Coffee is one of the most popular beverages worldwide and is growing in popularity. The delicious stimulant convinces with more and more individual taste variations. You can acquire it in the most diverse varieties. While coffee is an integral part of everyday life for many people, very few people know exactly where the coffee-growing areas are. So today we want to take you on a journey through the most popular coffee growing regions!
Coffee-growing areas stretch across the globe
The coffee plant is one of the most sensitive plants and only thrives under optimal climatic conditions, for example in countries that are close to the equator. Taken together, experts refer to these regions as the so-called “coffee belt”. The mostly humid, tropical coffee-growing areas give the coffee plants excellent growth and a fast flowering period. The coffee varieties Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora , better known under the name “Robusta”, are of great economic importance. With around 75%, the Arabica, the most popular variety, takes the largest part of the cultivation regions. But also other species such as Coffea stenophylla, Coffea congensis and other varieties grow in the vastness of the cultivation areas. Countries known for their coffee cultivation are, for example, Ethiopia, Sumatra, Nicaragua and Brazil.
The coffee harvest – a real expansion
Because of their economic importance, we want to concentrate in particular on the coffee plants Arabica and Robusta and their growing regions. As soon as coffee began to establish itself as a mass product, the cultivation of the coffee plant spread in no time. In the meantime, entire countries owe a large part of their gross domestic product to their annual coffee harvest, which has also been accompanied by the increase in new jobs. The coffee plant loves a humid, mild climate and feels particularly comfortable at temperatures between 15 and 28 degrees Celsius. What they all have in common is that they need a lot of precipitation and sun. Here, growing areas from a tropical altitude of 200 meters are suitable, although there are also coffee plantations at an altitude of 2,000 meters. The quality of the nutrient medium and the climate are decisive for the growth of the plants. Bad weather, storms and extreme temperatures, on the other hand, are extremely harmful to a good coffee harvest.
The most important coffee production countries and regions
The areas of Central and South America, Africa and parts of Asia are among the decisive growing areas. The following countries have the highest productions:
- Mexico , Brazil , Guatemala, Panama, Vietnam, Thailand, Congo, Angola, Colombia, Liberia, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Costa Rica , the Central African Republic and Zambia.
Common to all regions are largely optimal conditions for cultivating the coffee plant. Since an industry worth billions has now developed around coffee, the countries are increasing their cultivation potential in order to cope with the increasing demand for coffee. However, it is a mistake to believe that the individual growing areas all produce the same coffee, as there are serious differences between the cultivation, the quantity and the taste. These differences are due to the fact that on the one hand different climatic conditions prevail and on the other hand the cultivation methods differ. So it happens that the Arabica from Africa tastes different than the Arabica from Asia.
To get straight to the point: THE most popular “coffee country” does not exist. The variants are too different, and ultimately everything in this area is also a question of your own individual taste.
The unbeaten No. 1: Brazil
This large country allows different coffee plants with diverse flavor profiles to flourish due to its extent and a variety of combinations of soil compositions and weather conditions. Unlike in other growing areas, the plants are grown here at a relatively low altitude. Most types of coffee from Brazil are pretty balanced and full-bodied. They taste more chocolaty or have a nutty note in the finish.
In many places in Brazil, coffee is processed dry. This means that the coffee cherries are sorted immediately after harvesting and laid out to dry, so that the beans known as seeds are in the coffee cherries for the entire drying time. So this process dries the beans in the pulp, which gives them a higher percentage of fructose. This creates a taste with a subtly sweet note. This sweetness, coupled with the characteristic full-bodiedness, makes coffee from Brazil, as the world’s largest and most important coffee producer, very popular.
Guatemala is in second coffee producer
Along with Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, Peru, El Salvador, Papua New Guinea and India, Guatemala is one of the ten largest coffee producers in the world. As one of the most diverse coffee nations in terms of climate, the country has eight recognized growing areas. Each region has its own microclimate in which several types of coffee are cultivated, especially in the shade.
Some of the world’s best coffees, such as the Arabica varieties “Bourbon” and “Typica”, come from the highlands of Guatemala. Despite the many different species that are grown in the various areas of Guatemala, the cup of coffee has a strong body, a vital, full-bodied aroma and a noticeable acidic content. As a result, this coffee is popular as a single origin and is also an integral part of various espresso mixtures, the so-called blends.
Costa Rica, number 3
In terms of optimized technologies and methods within coffee cultivation, Costa Rica is undisputedly one of the world’s best. Since the country’s coffee production has focused on the wet processing of coffee for some time, the processing stations and mills are perfectly adapted to this process. In the most important regions around the capital San Josè, the coffee plants thrive at altitudes of 700 to 1,600 meters. Incidentally, the cultivation of the Robusta plant is strictly prohibited in Costa Rica to this day. With this regulation, the government wants to guarantee the export quality as well as the annual sales.
For a short time, manufacturers have been experimenting with the so-called “honey process”, in which the coffee beans are dried with part of the sweet fruit mucus of the coffee cherry. This creates a sweet, strong, fruity aroma. Despite the different flavors, coffee from Costa Rica is considered the purest product in the world. The syrupy consistency, paired with the sweet taste, bring a certain touch of exoticism to coffee from Costa Rica. Although only around 145,000 kilograms of coffee are harvested annually, production is particularly important for the country’s domestic economy, with 12% of the local population dependent on this branch of the economy.
Ethiopia, the country of the birthplace of coffee, ranks fourth
More than 12 million people (the total population of the country was estimated at 92.7 million in 2017) live here from the coffee industry, with the country of origin of coffee being the largest African exporter of Arabica beans. It is almost hopeless to determine the original plant of an Ethiopian coffee based on its aroma. The fact that all types of coffee from this country are sold exclusively via the trade exchange also makes it difficult to determine the exact place of origin. However, since now the traceability of the origin within the coffee industry has become of central importance, this fact represents an interesting problem that has not yet been resolved. Despite this lack of transparency, the country has three coffee-growing areas, each of which produces coffees with a distinctive taste.
The first is Harrar. Thanks to the hot desert climate, coffee grows here at higher altitudes. The best types of coffee are cultivated there, which score with a distinctive, exotic blackberry or blueberry aroma.
Yirgacheffe, a region in Sidama, is also significant. This is where coffee comes from with notes of citrus flavors. In western Ethiopia, in Gimbi and Limu, there are coffees with even sweeter aromas, the acidity of which is comparatively particularly low. In general, the types of coffee from Ethiopia have a rather light body in combination with strongly fruity-tasting aromas. These varieties are particularly popular with coffee lovers who are keen to experiment.
Kenya follows in 5th place
The classification systems, processing guidelines as well as the innovative solutions in the fight against plant diseases, such as leaf rust, make this country one of the world’s most modern coffee suppliers. The Kenyan coffee farmers cultivate the leaf rust-resistant varieties Batian and Ruiru 11, among others. The height at which coffee plants are cultivated ranges from 1,500 to 2,100 meters.
The most important areas of this country include, for example, Mount Elgon and Mount Kenya with the focus on achieving a yield with beans as large as possible, which experts call “peaberry beans”. The peculiarity here is that there are not two beans in a coffee cherry, as is usually the case, but rather they only consist of one large seed, with the result that such a coffee is of course less common than “normal” varieties. The result: The Kenyan plantation owners can sell their coffee at high prices. Before export, the beans are sorted according to their size.
With the help of the double fermentation method, the coffee cherries are turned into dry coffee beans that have a wonderfully pure and rich taste.
The most popular coffee-growing areas: Indonesia ranks 6th
Arabica beans have been grown in this island nation since the early 17th century. Today Indonesia is one of the most successful coffee exporting nations in the world. With over 30 growing areas spread over the many small islands, Indonesia is extremely versatile in terms of its connection of soil composition with the weather as well as the altitude in terms of coffee cultivation. Most of the cultivation takes place in the regions of Sumatra, Papua and Sulawesi. If other districts such as Flores, Bali and Java, as one of the most important Robusta producers, also contribute to the coffee production in Indonesia, the quality is not so perfect to be able to carry the title “specialty coffee”. Incidentally, the Kopi Luwak also comes from this island state, better known as “cat coffee”.
A simple, wet reprocessing procedure is standard. It is known as the “washed” method and is preferred by many coffee importers. But the traditional “Gilling Basah” process is also used. Here, the outer shell of the coffee cherry is removed and placed in its sweet fruit mucus, the so-called “mucilage”, for a day. Then it is dried whole and sold. This process is responsible for the mulchy, slightly earth-tasting aroma, which is also known as the “forest floor”.
Many types of coffee from Indonesia are made up of an unknown blend of many different types. Due to its heavy aroma, which tastes of grass and earth and is reminiscent of woody notes, this coffee is not particularly popular. Consequently, some coffee growers in this country began to cultivate only selected coffee plants with the result that coffee with a generally lighter taste note could be won.
The last place which got the number 7 is Colombia
Colombia, with an annual production of over 697,300 tons of green coffee, is the third largest coffee supplier in the world. Colombian coffee consists largely of Arabica beans, which are processed using the wet process. Due to their purity and balance, the types of coffee are extremely rarely mixed with others. Colombia has very diverse cultivation areas, with the country’s three mountains causing diverse micro-climates.
Due to the prevailing weather conditions there, the coffee can be harvested twice a year. The main harvest takes place in May, the second harvest takes place in November. The coffee of this country impresses with its intense and rich aroma and creamy consistency. The balanced acidity and chocolate notes are characteristic. With these properties it can be used wonderfully as a single origin and tastes good as a pour-over even when it is made with an automatic coffee machine.
As we have already explained, the term “most popular coffee-growing areas” is extremely relative, as it always depends on your individual priorities, i.e. your personal taste. In terms of the amount of coffee exported , Brazil is undoubtedly in first place in the ranking . However, this is a fact that does not automatically have something to do with popularity. Because whether you, as a coffee lover, prefer coffee from Vietnam, India or Kenya in particular, or rather coffee from Uganda or Colombia, in the end, it just depends on your taste!