Like it or not, the hood we grow up in shapes who we are. It’s the same with coffee – it tastes different depending on where it’s from.
Many factors contribute. We’ve talked about processing methods, but there’s also climate, altitude, soil and plant variety, just to name a few.
Its not nice to stereotype someone based on where or when they were born, but people will have certain things in common, right? In the same way, it is possible to describe the typical taste characteristics of different coffee growing regions – keeping in mind there are always those who break the mold.
While there is significant variation across the region due to differences in the factors listed above, Central America is known for producing smooth, balanced coffee. Fruit-like characteristics provide a mild backdrop to spice and cocoa flavours, and there is often a sugar-browning sweetness that can be buttery or chocolatey-soft.
Mexican coffee is lighter bodied with milk chocolate and cherry-like fruit flavors that carry well into darker roasts.
Guatemala produces some outstanding classic cups, with more apple-ish fruit flavours. Those from Antigua are spicy, smoky and heavier in body than most centrals, also great for darker roasts. Coffee from Huehuetenango is more delicate, floral, and buttery.
A stunning example is our single origin Guatemala Santa Cecilia. Complex, big bodied, clean and nicely balanced, it has flavours of chocolate, almonds and caramel. This is an amazing cup for the coffee purist!
Costa Rican coffee is also heavy bodied, with powerful, sweet citrus and nut flavors.
Milder in acidity than most centrals, Nicaraguan coffee can have a variety of middle flavors like pear or vanilla; and roast flavors reminiscent of pie crust or chocolate.
Coffee from Panama is yet to make it into the mainstream however it is revered among professionals as an amazing classic cup.
South America also has a wide flavour profile, but the coffee is usually even and balanced, with medium body and acidity and a rich caramel sweetness.
Colombia is one of the top three coffee-producing countries in the world, hence is the most well known in South America, but Bolivia and Peru both contribute to the region’s production. The cup is usually classic but there are occasional surprises.
As we’ve talked about in a previous post, Brazil is a huge coffee producer, historically known for putting out commercial grade beans for espresso blends; but recently there have been some amazing single origin coffees coming out the region.
Good Brazilian coffee is typically creamy and low acid, with notes of milk chocolate, cherry, sassafras and spice, and a long finish.
We source all of our Brazilian coffee from Minas Hill Coffee, who are passionate and dedicated to advancing specialty coffee in Brazil, and creating lasting relationships with farmers in the Minas Gerais region.
Currently on the website we have the beautiful single origin Brazil Ninho Da Aguia. It is clean, with notes of notes of berries, caramel and jasmine; mid-bodied, delicate and balanced.
The pulped natural method was made famous in Brazil and the country produces some of the best of these coffees in the world.
While Kenya and Ethiopia are the largest and most well known coffee producers in East Africa, Tanzania, Zimbawe and Rwanda also hold their own.
Kenyan coffee is big, bold and juicy – a favourite of coffee afficianados all over the world. The resource intensive “double fermentation” process is often used, where the beans are soaked in fermentation tanks twice. This makes for coffee that is bright, clean and intense, and more expensive than that of surrounding regions.
Generally we see black currant, intense citrus and sparkling acidity with spice, sweetness, and some winey-ness.
Coffee from Tanzania, Rwanda and Zimbabwe is similar to that from Kenya, but more understated in acidity and fruit. There are often notes of cedar.
Our Rwanda Gitega expresses passionfruit and complex fruit acids, with melon, maple sweetness and a lingering cocoa powder finish. Not only does this coffee demonstrate superiority at the cupping table, it comes from the amazing Buf Café – a family owned company with an incredible backstory.
Buf Café is essentially one woman’s tremendous recovery from the 1994 Rwandan genocide. After losing her husband, a child, and an entire hillside of extended family, Epiphanie Mukashyaka built the company from the ground up. It now helps to bring electricity and water to the local town and is the largest employer in the community, paying workers a premium above the local average wage. Read the story in more detail here.
Ethiopia has a huge spectrum of flavour. The country has incredible biodiversity with thousands of coffee plant varieties, mostly wild and un-catalogued. Processing also differs across the country. Both natural and washed processes are used, resulting in strikingly different flavour profiles.
Naturally processed Ethiopian coffees often have a syrupy body that accompanies a densely sweet berry flavor, typically blueberry or strawberry. Washed coffees are lighter and drier on the palate, often with jasmine or lemongrass characteristics.
Yrgacheffe is one of the most famous growing regions in the world. The coffees are fully washed, with potent floral aromas and delicate notes of citrus and green tea. High quality Yrgs are balanced and sweet with middle fruit flavors.
Our single origin Ethiopia Gelana Abaya is a fruit bomb! With notes of chocolate, berry and sweet grapefruit, it is clean with tart acidity.
Again we see the result of variety in processing and climate. Indonesian coffee tends to be deep, dark and earthy, with a stouty or mushroom-like complexity, both savoury and herbaceous. The finish is usually long lasting like unsweetened cocoa.
Java was the first coffee growing area under European control and so the name has become synonymous with coffee. Good quality Java is a very heavy bodied classic cup with almost no acidity. Aged (old brown) Java has intense woody roast tastes.
Sumatran coffee takes to dark roasting well, and so there are often smoky and toasted flavors somewhere between chocolate and molasses.
Black Matter just happens to have one of the best coffees from North Sumatra this season. The single origin Indonesia Seribu Dolok has flavours of juicy peach, lemon, raspberry, with a hint of sweet tomato.
Different flavour profiles are also seen in Sulawesi Toraja (more spice and dark fruit) and Papua New Guinea (fruitier and lighter bodied).
India was the first country outside of Arabia to produce coffee, and is the only one that grows it all under shade. India coffee is known for being very well processed. Typically mild, full bodied and not too acidic, the highest grades are spicy with hints of tropical fruit. Monsooned varieties (a form of aging) are very heavy bodied, with intense woody flavors and almost no acid.
So there you have it – a quick flavour race around the coffee growing world! Do you agree with our round up? What have we missed? Which one makes your favourite brew?