Most of the world’s coffee beans are harvested from trees grown in what is commonly referred to as “The Bean Belt”. This area is located within 30 degrees north and south of the Equator and therefore provides the ideal conditions for coffee trees to thrive.
While coffee trees like to grow in hot climates not all trees thrive in the same conditions. Take the Arabica for example which prefers to be in planted in rich soil at higher elevation than Robusta which thrives well at lower altitudes where it can bask in the hotter climate.
There are many factors that impact the level of quality and the richness of flavor of coffee beans. Plant variety, soil composition, altitude and of course weather conditions can all have an impact on the bean quality and flavor. When combining all these factors with the processing method used the distinctive flavors from each country, region and even the plantation grown on can often be discerned by coffee connoisseurs. The complex and subtle differences can even be tasted when two variations come from the same plantation.
The popularity of coffee is so huge that over 50 countries worldwide grow coffee trees. Here are just a small number of the coffee-producing countries that provide coffee drinkers with their daily cup:
As the best known coffee-producing country Colombia’s high yearly production yield ranks it second in the world. Thousands of small Colombian family farms across the country are producing with much pride coffee of an excellent standard. Great care is taken to insure coffee trees grow to produce a coffee that has a well-balanced acidity and mild taste. Colombia is a country of rugged landscapes so transporting the newly-harvested cherries to processing facilities and shipment locations does present challenges. It is not unknown even today for Jeeps and mules to be used to transport the cherries out of the toughest regions. Colombia’s highest grade coffee is Colombian Supremo, an aromatically sweet coffee with a delicate flavor. The softer, more acidic Exelco Grade is another of Colombia’s popular coffees enjoyed by many.
The coffee produced by Costa Rica is sometimes said to have perfect balance. This could be due at least in part to the fact that the country’s Arabica coffee farmers use a method of processing referred to as wet-processing. The coffee has a sharp acidity and is medium-bodied. The majority of the trees are grown on fincas (small farms) and once harvested the cherries are transported to sophisticated plants and processed using the wet method. Stringent care in both the growing and processing are what makes Costa Rico’s coffee one of the finest in the world.
Though not the most well-known coffee-producing country in the world Guatemala produces a coffee that is has a very distinctive, rich flavor. Guatemala’s three main growing areas are Coban, Huehuetenango and Antigua. While the soil in these high altitude areas is volcanic it is also very rich, and along with the microclimates each of the regions possess, coffee trees thrive to produce a coffee that is medium to full-bodied and some say it has a hint of chocolate or spice to its flavor.
Hawaii, United States of America
Home of the famous Kona coffee, Hawaii hosts many coffee farms throughout the islands. In high demand Kona coffee is the coffee Hawaii is best known for. The growing conditions on the slopes of Mauna Loa, one of Hawaii’s active volcanoes, are so ideal that young coffee tree saplings can be planted at a very tender age and still thrive in the volcanic soil. Tropical clouds cast a natural shade over the trees to provide protection from Hawaii’s scorching afternoon sun, and regular rain showers feed the plants with the ideal amount of water. Kona coffee’s rich, aromatic, medium-body coffee can be largely attributed to the care taken in the processing.
Over 100,000 coffee farms make Mexico one of the largest producers of coffee in the world, though the vast majority of farms are small, and only a small number of large plantations exist. Choapas, Veracruz and Oaxaca are 3 of the southern states that are home to most of the coffee farms located in Mexico. Mexican coffee tends to be very aromatic and has a depth of flavor that often is accompanied by a detectable sharpness that makes it ideal for blending with other coffees and also for dark roasts. Coffee produced from trees grown at high altitudes will be designated with the term Altura.
Coffee was first introduced to Puerto Rico back in 1736 when it was brought over from Martinique. It’s potential and popularity grew until it became the sixth largest coffee exporter towards the end of the 19th century. Plagued by severe hurricanes and struggling to compete with other coffee-producing countries, Puerto Rico was forced to turn its back on coffee and source other ways of supporting the country’s economy. Today, Puerto Rico is in the process of reviving the coffee industry they were once well known. Arabica varieties are being carefully grown to produce coffee that once it has gone through stringent processing procedures yields a bean of the finest quality. Puerto Rico’s south central region of Grand Lares and the southwest region of Yauco Selecto are now the country’s two largest coffee tree growing areas and are known for producing beans that have a wonderful fruity aroma and balanced acidity and body.