Top Coffee Growing Regions Around The World
Coffee is grown in tropical climates, typically those located closest to the equator, between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. While there are many coffee growing countries and regions, we have listed some of the most familiar regions.
Why can’t I find coffee grown in the continental United States? The lower 48 states and Alaska are just too far removed from tropical climates to produce coffee. The only place in the United States that produces coffee is Hawaii.
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North American and Carribean Coffee
Dominican Republic Coffee
The humid, tropical climate of the Dominican Republic offers a perfect environment for the production of coffee. The average temperature of about 79 degrees F. stays nearly constant year round. The tall, thick trees provide great shade for growing fine quality arabica coffee beans. Coffee here is grown at lower altitudes which provides the perfect amount of acidity to create a complex flavor of Dominican coffee. Cafe Santo Domingo coffee is the traditional Dominican coffee, named for its largest, capital city, Santo Domingo de Guzman.
There are coffee farms throughout the Hawaiian islands, however Hawaii is primarily known for its Kona coffee, grown on the large island of Hawaii. The perfect tropical environment with black, volcanic soil produces some of the world’s finest coffee. Kona coffee is carefully processed and provides a rich, aromatic, medium-bodied coffee that is in high demand.
Best known for its Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, an extremely rare and high-priced coffee grown at a very high altitude. Part of the cost is derived from the difficulty and labor intensive process of retrieving the coffee cherries from the mountain. A highly sought after, sweet and medium-balanced coffee, Jamaican Blue Mountain remains expensive. With the increased demand for this coffee, we strongly suggest avoiding any so-called Jamaican Blue Mountain blended coffees on the market.
Mexico has many small coffee farms, but ranks as one of the largest coffee producing countries in the world. Most of the farms are located in Southern Mexico, and produce a coffee with a wonderful aroma and depth of flavor. The term Altura means that it was high-grown. The state of Chiapas produces some of the best and highest grown coffee with a light body, light acidity and complex flavor. Look for coffees labeled Chiapas, Altura, or Oaxaca.
Central American Coffee
Its rugged landscape and rich volcanic soil produces a hard bean typically grown at higher altitudes of over 4500 feet. Guatemalan coffee is a medium to full bodied coffee, often with a depth and complexity of taste that is somewhat spicy or chocolaty. There are a number of great coffee regions in Guatemala; Huehuetenango, Antigua, and Amatitlan regions and estates stand out as some of the best. The highest grade of Guatemalan coffee is the SHB (Strictly Hard Bean).
Costa Rican Coffee
This coffee growing country has a reputation for excellent coffee. Costa Rica produces only wet processed arabica bean coffees with a medium body and sharp acidity.
Many consider this coffee to have the “perfect” balance. While there are a variety of coffees coming from Costa Rica, most of those consumed in the U.S. are the high quality SHB (Strictly Hard Bean) coffees from the central part of the country, most notably Tarrazu and Tres Rios. One well-known estate producing a high quality coffee is the La Minita estate.
Look for coffees labeled Tarrazu, Tres Rios, Heredia, or San Jose. One coffee area of Costa Rica that we urge you to avoid is the Dota district of the Tarrazu region. This coffee is less than stellar. Just avoid it if it is labeled Dota region or Dota Tarrazu.
Panama is a newcomer to the specialty coffee market, but is producing some excellent crops. The best Panama coffee comes from the Boquete region. This coffee is grown on the slopes of the Baru volcano in rich, volcanic soil.
Panama coffee has a more complex flavor than other Central American coffees, but maintains this region’s reputation for being well-balanced and smooth. Stick with the Panama Boquete and you won’t be disappointed.
Honduras is another fairly unknown coffee region. There are a few excellent coffees grown in Honduras, but the country lacks a supportive coffee infrastructure for the market and the large variety of small coffee farmers leads to very inconsistent crops with most of the lower grade coffees produced.
The exception is the coffee community of Las Capucas, located close to the town of Corquin, in the department of Copan. Las Capucas has earned a great reputation for producing very fine coffees in a relatively short period of time.
South American Coffee
Colombia is the best-known producer of coffee. Located in the northern region of South American, their coffee is considered to be one of the most “consistent” varieties in the world. A very rugged landscape provides a great natural environment for coffee bean growth.
Colombia’s coffees are consistent, mild coffees with well balanced acidity. Colombian Supremo, the highest grade, has a delicate, aromatic sweetness. Make sure and purchase only the best quality Colombian coffee beans from quality regions such as Cauca (Popayan), Narino, Huila or Tolima.
Look for the highest grade, “Colombian Supremo”. Avoid any coffee labeled simply “Colombian Coffee” or “100 percent Colombian Coffee”. These are typically a lower grade coffee.
Brazil is the largest country in South America and located on its eastern border. Brazil is also the world’s largest producer of coffee, estimated to produce about one-third of the world’s supply.
This is both a blessing and a curse. Coffee plantations are extremely large and produce a wide range of quality Arabica and cheaper Robusta beans. Brazilian coffee is grown at lower altitudes and thus produces a less acidic coffee. Brazilian coffee is mild, sweet, with a medium body and low acidity.
The Brazilian Cerrado, Brazilian Santos, or Brazilian Bourbon Santos is the highest grade of coffee available. Stay away from any Robusta bean produced in Brazil and leave it for the mass-market cheap coffee sellers. Avoid any Brazilian coffee beans that are simply labeled as “Brazilian Coffee”. Look for “Brazilian Cerrado”, “Brazilian Santos”, or “Brazilian Bourbon Santos”.
Located on the western region of South America, Peru offers high altitude coffee growing regions that produce very mild to medium-bodied coffees with moderate acidity. Many of their coffees are used for blending.
Located in eastern Africa, Ethiopia holds the distinction of being the location where coffee beans were first discovered. Ethiopian coffee provides a bold, full-flavored and full-bodied coffee.
Typical with other African coffees, Ethiopian coffee has a very distinctive taste, very different from Latin American coffees. The best Ethiopian coffees are Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and Ethiopian Harrar. Yirgacheffe is a wet-processed coffee and Harrar is dry-processed
Located in eastern Africa, Kenya produces some of the most well recognized and prized coffee in the world. Their beans produce a sharp, fruity taste with a high degree of acidity. Kenya coffee is known world-wide as the best balanced and most complex of specialty coffees.
The largest Kenya coffee bean and the highest grade of Kenya is AA, followed by A, then followed by the B grade. Go for the best – don’t settle for anything other than Kenya AA.
Like other coffees from Africa, Tanzanian coffee has a fruity taste with a high degree of acidity. Most of the Tanzania coffee sold in the U.S. is the Peaberry coffee (single coffee bean inside of the coffee cherry) and comes from the northern part of Tanzania along the Kenya border. Like Kenya coffee, Tanzania coffee is graded by the size of the bean, with the highest grade of AA, followed by A, then followed by B.
Sumatra is one of the Indonesian islands, well-known world-wide for its great specialty coffee production. Sumatra coffee is a very complex, earthy, and rich coffee with a good amount of acidity. This coffee can be described as having a heavy body and earthy flavor. The main region of Mandheling in northern Sumatra is the best-known for its quality coffee beans. Look for “Sumatra Mandheling” coffee beans.
Sulawesi (Celebes) Coffee
The Indonesian island Sulawesi (formerly known as Celebes), produces coffee very similar to Sumatra Mandheling coffee. It is earthy and full-bodied with a low acid level. The best coffee from Sulawesi is called Kalossi or Toraja. It may still be referred to as being from Celebes.
The names can be a little confusing, but the coffee is still from the same region (Sulawesi Kalossi, Sulawesi Toraja, Celebes Kalossi, Celebes Toraja).
The term Kalossi comes from the town central to this coffee region and the term Toraja is the name of the region itself. Regardless of what it’s named, coffee from this region is grown at high altitudes in rich, volcanic soil. Coffee produced in this region is outstanding.
Java Island Cofee
This Indonesian Island is best known for its name, an inspiration for the coffee term “Java”. Like other Indonesian islands, Java produces some very fine coffee. The Java government owns many of the key coffee plantations. Any of these plantations produce very good coffee.
They typically fall under the name of “Java Estate” coffee. Other good Java Estate coffees to consider are those by the names of Blawan, Jampit, Kayumas, Pancoer, and Tugosari.
Papua New Guinea Coffee
The island of Papua New Guinea produces two basic types of coffee, estate coffees with a high degree of refinement and peasant coffees that are processed by more simplistic methods.
Most of the New Guinea coffee sold in the U.S. comes from the estates, that have more control and consistency in processing the coffee. Many of the New Guinea coffee is not certified organically grown coffee, but the quality can be questionable. The better coffee is typically not organically grown in this region.