Where Your Unroasted Coffee Beans Originate
An estimated 3.6 billion cups of coffee are consumed all over the world every single day. That is something you should think about while sifting through your unroasted coffee beans anticipating the first cup of coffee in the morning.
That is an awful lot of coffee. Just where does it all come from?
Coffee needs to grow in ideal conditions, it’s something you can’t just toss in a garden and water every other day. The coffee tree is a tropical evergreen shrub that grows best in tropical environments. Roughly 70 nations produce coffee, with Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia and Indonesia leading the pack.
What Impacts the Flavor of Coffee
The variety of the plant is a good place to start. But then you must also consider the chemistry of the soil, weather conditions and even the altitude at which the coffee grows comes into play when considering flavor
You must also consider how the coffee beans are picked and processed as these are also factors that contribute to flavor.
Of course, what you do with your coffee beans when you buy them is also a huge factor in flavor. Everything from the way you grind your coffee to the water you use and the way in which you brew your coffee all contribute to its unique flavor.
Let’s take a look at where your coffee is grown.
Coffee farms can be found throughout the Hawaiian islands. Kona coffee from the large island of Hawaii is well known and always in high demand. The climate in Hawaii is perfect for growing coffee beans along the slopes of the active Mauna Loa volcano.
Young coffee trees are planted in the volcanic soil under a canopy of trees that protect the plants from the intense afternoon sun. Kona Coffee is a carefully processed coffee that produces a rich and aromatic cup of medium body.
Brazil is not only the world’s largest producer of coffee, it is also the most complex. As it turns out, coffee from Brazil ranks from the cheapest to the most elegant and prized. Fruit is removed from the bean using four different processes, and in many cases, all four are used on the same farm during the same harvest.
Growing ranges in Brazil vary between 2,000 feet and 4,000 feet, which is quite a bit lower than the much higher growing elevations you see in East Africa, Columbia and Central America.
Coffee first came to Brazil in the 18th century and has been a dominant producer since the 1840s. Due to the sheer amount of coffee output, it is almost impossible to narrow down one specific description of the taste.
It is widely believed that coffee grows best between elevations of 4,000 and 6,000 feet and in frost free places that get at least 80 inches of rain a year. It is also believed that coffee grows best in volcanic soil. This makes Columbia the perfect place to grow coffee.
Coffee originated in Ethiopia. Legend has it that Jesuit missionaries first brought coffee to Columbia in the mid 18th century. Coffee was first exported from Columbia is 1835 and by 1860, it was the top export.
There are currently well over 500,000 individual coffee producers in Columbia which consist mostly of small farms. And almost all the coffee beans grown in Columbia are sold to the National Federation of Coffee Growers, which is well-known for their fictional spokesperson Jun Valdez.
Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and it has been grown here for centuries. Coffee plays such a heavy role in Ethiopian culture that it appears in many expressions dealing with food, life and interpersonal relationships.
Ethiopia accounts for about three percent of the global coffee market and it makes up for about 40 percent of the country’s foreign export earnings.
There are over 1,000 variations of coffee in Ethiopia. This is a staggering number considering the second closest country in terms of variation is Columbia, which has about 30 known varieties. Even more impressive is the fact there are still thousands of coffee varieties in Ethiopia that have yet to be identified.
Most of the coffee beans in Kenya are grown at 2,000 meters above sea level in the volcanic soil of the snow-capped Mount Kenya. Most coffee that comes from Kenya is grown on small farms, yet the entire industry employs about six million people all across the country.
Each region that grows coffee beans produces its own unique taste, but overall, Kenyan coffee can best be described as full-bodied with a bold taste. Many varieties of Kenyan coffee have a noticeably fruity aroma and a bright flavor.
It is these characteristics that make Kenyan coffee a pleasant choice for coffee drinkers.
Vietnam is the world’s second-largest coffee producer behind Brazil and beats out Columbia by a rather large margin.
Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by French colonists sometime in the 19th century and has grown rapidly to become the second most exported commodity in the country.
Coffee production in Vietnam is made up of mostly Robusta beans, which are more bitter, rough in texture and stronger in taste than their Arabica counterpart. Coffee beans from Vietnam produce coffee that is quite strong with a smoky taste. The aroma hits your nasal passage and you know you are going to be in for a treat. The delicious liquid seduces your tongue and leaves you gasping for more.
The best farm-to-cup Indonesian coffees come from three regions: Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi. Of these three regions, the most productive and noted coffee comes from Java.
Coffee was introduced to Indonesia by the Dutch East India Company while the country was still occupied by the Dutch. The goal was to grow coffee here and break the worldwide monopoly Arab coffee held at the time.
Indonesian coffees tend to have a dark and bold flavor with prominent earthiness. Often, they have a finish that is long-lasting and feels unsweetened.
Costa Rica is the only country in the world where it is actually illegal to produce any other coffee than 100 percent Arabica. Arabica has long been labeled as the highest quality coffee bean. Costa Rica passed a law in 1989 prohibiting the planting and harvesting of low quality coffee beans. This was to encourage farmers to pursue excellence in coffee.
The first coffee crops were brought to Costa Rica in the late 18th century via Ethiopia. The Costa Rican government quickly recognized the potential of a coffee crop and offered free land to any brave farmers who showed an interest in coffee farming.
By 1930, coffee became the most important source of revenue for the country, surpassing cacao, tobacco and sugar.
Located in Central America, just south of Mexico and north of El Salvador and Honduras lies Guatemala, a small country with a population of 9 million. It is known worldwide for its high-quality coffee. Which is of no surprise as they are second in the world in high-grade coffee production.
In the 19th century, the invention of chemical dyes all but killed the export market for Guatemalan cochineal and indigo. It was after this collapse that coffee was developed as an export crop to help support the country and government.
Guatemalan coffees tend to have a medium or full body with rich flavor. But the quality and taste also depend on the region.
It may not be as famous for coffee as its Columbian cousin, but Puerto Rico has enjoyed a long association with high-quality coffees. This is because the rich volcanic soil, climate and altitude are perfect conditions for high-quality coffee beans.
The coffee bean came to this island in the 18th century during the Spanish colonial rule and was predominantly consumed locally. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that coffee becomes Puerto Rico’s principal export.
Coffee from Puerto Rico is best described as full-bodied, balanced and gentle.