Born in Ethiopia, coffee still grows wild in the region, but it’s not the only area where the bean’s cultivated. Many countries close to the equator also produce coffee. The climate and soil influence the taste of the coffee, to produce the distinct and wide variety of flavors you know and love today.
A popular Ethiopian tale suggests the discovery of coffee was made over a thousand years ago by an Abyssinian goat herder named Kaldi, whose goats began bleating and skipping around very merrily after eating “cherries” from a nearby shrub. Kaldi pocketed a few and tried them out with the monks in a nearby monastery, and the rest is coffee history. Coffee production and drinking slowly became more popular as of the 1600s at it spread to Europe. Today, the top 10 producers of coffee include:
Ethiopia tops the list every year, probably because it’s coffee’s birthplace. The plant’s native landscape gives its growth an advantage over production in other countries where coffee isn’t native. Coffee grows wild across Ethiopia and is rarely subject to plant rust or other diseases.
The country produces 3.98 million bags of coffee annually. Ethiopia’s specialty coffees taste syrupy due to dry processing methods that leave coffee’s skin intact.
Kenyan coffee contains a wine-like acidity and deep flavor, with a bright, berry-like taste. Kenyan coffee is wet-processed, with a bold medium or full body. Many Kenyan coffees are sold on Amazon or in Starbucks.
Colombia holds a bounty of microclimates that give each coffee unique flavor profiles. Close to the equator, Colombia experiences two coffee harvesting seasons, making it one of the primary producers of coffee. The country’s also famous for its microlots from small coffee producers who grow, harvest, process and dry their own coffee instead of handing the product off to the mill or a cooperative.
Guatemala’s climate makes for perfect coffee production and different flavor profiles in volcanic soil and tropical climates. The rainfall, soil, humidity, temperature and altitude are varied enough to produce seven unique kinds of Guatemalan Arabica coffee: Antigua, Fraijanes Plateau, Rainforest Cobán, Highland Huehuetenango, Atitlan, Volcan San Marcos and Oriente regional coffees.
5. Costa Rica
Many think Costa Rica produces the best coffee, and the largest region, called Terrazu, produces 35 percent of all coffee in the country. Grown in the Quepos Mountains, this high altitude creates several nuanced profiles of flavor. Tres Rios is the smallest region, but it produces the “Bordeaux” of coffee globally. The beans from Naranjo have won the Cup of Excellence in the last four years. Poas undergoes constant rainfall and temperature changes and produces a dynamic bean.
This small country in the heart of Central America faces poverty and its coffee plants endure rust, yet its microclimates and varieties help produce standout coffee that wins the Cup of Excellence. Many producers use wet processing but also experiment with honey. Copán produces sweet-smelling caramel, citrus and chocolate coffee with a bold body. Opalaca’s coffee contains floral notes, some acidity and a balanced aftertaste. From velvety and chocolatelike to floral, the country’s regions produce a wide variety of coffees.
Unfortunately, the Indonesian government limited the overall quality of coffee’s potential in this country, but several renegade islands push passed these limits. Java and Bali create unique tastes of nutty and woody coffees that delight the taste buds with hints of chocolate. Obviously, Java is one of the oldest exporters of coffee, which is why coffee’s also called java.
Rwanda hosted a cup of Excellence within eight years of having never produced a specialty coffee and was the first African country to host in 2008. The coffee beans are dynamic in flavor.
Some producers in Rwanda don’t even drink coffee, but generate lovely tastes of sandalwood, pecan and peach. A preference of soda, tea or beer doesn’t stop the farmers from making coffee a successful export. Last year, coffee brought in $58.5 million to the country’s economy with roughly 400,000 farmers.
Panama’s Geisha is the most expensive cup of coffee, with one priced at $396 for a 10-ounce bag, but many come from Hacienda la Esmerelda at $80 per pound. Though the Geisha variety came from Gesha, Ethiopia, single-variety lots were picked after a bad year of coffee rust and a unique flavor profile of honeysuckle and bergamot emerged, without strong acidity.
10. United States
Hawaii, California and Puerto Rico produce coffee. California is hailed as the next golden coffee producer in light of the disparaging effects of climate change on coffee crops in tropical highlands. Hawaii currently hosts over 800 coffee farms and produces about 9 million pounds of unroasted coffee. Around the world, coffee drinkers consume 12 billion pounds, and California currently produces a few hundred pounds. The United States steadily climbs into the coffee production marketplace as a competitor.
From Ethiopia to the United States, these are the top 10 coffee-growing regions in the world. The demand for coffee increases every year, and many people make a habit of starting their day and gathering with loved ones over a cup of java. Where there’s culture, there’s coffee.