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Which Country Should You Buy Coffee Beans From?
Written by: Garrett Oden
With over 70 countries that grow and sell coffee commercially, choosing which country’s beans to buy can be quite a tough-y, especially if you’re not really sure what the differences are.
Chances are you’ve asked a couple of these questions yourself:
- Are beans from Colombia really better than from other places?
- What’s all the excitement around Ethiopian coffees?
- What’s better: this bag from Brazil or this one from Sumatra?
- How am I supposed to decide between two coffees that seem the same?!
Some people make decisions based on each country’s environmental friendliness record. Some are picky because they like coffees with a particular set of flavors. But for most of us, it’s really about what’s available.
In this blog, I’m going to help you discover which countries you should favor when buying coffee beans. By the end, you’ll know which countries are the best fit for you.
African Coffee Beans 101
Coffees from Africa are extremely diverse. This is going to be true for beans from all the following regions, but it’s especially true for Africa because 99% of all coffee genetic diversity can be found in Ethiopia alone!
Let’s explore a few notable African coffee bean producers:
- Ethiopia — As the birthplace of the coffee plant, Ethiopia has an insane amount of coffee genetic diversity. This means the flavors all over the place—and they’re especially loved by the specialty coffee community. High-end coffees are processed via the natural method, so they’re super sweet and have a ripe, exotic flavor that almost doesn’t taste like coffee at all.
- Kenya — Excellent Kenyan coffees tend to be processed via the washed method, giving them a crisp acidity and smooth sweetness akin to dark brown sugar or red fruit.
- Rwanda — Specialty-grade coffees from this country tend to have a rich earthiness, a stunning floral aroma, and notes of spice and fruits.
- Burundi — This tiny country doesn’t grow much coffee, but the beans that are exported are incredible, featuring a cola-like acidity and delicate, complex flavors that take even veteran coffee snobs by surprise.
There’s so much more to African coffee beans, but we’ll stop here for now.
If you’re after exotic flavors that really transform your daily cup of coffee into a flavor adventure, African coffees are the way to go!
Asian Coffee Beans 101
Though we don’t see as many of them as coffee lovers in Europe or Australia, Asian coffees can actually be quite delicious—and they sure can have an exotic appeal as well.
- Yemen — In the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen was actually home to the world’s first coffeehouses and commercial coffee farms. Beans from here are pretty rare, but if you can get your hands on a bag, you can expect some incredible earthy, chocolate-y flavors with a winey acidity.
- Thailand — Very little specialty-grade coffee is grown in Thailand, but the stand out beans tend to have flavors of chocolate, flowers, spice, and citrus.
- Myanmar — This newer country only started exporting coffee to the US again in 2016, so few coffee lovers in North America have discovered the delicate, complex fruity and floral flavors of these beans (think the Burundi of Asia).
- India — Specialty-grade arabica coffees from this fascinating country often have a rich flavor profile of chocolate and spice, as well as a crisp acidity akin to a bright Guatemalan.
Because of a devastating disease that wiped out much of Asia’s coffee production in the late 1800’s, most of the continent grows robusta coffee (you know, the gross bitter species). So while it’s harder to find excellent specialty coffees in this area of the world, when you do find one that’s great, you should snatch it up!
South American Coffee Beans 101
Way down South is a land that, like Ethiopia, seems specifically designed for growing coffee. South American coffee beans are among the best in the world. Let’s see a few of the bigger producers.
- Colombia — There’s a reason this country’s coffee is synonymous with “quality”. It’s fantastic. The whole country grows high-scoring arabica beans, often featuring rich fruity and floral flavors with a bright acidity.
- Ecuador — Though a smaller country, Ecuador’s coffee beans are not to be underestimated. The fruit-forward flavors and rich sweetness ensure you will not soon forget these coffees.
- Peru — Just south of Ecuador, Peru grows a stunning array of specialty-grade coffees with floral and fruity flavors, a light body, and a stunningly crisp acidity.
- Brazil — The only country of these four to not include the Andes mountains, most of Brazil’s coffees are grown at lower elevations, which gives them a heavy body, a mellow acidity, and flavors all across the board: spicy, earthy, floral, sweet, tangy—pretty much all the flavors.
For a captivating coffee with fruity or floral flavors, definitely savor a coffee grown in the Andes (the longest mountain range in the world!). But if you like the more mellow beans with lower, darker flavor notes, enjoy yourself a specialty-grade Brazilian coffee.
Central American Coffee Beans 101
Our closer neighbors to the South in Central America are not new to growing incredible coffee, and the crops just get better year after year. From the cloud forests of Costa Rica to the volcanoes of Guatemala, these are coffees grown to impress.
- Mexico — Mexico is the world’s #1 exporter of Certified Organic coffee beans, but that’s not all the country’s coffee industry is famous for. The high-quality beans tend to have a low-noted flavor profile, a lighter body, and a delicate and crisp acidity.
- Guatemala — With eight distinct growing regions, Guatemala’s not short on flavor diversity. Most specialty-grade beans feature a crisp acidity that’ll tickle your tongue in a very good way and a low to medium body. You can often find notes of red apple, brown sugar, cinnamon, and honey in these coffees.
- Costa Rica — This smaller coffee producer has made a name for itself—and it’s no wonder why. The coffee from here is always fantastic, and the best of the best beans often taste complex, fruity, floral, sweet, and pleasantly tangy.
- Panama — As the bridge between Central and South America, it’s not a surprise that Panama, despite being small, grows some amazing coffee. The characteristic specialty coffee from here is super floral (like smelling-a-bouquet kind of floral) and incredibly sweet.
Central American countries, like many in South America as well, are on the forefront of coffee innovation, sustainability, and quality. If you’re particularly interested in supporting farms and co-ops that are making coffee growing better for the environment, you can’t really go wrong with beans from Central America.
Oh, and not to mention they’re delicious.
Alt: Central american coffee beans
Pacific Coffee Beans 101
You might think that coffee wouldn’t grow super well on islands in the Pacific, but, in fact, some of the world’s best beans come from these islands—and you’ve certainly tried coffee from a few of them.
Like with mainland Asia, these islands also faced a difficult few decades with a terrible coffee plant disease in the late 1800’s, but many of these islands have bounced back in terms of quality and now produce a good amount of specialty-grade coffee beans.
- Papua New Guinea — Most coffees are processed via the washed method, giving the beans a crisp acidity, smooth sweetness, and balanced notes of fruits and spices.
- Indonesia — Hundreds of Indonesian islands grow coffee, but beans from Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi tend to be our favorites because of their unique flavor profiles of spice, earth, pine (yes—like drinking a pine forest), and nuts.
- Hawaii — You’ll pay a pretty penny for coffee beans from Hawaii, but they won’t disappoint. Hawaiian beans frequently have a bright acidity, light body, and complex flavors with fruity and floral notes.
There are so many islands that grow coffee across the Pacific, but we’ll keep it to these three for now because you’re sure to have tried them if you’ve liked coffee for long.
If you’re especially fond of that deep earthiness and forestry (pine, cedar) flavor profile, you’ll love coffee beans from the islands around Asia. And if you have a thing for delicate flavors and a bit of flair, you’ll love Hawaiian coffee.
So here’s the point: you can’t really go wrong when buying coffee.
Sure, some countries may grow beans that are better suited to your flavor preferences, but that doesn’t mean there’s ever a wrong place to buy coffee from.
So here’s what you should do: sample coffee from a variety of countries.
This will enable you to get a sense for what you like and what you’re not too big on. Then you can take that knowledge and use it to always buy beans that are just right for you. And we’d love to help you accomplish that.
Join our Coffee Club and we’ll send you a new coffee bean every single month. All our coffees are specialty-grade, freshly roasted (we ship the beans to you just two hours after roasting them), and naturally grown.
It’s an excellent way to discover the incredible world of coffee we have at our fingertips—and it’ll help you discover which coffees are perfect for you.