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Coffee Taste Depends on Where it is Grown, explained here by Region and Country of Origin.
Specialty coffee is often associated with the practice of selecting coffee based on the flavor characteristics common to the coffee’s Country or Region of Origin. Each coffee is the product of many factors that can vary by Grower, Processor, weather, location, or time of harvest. Following is a brief description of various coffee Origins and related flavor characteristics.
Generally known for using modern processing methods (usually washed) Central and South American coffees have a tendency to be more consistent than other origins. Often; light to medium in body, medium to vibrant acidity, delicate tastes of citrus, spice, floral, vanilla, and chocolate are common.
Mexico – Delicate, acidy and sophisticated, sweet chocolate, berries or vanilla, the best will be complex. Growing regions; Chiapas (can resemble Guatemalan coffee), Coatepec, and Oaxaca have the best reputations. Many Mexican coffees are organic; the label "Altura" simply means high.
Guatemala – A favorite of many coffee lovers; Has two main regional profiles. Antigua; with more body than most Central American coffees, bright acidity, complex with smoky, spicy, and floral flavors. Huehuetenango; sweet, floral, delicate and buttery.
El Salvador – Many can be milder in acidity than most Central American coffees with delicate body and flavors. There are gems to found here, look for medium bodied coffees with solid acidity multiple flavors and complexity.
Honduras – Gentle medium bodied fair acidity and sweetness can be a good mild cup.
Nicaragua – Fuller rounder body milder acidity more middle flavors and complexity distinguish the best Nicaraguan coffees.
Costa Rica – Known for their impeccable processing and consistency they have a clean and balanced profile. The great ones are distinguished by being powerful with heavier body, sweet with citrus and nut flavors. Tarrazu region is the best known for producing top Costa Rica coffees.
Panama – Highly regarded for their clean and balanced Central America profile, lively acidity and complexity, they can easily rank among the best.
Colombia – Medium body with medium to bright acidity, well balanced and generally bolder than most Central American coffees. Due in part to the highly developed coffee industry in Colombia many Colombian coffees are good, the great ones are distinguished by more intense flavors and complexity. Many top producers of Colombia coffees are located in the growing regions of Huila, Nariño, and Cauca (Popayan).
Peru – Most often good body, medium acidity, sweet and mild, can develop a nice Carmel taste in darker roasts. Top Peru’s can be enjoyed as an Origin coffee; many are highly sought for use in blends.
Brazil – Produces more (quantity) coffee than any other country. They also produce some very high quality coffees processed using the Natural or pulped Natural methods as well as the traditional Wet method. Many Brazils have mild acidity, medium body, sweet, with delicate fruit, nuts, and hints of caramel or chocolate, they can be very good in blends. Exceptional Brazils hold their own with bolder flavors and acidity to balance the sweetness, look for a grade of Fine Cup (FC) in the name. Contrary to other South America coffee producers, Brazil’s top coffees are low grown and designated Strictly Soft (SS) bean. Growing regions you may see are; Cerrado, Mogiana, and Sul Minas. Santos is a market name and shipping port often used in Brazils.
Jamaica, Blue Mountain – A classic cup coffee, considered by some to be among the worlds' finest coffees, balanced, rich and sweet, full flavor will delight the senses. Be certain to select a true Jamaica Blue Mountain (JBM) not a copy or blend. Mavis Bank is a well known Coffee processor on Blue Mountain.
Haiti / Dominican Republic – Can produce an Island profile that is Sweet, smoky, rich and flavorful.
Puerto Rico – Another version of the Caribbean Island profile can be powerful, and sweet, with flavors of molasses and fruits.
Arabia and East Africa
Yemen – The first origin to commercially produce coffee, located on the Arabian Peninsula across the Red Sea from Ethiopia (on the African continent). Coffee is essentially grown and Dry (Natural) processed as it has been for hundreds of years. Market names of Yemen coffees may or may not refer to growing region, the most common are; Mattari possibly the most potent of Yemen coffees, Hirazi and Ismaili may have lighter body than the Mattari, Sanani often refers to a blend that will be more balanced than the others. Mocca (any way you spell it) was the sea port Yemen coffee historically shipped from, the name stuck though the port is gone. Mocca in the name of a Yemen coffee does not mean that it contains or is flavored by chocolate. Coffees of Yemen are prized for their wild and powerful flavors, strong acidity and sweetness. They are also excellent when blended with heavy bodied coffees for making Espresso. Both reasons help explain why they are priced above the average coffee and well worth it.
Ethiopia – Kaldi noticed his Goats dancing after eating the fruit from a bush, and thus discovered coffee. Steeped in coffee history Ethiopia produces several distinctly different coffees from its’ major producing regions. Harrar being closest to the coast (and Yemen) traditionally uses the Dry (natural) process resulting in coffees similar to those of Yemen; Fruity, blueberries, sweet, full bodied, smooth winey acidity, and complex. Yirgacheffe in southern Ethiopia traditionally a wet processed coffee known for remarkable floral and citrus aromas and flavors, with nuts, spices, and green tea notes. Sidamo which as a region includes Yirgacheffe produces fine wet processed coffees similar to Yirgacheffes. Limu to the North of Sidamo traditionally wet processed coffees present a profile between the two extremes of the other Ethiopian regions.
Kenya - Huge flavor, very balanced, the king of complex coffees, known for powerful wine toned acidity. Citrus is good, Blackcurrant is good, and when a cup contains both it can be superb. Often considered one of the best, deep and rich, multidimensional.
Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda – Interesting (often at a lower cost) versions of the African profile, a little more body, a little less acidity, lighter fruit, may have floral, cedar, vanilla or chocolate notes.
Tanzania – Shares a border with Kenya and presents its’ own understated version of the African profile, milder in fruit and acidity, with good body. Tanzania is known for its' Peaberries, when only one round seed is produced rather than the usual two, which some say are more potent than the norm.
Sumatra – Known for its’ Earthy or mushroomy aroma and flavor, full body, sweetness, and mild acidity. Sumatra has two main growing regions with four names and distinct differences in processing methods and profiles. Coffees labeled Mandheling or its' sub region Lintong are probably processed using a version of the Dry method, which may include laying the beans in parchment on the clay to dry imparting the Earthy tone. Though it wouldn’t be Sumatra without the Earthyness, the intensity of the taste is important to note, also that some Mandhelings may acquire a hard musty flavor that many coffee lovers do not care for. Sumatra’s from Gayo mountain or Aceh are usually Wet processed with milder versions of the Earthy or mushroomy flavors, brighter, lighter bodied, sweet and more consistent.
Java – Lies just south of Sumatra, the name has become synonymous with coffee as it was the first European controlled producer. The coffee is known for its' very heavy body and very low acidity. Prized as a blender with sweeter thinner bodied coffees for making espresso blends.
Sulawesi (Celebes) – Most is named for the region Toraja or a town in that region Kalossi and may be produced by small farms or large Estates. Coffees can resemble a slightly brighter and lighter bodied Java with deep fruit tones, or like a brighter Sumatra Mandheling with its’ underlying Earthyness, full body, and Sweetness, with an added hint of spice and chocolate.
Bali – Grown and meticulously processed in accordance with the Hindu belief of "tri Hita Karana" (the three causes of happiness are good relations with God, other people, and the environment) the coffees of Bali are often Rain Forest Alliance certified, Fair Trade, or Organic. Still Indonesian in nature, Bali coffees tend to be cleaner, sweet, and may have lemon and other citrus flavors.
Papua New Guinea – Another variation on the Indonesian profile with underlying Earthyness, fullness, and sweetness, with a bit more acidity and cleaner profile.
India – Known to be very well processed they tend to be full bodied and sweet with hints of spice or tropical fruits.
India, Monsooned Malabar – Specially aged to resemble Old Brown Java in open sided warehouses exposed to moist air the beans swell, whiten, and acquire a musty smell. This coffee will have very heavy body, very low acidity, with loamy and woody flavors; in poor lots the inherent mustiness can become hard and unpleasant. It is often used in Espresso blends to add body and sweetness.
Australia – The southernmost coffee growing origin is a newcomer to the specialty coffee market and not often found in North America. Australia lacks the high altitudes of most Arabica coffee producing origins. Australia's Northern New South Wales (NSW) growing region southern climate's long ripening period with ample rain and cloud cover can produce worthwhile specialty coffee. The profile is unique, sweet and fruity with mild acidity probably owing to the long ripening period, an interesting coffee if you're up for adventure.
Hawaii – High cost of production, limited supply, and of course the demand that comes from being visited by millions of vacationing coffee lovers as well as the ability to produce one of the world's fine coffees make it a bit pricey (OK, maybe more than a bit). Kona located on the "Big Island" of Hawaii is possibly the best known coffee growing region (and trade name) in specialty coffee, but is not the only growing region in Hawaii. Coffees from Kona can be excellent, a classic cup often having a fragrant bouquet with sweet fruit and vanilla flavors. Other up and coming coffee growing regions (Islands) of Hawaii are; Maui, Molokai, and Kauai.
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