Summary: Coffee is found in specific regions because the cultivation of the best quality of beans requires necessary climatic and soil features that are present only in certain geographic locations.
Coffee is the most consumed caffeinated beverage and the second most traded commodity worldwide.
Today the consumption of coffee has become a culture. Coffee connoisseurs have been exploring the various types of beans to find distinctive flavors and tastes of the coffee grown in different geographic regions.
International Coffee Organization revealed in their reports that the total amount of coffee exports amounted to 10.04 million bags in August 2020.
A large amount of coffee production mainly occurs in developing nations and is imported by industrialized ones. The discrepancy in the production of coffee in different locations occurs since some of its environments are not suitable for the beans to grow.
Some regions are more fitting for coffee production than others. This characteristic of coffee has managed to open a trade of comparative advantage between different nations at different geographic locations.
The consumption of the beverage has created an emotional attachment of the drinker to the drink over the years. Have you ever wondered where do the beans of your coffee come from?
Let’s delve deeper into this topic and break down the geographical map of coffee production worldwide.
What are the suitable growing conditions for coffee plants?
Coffee is accountable for the consumption of millions of cups of drink per day. It is considered to be the most valuable tropical export crop on earth.
About 120 million people depend on coffee production for financial security.
The optimal growing conditions of coffee are regions with:
- Cool to warm tropical climates
- Rich and moist soils
- Average temperature of 15-24ºC (59-75ºF)
- Altitude between 1800 to 3600 feet
- Rainfall of 60 to 80 inches per year
The ideal conditions may vary depending on the geographic location, the surrounding climate, method of cultivation, and the type of beans that are being cultivated.
Which geographic regions of the world are most suitable for coffee production?
Coffee is a variety of shrub that has been native to the tropical areas of sub-Saharan Africa and now, cultivated all around the globe.
Commercial coffee cultivation is restricted to the tropical belt which is around the equator. That is, the global coffee belt spans over the globe around the equator.
The geographic regions where coffee is grown point to the area between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The harvesting period differs from region to region depending on the consistent temperature, the quantity of frost, elevation, and the quality of soil involved.
For example, Arabica is harvested in Indonesia all-year-round whereas Brazil harvests the beans only in winter.
The mentioned geographic regions have been suitable for the coffee plants since they tend to have:
- Well-drained loamy soil
- Cool to warm tropical climates
- Fewer pests
- Tall mountains
- Humid rainforests
Are coffee beans grown in a specific region?
Yes, there are specific regions ideal for coffee production.
There are three primary coffee-growing regions that account for the major portion of its worldwide production.
These are- Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. This region accounts for almost all the coffee-producing plants and is widely known as ”The Bean Belt”.
All the countries located in the Bean Belt have tropical climates with both rainy and dry seasons. There are abundant growing regions with elevations of 800 to 2200 meters above the sea level in this region producing ideal conditions for the coffee plants to grow.
The countries here produce coffee for the global market in about 10 million hectares of land. Though the climate condition is similar across the countries in this region, the coffees bear distinct regional flavors due to the difference in soil chemistry, weather, altitude, and processing method.
Is coffee found in a specific latitude?
Coffee grows best along the equatorial zone called ‘The Bean Belt’ that is located between 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South.
If you are looking for supreme coffee, then you need to pick the best beans from this region.
Coffee can grow at elevations ranging from sea level to as high as 2500 to 2800 meters.
However, Arabica coffee has a relatively low tolerance to frost and grows between 1000-2000 meters above sea level.
As the altitude rises, the plant’s ideal temperature band is disturbed. This is the reason, a balance between latitude and altitude is required for the cultivation of Arabica coffee.
Over 50 countries are responsible for the total production of coffee all around the world which includes Hawaii, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Brazil, Indonesia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Colombia, Vietnam, and so on.
As the soil chemistry and soil fertility change from latitude to latitude, there remain differences in the quality and texture of the coffee beans produced in these countries.
Which region is coffee from?
As already understood, the region where the coffee plants are cultivated plays a significant role in determining the quality and taste.
Geographically, the coffee that you consume is from three coffee-growing regions namely East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific and Latin America.
It may surprise you but it takes a whole year for the tree to produce the amount we enjoy in a single week!
The National Coffee Association (NCA) reveals that the original domesticated coffee plant traces its heritage back to the ancient coffee plantations in Ethiopia.
Gradually, the use of coffee reached the Arabian Peninsula and soon became a traded commodity across the globe. By the 16th century, coffee became heavily consumed and frequently included in social activities across the cities of the Near East.
Thousands of pilgrims visiting the holy city of Mecca each year helped the drink in getting worldwide acclamation as “the wine of Araby“.
By the 17th century, coffee made its way to Europe, and the coffee shops quickly became heavily engaged with social activity in major European cities including Italy, France Germany, and England.
What do coffees from the major growing regions taste like?
The distinct taste of coffee grown in different regions result from the differences in the soil conditions, weather, method of processing, and altitude. This is the reason, your coffee may taste different depending on the location the coffee shop is buying it from.
The main countries producing coffee in Central America are Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua. These regions are the largest contributors to the total global supply.
The climatic conditions prevailing here along with varying altitudes produce smooth, sugar-browning sweetness in the beans.
The texture and taste of the beans produced here is a balanced example of buttery or chocolate flavors and a mild flavor of spices.
Columbia and Brazil being the two most prolific coffee producers in the world account for a large number of exports to the North American countries.
Coffee from Columbia and Peru has mellow acidity and strong caramel sweetness in its flavors. The Brazilian ones have a peanutty quality and are widely used in espresso blends.
Africa and the Middle East
The continent of Africa accounts for about 12% of the world’s total coffee production. The beans produced here are highly prized by coffee connoisseurs due to their rich varieties in flavor.
Ethiopia and Uganda dominate the region’s coffee production with about 62% of the total production in sub-Saharan Africa’s coffee output.
The beans which are naturally processed tend to have a syrupy body with a densely sweet berry flavor whereas the washed coffees express jasmine or lemongrass flavors.
The beans from Kenya manifest a tomato-like acidity.
Yemen is a significant coffee producer in the Middle East. The characteristics of the beans produced here somewhat match with the Ethiopian coffee beans that create a bright and spicy brew.
Sumatran coffees in Indonesia exhibits smoky and toasted flavors in the drink.
Along with Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand have also taken over the coffee culture in this region.
Compared to the spicy and fruitier notes produced in Vietnam, Thailand, India, and Papua New Guinea, the beans in Indonesia have a bolder earthiness.
Check out this video to know more about the varieties of coffee.
Why does good coffee grow in the tropics?
The beans require two primary climates to grow properly:
- Subtropical regions and
- Equatorial regions
These regions are ideal for growing coffee because of their continuous rainfall and moist weather. This allows the coffee plants to grow steadily and the more steady the beans grow, the more rich the final product is.
The combination of warm days and cold nights in the tropical mountainous regions shocks the natural chemicals such as the organic acids, phenols, and aromatic compositions of the coffee plants and makes the texture more developed.
This is why the blends of coffee served in coffee houses may differ in flavor and texture. The more developed the coffee plant is, the more rich the blend will be!
The tropical climate having high rainfall, and cooler temperatures account for the steady rate of growth for the plants and protect them from adverse weather patterns.
The ideal features are more consistent for the production of Arabica which requires substantial rainfall and a temperature of 60-75ºF. Robusta is easier to grow since it can withstand harsh temperatures and can grow in varied elevations.
Is coffee Italian?
Whether you are having lattes or macchiatos, have you ever wondered why Italian words have been used to name the different varieties of coffee?
Is coffee Italian or something?
No. Coffee doesn’t have any roots in Italy as this article confirms but it revolutionized the coffee culture to some extent.
The first espresso machine was made in Italy. The invention of the drink made the time between ordering and drinking coffees less and more convenient.
Gradually, espresso became popular in Italy and France and initiated the same craze in the United States.
If you observe closely, you will see that the drinks with Italian names all have an espresso base. So the nomenclature of the drinks mainly backs to the history of inclusion of the coffee culture in Italy.
Even brands like Starbucks use Italian words; like grande and venti in their menu.
This happened since the chairman of the company, Emeritus Howard Schultz was believed to be captivated with the coffee culture in Italy and the alluring coffee bars there.
He wanted to bring a similar tradition to coffee romance in the United States.
Is coffee native to South America?
Coffee is not native to South America but it became a significant commercial crop during the first decade of the 1800s in Columbia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Bolivia.
Brazil was producing 30% of the total world’s production of coffee by 1820, and by 1860, it amounted to an astounding quantity of 80%.
The countries in Latin America have become the leading coffee producers because of their ideal coffee-growing environment having tall mountains, humid rainforests, and tropical climatic conditions.
Let’s have a glance over the characteristics of the coffee beans produced in the six countries in South America!
|Country||Harvesting Period||Processing Method||Flavors|
|Columbia||September to December||washed, natural||medium acidity, nutty, citrus, fruity|
|Brazil||April to September||washed, natural, pulped natural, honey||low acidity, fruity, floral|
|Ecuador||all around the year||washed, natural, honey||bright acidity, fruity, floral|
|Peru||March to September||washed||crisp acidity, sweet, floral|
|Bolivia||July to November||washed||bright acidity, fruity, clean|
|Venezuela||September to March||washed||medium acidity, gentle sweetness, occasionally fruity|
The drink is a source of refreshment in industrialized societies but for the cultivating nations, it has played a significant role in improving the livelihood and landscapes.
The coffee farmers in South America used the soil as a non-renewable source and the coffee was harvested in large estates. Nowadays, varieties of beans are produced with the purpose of creating hybrids.
Do they grow coffee in the Middle East?
Of course, they do! In fact, it is where coffee originated from.
Since the 13th century, the Muslim communities in Arabia have brewed coffee for the stimulant power exhibited by the beverage. It was consumed to sustain energy during religious practices.
It was not until the 1600s, that the rest of the world got to taste the caffeinated beverage. Before that, coffee was only consumed in Arabia and neighboring regions.
Within the 15th century, the beverage gained popularity in Yemen, Egypt, Turkey, and Syria. The coffee houses were known as ‘qahveh khaneh.’
All the countries in the Middle East have leveled up their coffee culture over the years. Coffee signifies the symbol of hospitality, magnanimity, and sophistication.
For example, in Turkey, coffee plays a strong role in ceremonial events and gatherings.
Thus, coffee has been a part of the Middle East culture long before it became mainstream.
Even now, Ethiopia is one of the largest coffee producers in the world, behind only Latin American countries and Indonesia.
How do regions and varieties influence the quality of the coffee?
Similar to wine, the taste of coffee reflects the geographic region in which it is cultivated and the method of the overall preparation of the beverage.
Everything from the variety of the plant, chemistry of the soil, weather, amount of rainfall and sunshine, precise altitude, and other factors affects the final taste of the commodity.
That is the main reason why the quality of coffee differs, stems from the differences in:
- Soil fertility and chemistry
- Farming methods
- Geographical climate
The method of bean processing and the solvency of the growers are also important factors here. All the growers are not economically solvent and thus they might not get the efficient tools to enhance their quality of production.
Another important factor is whether the beans are organic or shade-grown.
These handful differences make Arabica superior to the blends of Robusta.
Despite containing less caffeine than Robusta, Arabica beans have a smoother and richer flavor. Robusta has a harsher and bolder taste compared to Arabica and contains a rubbery overtone.
International Coffee Organisation shows that more than 60 percent of world coffee production comes from the cultivation of Arabica and not to forget that this was the type of bean that started off the whole coffee romance in Ethiopia.
Here’s a more detailed comparison between Arabica and Robusta.
Coffee has become everyone’s go-to drink for energy-fix within minutes. Looking at the other side, it has not only helped us with health benefits but has also helped the producers in getting their economic stability.
While having your cup of coffee, you may experience the magical flavors, and thinking about the hard work and series of activities that go behind its production is astounding.
There are specific regions that are ideal for the growers to plant the coffee beans since the existing conditions will have an influence on the final product.
If you are looking for the best quality beans, you have to pick the ones from the tropical regions grown in humid weather, high elevations, and ample rainfall.
The coffee culture mainly started from the Middle East and now the beverage is serving millions of people every day as a magical potion.
Countries like Colombia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Ethiopia have taken the lead as the major coffee exporters whereas Europe and the United States have emerged as the major importers.
To produce the best quality of beans for your beverage, the coffee plants are being grown in the best regions having the ideal characteristics.