Coffee is as diverse as the many countries in which it is grown. From the forests of Ethiopia to the highlands of Colombia and Guatemala, each growing region has its own unique attributes which get passed onto the bean, to create unique flavour profiles. Learn more about the growing regions below.
Kenya produces some of the most complex coffees in the world. Varieties unique to Kenya such as SL28 and SL34 are renowned for their big acidity, full body, savory nuances, and fruit forward sweetness. Coffee of this level only comes from a country with impeccable quality control and farmers who are highly educated in their craft.
Because an auction system is used and Kenyan coffees are only sold to the highest bidder, competition is high. Farmers are constantly working to improve their product year after year to ensure the highest quality in order the attain the best price. Kenyan coffees can cost a pretty penny as a result, but the greatness in the cup is undeniable.
Tanzanian coffee, like its neighbor Kenya, produces extremely dense and highly acidic clean coffees. Tanzanian coffee is known for its Lemon/Lime acidity and excellent clarity.Tanzanian coffees are grown on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, under the shade of banana trees, truly an exotic location for this east African coffee.
Tanzanian coffee is somewhat similar to the coffee of its neighbor north of the border (Kenya for the geographically challenged) - bright, clean and aggressively complex. The grading process in Tanzania is also the same as in Kenya. The coffee is graded on bean size, where AA is the largest, followed by A and B down the line.
The traditional flavors and simplicity of Brazilian coffees have earned them a reputation in the specialty coffee industry. They are typically rich, heavy-bodied, nutty, and tend to have less acidity than coffees from countries to the north. Their straightforward sweetness, and body make them a popular choice for espresso blends and as a single origin espresso.
Brazilian coffees are usually grown on large plantations at lower elevations. Low elevation farming results in lower seed density and lower natural sugar content, creating the more rustic and nutty profiles we are familiar with in this region. Natural Processing is becoming more common in specialty coffee production in Brazil as a way to save resources, preserve the ecology of the local water, and add natural sweetness to the finished product.
Colombia houses a wide variety of terrain and microclimates, offering a spectrum of coffee growing conditions. Most coffee plantations are situated in the northern highlands of the Andes Mountain Range. Like other coffees grown in South America, many Colombians offer low-toned coffees with less sweetness and more rugged flavors.
But, at higher elevations of 900m to 1300m, the coffees can take on higher levels of acidity, complexity, and sweetness. As an industry, we are excited to see more and more consistently good coffee farms coming out of Colombia.
Guatemala produces some of the highest quality coffees in Central America. There are at least 8 different microclimates in Guatemala, each exhibiting distinct cup characteristics. Qualities of vivid, effervescent acidity, found in the Highland Huehue Region, differ dramatically from the balanced, sweet, and round coffees grown in the volcanic soil of Antigua.
Most of Guatemalan coffees are shade-grown by the hands of smallholder farmers and larger estates. However, dramatic differences in elevation and climate can produce a completely different product from a farmer's close neighbor. There is much to know and appreciate about the complexities, nuances, and diversity of great Guatemalan coffees.
As the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopian coffees are some of the most highly regarded coffees in the world. There are a number of growing regions including Yirge Cheffe, Sidamo, Harrar and Limmu. Washed processed Ethiopian coffeesa re vividly bright,fruity and floral with moderate body and staggering clarity. The delicate nuances of these coffees are sometimes described as tea-like.
Natural processed Ethiopian coffees are syrupy, complex and intensely sweet. These are the coffees that often change people’s perception of what coffee is supposed to taste like with their wild and sweet fruit flavors and sweetness. With such diversity of processes and genetic varieties Ethiopia, as the origin of all other origins remains a fascinating microcosm all that coffee can be.
Overall, Costa Rican coffee is considered to be some of the best in the world, thanks largely to Costa Rica's growing conditions which make it pretty difficult to go wrong. Costa Rica is dominated by a high volcanic mountain range in its centre, trailing off down to both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts. More than 70% of Costa Rica's coffee production comes from these mountains at about 1,000 to 1,700 meters above sea level, where tropical acidity, stable sunlight and rich soil make for ideal coffee growing conditions.
The flavour of a specific Costa Rican coffee depends largely on its altitude, with regions grown at higher altitudes generally being regarded as those producing better quality coffee. It also depends on the variety of arabica coffee being grown, with Caturra being highly regarded for its good body, rich flavour and crisp acidity.
Rwanda has one of the most interesting East African coffee histories. It is a place where the production of high-quality coffee is inextricably linked to the rising spirit of a population after the tragic genocidal civil war of the 1990s.
Known as the "Land of a Thousand Hills," many of them are cultivated in high-grown coffee between 1700 and 2000 meters above sea level (MASL).
Rwanda coffee can be world class. They often have clean bright flavors rivaling the best Central America coffees, more balance than Kenyas, attractive fruited sweetness, floral characteristics, and with a tea-like finish.
Most of Nicaragua's coffees come from three regions within the country's central northern mountains: Jinotega, Matagalpa and Nueva Segovia. Jinotega is the largest producer, followed by Matagalpa and Nueva Segovia, and all produce some beautiful coffees with their own distinct characteristics. A good Nicaraguan coffee follows the fairly classic standards for a good cup: medium body, clean flavour and great balance. Some can be citrusy and bright, while others can possess a more rustic, fruited flavour.
Much of this is down the the roast. But it also has to do with altitude: Nicaraguan coffee is the highest grown coffee in Central America, and therefore avoids the acidity sometimes found in other Central American coffee.