Article: Exploring the Coffee Regions

Written by Cafe Campesino on Oct 1, 2003 in Article, NEWSLETTER |

Some people swear by Nicaraguan coffee. Others only like Sumatran. Still others go out of their way to find African coffees. In these cases, it’s not the roast of the coffee that people are looking for, but where it was grown. And most of the time, they’re searching for more than just a name.

Coffee beans taste different depending upon where they are grown.  Soil, climate, altitude, species variety, harvesting and processing methods all are factors that affect the flavor of the coffee.

Even if you buy the same coffee every time, it may taste different.  Flavor changes with each roast, and taste and quality of the green coffee beans vary with each harvest season and shipment. Each year, the coffee can have a subtly different flavor, or be of a different quality due to changes in some of the above variables. For this reason, we do cupping tests of our coffee before purchasing it, even when we’ve bought from the same region before, to ensure that the coffee meets our established quality standards for each region.

There are certain conditions that are ideal for growing Arabica beans: rich, volcanic soil, the cover of shade trees, high elevations, temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees, and 75 inches of annual rainfall. In a very broad sense, coffees grown near each other have similar characteristics. Certain regions have reputations for consistently producing the highest quality beans, although this varies from year to year depending on variations in climate and changes in harvesting and processing methods.

There are three principal growing regions of coffee: Africa, Asia/Pacific, and the Americas. The Asia/Pacific region includes Indonesia, Micronesia, Southeast Asia and the surrounding smaller island countries.

One of the main reasons coffee production thrives in these lands is due to the geology of these areas. Both the Asia/Pacific region and the Americas are located on the “Ring of Fire.” The Ring of Fire refers to the border of the Pacific Ocean, where many earthquakes and volcanoes occur, and mountain ranges run parallel with the coast of the surrounding continents. Some of the best quality coffees in the world are grown here because of the high altitudes and rich volcanic soil.

Africa also is experiencing geological changes which make it ideal for coffee growing. While the Pacific coast is undergoing compressional stress as plates are pushed together, Africa is rifting apart and experiencing tensional stress. The East African Rift Valley is the evidence for this change. Volcanic soil is also present, as are mountains, making Africa another good place for coffee.

Altogether, Café Campesino offers seven different single origin coffees: two from the Asia/Pacific region, two from Africa and four from the Americas.

Coffee from the Americas tends to be the lightest and brightest. These coffees are described as crisp and clean, with good acidity, in other words, a bright aftertaste.

Ethiopian coffee is marked by many excellent regional varieties within the country’s growing area. At Café Campesino, we sell Ethiopia Sidamo and Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, which are both characterized by mild, fruity, and floral overtones. African coffees also have good levels of acidity, and produce a lingering aftertaste.

Coffees hailing from the Asia/Pacific region in general are full of body. They often exhibit more of an “earthy wild mushroom” taste than coffees from other regions. Sumatran coffees, such as our Gayo Mountain, are some of the heaviest, smoothest, and most complex coffees in the world.

These regional differences are highlighted or downplayed depending on the style of roast coffee’s unique flavor still begins with its origin on a faraway mountain under the tropical canopy of a rainforest. (See Fairgrounds Article, August, 2003 The Art (and Science) of Roasting Coffee)

For more information about coffee bean varieties, visit these links:

And to learn more about the coffee producing regions mentioned in this article, visit these past Fairgrounds newsletter articles:

Exploring Our Origins: Sumatra

Gayo Mountain Adventure

Exploring Our Origins: Guatemala

Exploring Our Origins: Ethiopia

Staff Notes: Bill’s Central American Adventures

Staff Notes: Bill’s Adventures, Part Two

Exploring Our Origins: Colombia

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