MMJ | Coffee Beans from Around the World
Coffee beans have different flavors depending on where they are grown. The soil, climate, altitude and many other factors play a key role in the flavor. Now when I say ‘flavor’ I mean the aroma of the bean and the different tastes that you can sense when drinking the coffee. Coffee that has a hint of chocolate is different from chocolate flavored coffee which is coffee with chocolate flavoring added.
The beans that are most often found in a can are from Peru, Santo Domingo, Bahia, Ecuador and Vietnam. Don’t be confused by their exotic names, these areas mostly grow Robusta beans which as you may remember from an earlier post, have a flavor resembling that of a paper bag. We’re going to look instead at the countries that harvest Arabica beans. Arabica beans are the highest quality beans and are what most coffee roasters sell to specialty coffee shops.
On coffee bags you will find many terms and names for coffee. These won’t help you. Watch out for words like:
- Peaberry: that just means there are two beans per flower and has little to no effect on flavor. Also caracol in Spanish.
- Maragogipe: a variety of bean meaning jumbo and has little bearing on what the flavor will be.
- Excelso and Supremo: these terms make it sound like that coffee will be supreme, but this is also just talking about the size of the bean and has no effect on flavor.
The best way to find a coffee that is just for you is to find out what country or region the beans were grown in. Here is an overview of different countries and what their beans taste like.
Yemen and Ethiopia
Yemen is where you will find the Mocha Java blend and the only place true Mocha Java comes from (similar to how real champagne only comes from Champagne.) Mocha Java received its name because it was shipped through the port of Mocha in Yemen and were the first popular beans to reach Europe. Mocha port became synonymous with coffee and when chocolate arrived from The Americas they tasted alike. Today the beans have changed and taste nothing like chocolate but the blend is still called Mocha Java. These beans have a wild taste full of fruit and wine flavors.
Beans from Ethiopia are similar in their wild taste but carry more of a blueberry flavor. Most of the beans from Ethiopia are dry-processed and can sometimes carry more of a dirty flavor which covers the fruitiness. The wet-processed beans have more of a floral flavor which some say resembles tea.
Beans from Kenya are usually wet-processed and have high acidity. Kenyans have been growing beans for centuries and have certainly kept their traditions of growing high in the mountains, which is how their beans get their acidity. Much like Costa Rica, Kenya’s coffee industry is backed by the government and flourishes. There are many coffee farms throughout the country, the majority of which grow amazing beans. Surrounding countries also offer high quality beans such as; Burundi, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Most of the coffee from Indonesia is full of body and is dry-processed which creates an herbal and earthy flavor in the bean. Whereas the previous beans had fruity flavors, this has more of an earthy wild mushroom. There are three islands which produce the best coffee in the area; Java, Sulawesi (or Celebes), and Sumatra. The Java bean is not the great bean it used to be because many of the Arabica trees have been replaced by higher yielding Robusta. The beans from Sulawesi and Sumatra still provide full-bodied beans with little acidity and are highly regarded.
Beans from New Guinea are often lumped together with Indonesia but they have more acidity than their neighbor’s. The beans still carry a full body and are heaviest of any wet-processed Arabica bean. This bean is ideal for espresso.
Costa Rica and Guatemala
Beans from Costa Rica and Guatemala are regarded as having the most complete flavor. The coffee from Costa Rica even tastes great as it cools, which is when most coffee will show its defects. Some will say though that Costa Rican coffee is too perfect, too balanced, so they turn to Guatemala. Beans from Guatemala have a slight smoky or chocolaty flavor but still remain in great balance. The processing here is not as regulated so there are slightly more defects. Coffee from the city of Antigua, when processed just right, can lead to the best cup of coffee.
Hawaii is the only state in the USA that can produce coffee. Real Kona coffee is high quality and always carefully processed. It is difficult to come by and not often found outside the state of Hawaii. Most places will ship the best coffee away, but Hawaii keeps it in the state where they can fetch a higher price from locals and tourists alike.
Now you know how to find a coffee bean to fit your taste. For example, if you don’t like that acidic bite in your coffee, don’t buy Kenyan coffee and instead head for Indonesian or Costa Rican variety. Most coffee is not a single origin blend because most coffee beans don’t stand well on their own – Costa Rican, Guatemalan, and some Kenyan coffees are the exception. Most coffee you will find as blends, but you should still be able to find what countries the blends came from.
Amanda is the Team Barista Extraordinaire for EDR. Perk up your week with her every Monday right here on Eat.Drink.Repeat.