colonial rule.
The sweet milky coffee in India and its preparation method offer a unique coffee experience.
- Coffee Culture in Greece
Although the Italian coffee culture boasts of being among the most popular coffee cultures globally, its neighboring country, Greece, has a different and deep-rooted coffee culture.
The traditional coffee drink in Greece is similar to Turkish coffee. The Greek coffee dates to the time when Greece was ruled under the dictatorial Ottoman Empire. After the Ottoman monarchy ceased to exist, coffee stayed. The delicious and rich Greek coffee remained almost unchanged through several centuries. It was the main type of coffee served until recently. It’s still served in many Greek homes today. It’s common in coffee shops across Athens and other locations, making it part of the country’s rich coffee culture.
When making Greek coffee, the beans are roasted and ground to make a fine coffee powder. Next, the fine coffee is specially blended with cool water. Blending is done in a coffee pot known as a “briki”, which is pronounced as “bree-kee”. Sugar may be added to sweeten the coffee. Once done, it’s simmered over low or medium heat. The coffee is served in demitasses or espresso cups. A tall glass of cold water is always placed beside a cup of Greek coffee.
When taking Greek coffee, you shouldn’t rush coffee breaks. In fact, Greek coffee shouldn’t be drunk too fast. Since the ground coffee isn’t filtered when making Greek coffee, you have to practice patience to allow the grounds to settle before drinking the coffee.
The kind of coffee you can describe as the best is all about your taste. Regardless, it’s important to know the factors affecting coffee production. As you have seen in this guide, the character and quality of coffee depend on agricultural practices, botany, geology, and geography. The freshness of the beans, the roast, as well as the grind plays an important role in determining the overall quality of coffee. Thus, a lot takes place before a rich cup of coffee reaches you.
Besides, the kind of preparation used to make a cup of coffee determines its taste. Even the most basic coffee preparation method can result in a tasty cup of coffee as long as it’s done carefully.
Ultimately, learning more about coffee keeps you a step closer to finding more about the best coffees you can find across the world.