As with the grapes used for wine, the characteristics of the beans that make coffee are highly dependent on the temperature and conditions in which they are grown. As artisanal roasts grow in popularity, customers are faced with more and more complex coffee menus — not just menus that tell you the different prices of a latte or cappuccino, but menus that offer the same drink made using beans from many different origins. So, why order a Kenya over a Costa Rica? Read about the differences in taste of coffee from 12 different regions to find out.
For this list, we sorted regions by countries, as different countries have regulations in place that trickle down to affect the way the coffee in your cup tastes. Also, coffee taste varies so much from one estate to another; as a result, in making this list, we leaned toward outlining general (but useful) flavor profiles. We referenced one of our previous articles, A Guide to the World’s Coffee Regions, and zeroed in on certain countries by seeing what coffee experts had to say about their beans.
Erin Meister, coffee journalist and a sales associate at Minneapolis-based Cafe Imports, spoke with us about the importance of knowing the home country of your coffee. “Going to a café and ordering 'just a coffee' is kind of the equivalent of going to a restaurant and ordering 'just a glass of red wine,'” she says. “Sure, they're both going to get a particular job done, but there's also this whole world of more specific flavor and nuance and character that you can enjoy if you dig a little deeper. A pacamara coffee tastes as different from a bourbon coffee as a riesling tastes from a sauvignon blanc, due to regional variations based on microclimate, processing method, and so on, which can take that lowercase-'c' coffee and make it a capital-‘c’ coffee experience."
Even if you don’t normally go to coffee shops where you are presented with a multicultural array of coffee beans, it is interesting to know which origins you veer toward. First, it is important to note the primary differences between arabica and robusta coffee beans. Robusta coffee beans can grow at sea level, are higher in caffeine, and taste harsher than arabica beans. They are mostly found in blends or instant coffee. Arabica beans grow in high altitudes and have a wider spectrum of taste. Most coffee beans — about 70 percent — are arabica. Those who prefer more acidic, berry-forward notes in their coffee might choose a variety from Kenya, while those who like their coffee roasted super-dark, with an almost smoky flavor, might favor a variety from Indonesia.
So, if you are looking to take the next step in your love affair with coffee, get to know it a little better first.
Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee. In 2014, Brazil exported 45 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee beans — two times the export of the entire African continent. What makes it stand apart? Brazilian coffee is known for its creamy body and low acidity, and it also boasts some chocolate and caramel notes. Both robusta and arabica species are grown there.
Colombia earned its reputation for high-quality beans long ago, thanks to its tropical temperatures and high altitude. Colombian coffees are medium to low in acidity and body, with nutty undertones.