The three major growing regions are: Latin America and the Caribbean Islands, Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and Indonesia. Coffee is also grown in Hawaii, India and in Southeast Asia.
The region from where a coffee is grown has a lot to do with how it tastes. The soil and climate of a specific area affects the growing conditions of the tree and the flavor of its coffee beans. Coffees are labeled either by the country and/or region where the bean grew or by the darkness of the roast.
A coffee grown in Kenya will taste very different from a coffee grown in Costa Rica. That's not to say better or worse, only different. One of the joys of gourmet coffees is tasting all of the different varieties, learning to identify and describe the nuances that distinguish them. We can indeed separate the VARIETALS (unblended coffee from a single country, region, and crop) into geographic families displaying similar characteristics. In a very broad sense, coffees grown near each other have similar characteristics.
REMEMBER, even if the label on the coffee you buy says the same thing each time you buy it, it may taste different.
Flavor changes with each roast, and taste and quality of the coffee beans vary with each crop and shipment.
Criteria for grading coffee:
1. species quality and altitude,
2. size and appearance, and
3. taste and aroma.
Central (Latin) and South America - Bright, brisk and clean, straightforward flavor.
These coffees typically have light or medium bodies and lots of flavor. Beans from Costa Rica generally have a tangy aroma and are medium in body. Beans from Guatamala have more rich and fully flavors, compared with other Central and South American beans. Colombian coffees generally have more acidic qualities and taste somewhat "snappy." Beans from Mexico generally are quite light in flavor and are found in the popular high Sierra mountains.
• Guatemala Antigua - Rich aroma, full flavor, yet heavy body, bright acidity
• Costa Rica - Full body, spice and nutty overtones
• Brazil Santos - Smooth flavor, medium body and moderate acidity
• French Roast Columbian - Full body, moderate rich slightly acidic coffee with winy tones
East Africa - distinctive sharp, vibrant flavor
Coffees in East Africa have brisk, refreshing traits, as well as nice warm flavors. Coffee in Yemen is generally smooth and delicate and has nice aromas. One particular coffee popular from Yemen is Arabian mocha. This coffee is sometimes blended with Java beans to provide a completely unique taste. Coffee from Kenya takes on a very hearty flavor. The tastes are generally deep in floral or red wine flavors.
• Kenya - Medium body, bright acidity, AA is the best Kenya has to offer
• Ethiopia Yirgacheffe - Floral notes with a rich body and vibrant acidity
• Zambia - Sweet, highly acidic earthy-tone. Noted for its wininess
• Tanzania - Sharp, winy acidity, medium body and medium rich flavor
Indonesia - Full rich, heavy body
Coffees from Indonesia have somewhat exotic flavors and, in general, are full of body. They typically are somewhat spicy and have deep, rich tastes. You can sense the spiciness both in the taste and aroma of the coffee. One example of a coffee from Indonesia is the Estate Java. This coffee is typical Indonesia. It has a nice spice and floral taste to it and is rich with aroma. While Kenyan coffees will have a bit of a "fruity blackberry" taste, Indonesian coffees will exhibit more of an "earthy wild mushroom" taste. Many Indonesian coffees are sometimes said to take on a buttery flavor, as well. Sumatran coffees have a powerful body and come from one of two regions -- Mandheling and Lintong. Whereas many Indonesian beans are dry- processed making for an earthier taste, the Sumatran beans are generally a mix of washed and dry-processed.
• Sumatra Mandheling - Earthy flavor, lowest degree of acidity and full body
• Celebes Kalossi Toraja Estate - Similar to Sumatran but a bit less rich and full-bodied and slightly less acidic
United States - Hawaii
Coffee is primarily grown on the southwestern coast of the island of Hawaii on volcanic soil. It is disease-resistant with high yield per acre. Nonetheless, only about 10 tons of coffee are produced each year resulting in its high price. If a customer is looking for a comparable coffee at a lower price, try a Guatemala Antigua, which is also grown on volcanic soil.