Coffee Knowledge Base

15 February 2024

Each coffee producing country has unique characteristics

Each coffee producing country has unique characteristics

The coffee plant is grown in more than seventy countries located in the equatorial regions. The coffee-growing regions generally lie between the 25th parallel north and the 30th parallel south of the equator. This strip is also known as the ‘coffee belt’. You could say that coffee feels at home in the mild climate around the equator. A constant temperature, not too much sun, and a lot of precipitation are the combined conditions for its growth. Just like wine, coffee is a truly natural product, and people’s knowledge of the ‘terroir’ can have a major influence on the quality of what they produce. The location of the plantation, the altitude of cultivation, the weather and human skill and input all affect the flavor of the harvested coffee beans. 

Table of Contents

Coffee Producing Countries

Coffee producing countries

Coffee is produced in various countries around the world, with notable regions including South America, Central America, Africa, and Asia.

South America

South America includes the number 1 and number 3 coffee-producing countries in the World, i.e. Brazil and Colombia.

Brazil primarily produces arabica but also some robusta; the latter is especially grown for domestic use. The country produces all types and qualities: from cheap high-volume production to specialty coffees. A good arabica coffee from this country has a soft, full body with almond and nutty flavors. The taste of dark chocolate is often detectable too. These coffees can be quite sweet.

The plantations in Colombia are on the foothills of the Andes, where a humid, warm climate prevails, with two dry and two wet seasons. Just like Brazil, Colombia mainly produces bulk coffee. Of course, if you search well, there are real gems to be found. Colombian coffees are generally well balanced. One can describe their flavor as pure, beautifully balanced and fruity. Colombian coffee producers used to almost exclusively use the washed method, but plenty of growers are experimenting with new methods too, and have been for some time.

Coffee producing countries South-America

Central America

Central America has an important coffee culture. It is renowned for its high-quality Arabica coffee beans. The region's climate and altitude contribute to the unique characteristics of its coffee. Consider the following countries here, Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador... 

Guatemala enjoys 300 microclimates, making classification of all the various types of coffee impossible. Despite the many differences there is a striking level of conformity: 98% of Guatemalan coffee is grown under the shade of trees. Guatemala can easily live up to the label ‘A coffee lover’s heaven’, it is home to an enormous diversity of very high-quality coffee.

Coffee from Mexico is considered a very useful basis for blends because it doesn’t have much body and acidity. Mexico focuses primarily on fair trade and organic coffee. Specialty coffee is therefore not so easy to find there.

Costa Rican coffees, especially those from the large plantations, do not have exceptional character, but are therefore certainly not bad. Allow us to label it as mediocre. But when it comes to speciality coffee Costa Rica shows its best side, offering a very broad flavour palette. Beautiful balance and sweet fruity flavours are characteristic of these coffees.

El Salvador has the highest murder rate in Central America, but it also has a beautiful side. It is a country with beautiful nature and a rich coffee history. Coffee is deeply rooted in local culture. Generation after generation of families work their plantations. Coffee from El Salvador generally tastes reasonably sweet, has mild acidity and usually has more body.

Coffee producing countries Central-America

Africa

Without a doubt, we find our personal favourites in Africa.

Ethiopia, as the birthplace of Arabica, is still an important producer of high-quality coffee. Pilgrims and coffee traders spread coffee from Ethiopia all around the world. It is said that coffee probably originates from the Kaffa coffee region. For speciality coffee, Ethiopia is a treasure house filled with a wide range of coffee varieties. The plants grow all over the country in the wild and certain natural crossbreeds have still not yet been listed. Traditional production methods still dominate and the coffee beans are generally fruity. They can even have a floral aroma but that varies greatly from region to region.

Other coffee-producing countries in Africa include Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One can see Rwanda as a rising star, when it comes to speciality coffee! The ‘land with a thousand hills’ has a lot of variation in altitude and soil composition, and that rich variety produces complex coffees. Rwanda is a true pleasure for a coffee roaster.

Coffee producing countries Africa

Asia

Asia, with countries like Vietnam and Indonesia, plays a significant role in global coffee production. Each region within Asia contributes its own flavors and characteristics to the world of coffee. The coffee-producing countries in Asia offer a full coffee with low acidity, with a heavy, nutty and sometimes tobacco-like aroma.

Indonesia and India are two major coffee producers in the region. More than 17,500 islands make up the Indonesian archipelago. The multiformity of all those areas is reflected in the diversity of the coffees they produce. The best-known coffee areas are Sumatra, Java, Bali, Flores, Irian Jaya and Sulawesi. Robusta makes up the largest share of the production. Yet, in Asia too, growers are turning their focus increasingly to producing arabica coffees. The flavor of the arabica beans also differs here depending on the way they are processed.

Vietnam is a less obvious major player among the producing countries, and during the last few years, it has made a huge leap forward in terms of volume. Today Vietnam is in second place in the ranking of coffee-producer countries. However, there is still very little arabica available there and 95% of the volume produced comprises robusta beans.

Coffee producing countries Asia