A Whistle Stop Tour Of The World's Coffee Producing Regions
We continue our exploration of coffees characteristics. This time we turn our attention to the different coffee producing continents. The way coffee is grown, where it is grown, and how it is harvested and processed differs from continent to continent. All these variables impact the flavour profile. This is another important topic to be aware of as you look to nail down which coffees are best suited to your palate.
Widely renowned as the birthplace of coffee, Africa is a good point of entry. Coffee’s grown in African countries, such as Ethiopia, Kenya or Rwanda, are known for their complex flavour profiles. You’ll find Espresso blends have added sweetness and acidity and single origin coffees are incredibly refined. African coffees are by far the best example of the many different flavours that can be found in coffee and many of the producing countries have some of the best environmental conditions available for the production of high quality coffee.
When looking at the Coffee Tasting Wheel, African coffees tend to occupy the floral or fruity section with flavours ranging from jasmine to lemon to blackcurrant.
In term of processing the beans, the majority of the coffee produced in East Africa will be washed in channels by hand and then dried on African raised beds. As a result, these coffees tend to have higher levels of acidity and are incredibly ‘clean’ in the cup with distinct nuances of flavour.
Ethiopian coffee is typically associated with the washed processing method, although natural processing methods are still also used. This creates outstanding flavour profiles that really do have to be tasted to be believed. Ethiopian natural coffees tend to be almost ‘Geisha’ like in character with intense floral notes and aromas of ripe strawberry and blueberries.
When brewing African coffee, it is best to brew filtered and black - there’s really no need to add milk or sugar. That’s not to say you should only use African coffee for Aeropress or V60, some origins lend themselves well to espresso, but, generally speaking, filter is the way to go due to the delicate and complex nature of the fruity and floral flavour profiles.
South American Coffees
South America is home to the world’s largest producer and exporter of coffee - Brazil. An abundance of coffee combined with a range of socioeconomic factors has led to Brazilian coffee being one of the cheapest options available. As a result, it has become very popular to both consumers, as well as wholesalers. It must be said though that just because its cheaper, it doesn’t necessarily mean its worse – there are some fantastic lots to be had from Brazil.
Another popular South American coffee producer is Colombia. The flavour of coffee harvested here is characteristic of South American coffee as a whole and is very different to the African origins we looked at earlier. Whereas African coffee tends to be floral and fruity, Colombian and South American coffee tends to be more nutty, chocolatey and will include sweeter notes, such as treacle and molasses. This makes it a really popular choice for espresso as that chocolatey base lends itself really well to milk-based drinks. If you don’t like fruity/floral coffee then South American coffees could be the perfect alternative.
If we move over to Asia, we’ll find the second largest coffee producer in the world - Vietnam. Coffee produced in Asia is known for its smooth character and lower acidity and is a real up and comer in the world of coffee.
Myanmar, formally Burma, is a big player in Asian coffee after their government re-approved exports to the United States in 2016. Coffee aficionados everywhere instantly fell in love. The majority of the coffee produced in Myanmar is almost exclusively high-quality arabica coffee, which is comes from the Arabia shrub grown in mountainous regions. Typically, coffee of this kind will be less acidic, a little more bitter and will yield a higher caffeine quantity.
Much like African coffees, coffee grown in Myanmar is notably fruity and floral and has a characteristically light body. This lightness makes it ideal for filter coffee. However, if you want something with more body and more nutty, chocolatey notes then Indonesia might be right up your street. There is a huge variety of Asian coffees as it’s a vast continent with mountainous regions, islands, and also wide raging climates. It’s a bit of a dark horse when it comes to coffee and we definitely recommend you give it some attention.
Right, there you have it. A whistle-stop tour of the worlds coffee producing regions. There is plenty more to be learnt about each of the regions, which we’ll look to delve into in the coming months.
GUSTATORY (adjective): curating excellence in taste.