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Around the world – coffee growing regions

As an adventurous coffee subscription club, our aim is to curate an exploratory trip through the many coffee producing regions of the world. Coffee is grown within an equatorial band pretty much right around the globe. Each region produces unique characteristics based upon the terroir, micro-climate, common varieties used and regional processes. So where is coffee grown?

AFRICA

Coffee is native to Africa. Specifically the great rift valley in Ethiopia and South Sudan. These countries along with Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, D.R. Congo, Malawi and Uganda are common stops for high quality specialty Arabica. East African coffees like these are typified by bright acidity and pronounced fruity and floral flavours. 

Coffee is also grown in West Africa but due to lower lying, tropical jungle-like conditions it is Coffea Canephora or Robusta which is most prominent here. There are pockets where Arabica can be found and we have tasted some great lots from Cameroon, watch this space.

SOUTH AMERICA

The powerhouse of the coffee producing world. Brazil alone produces over 40% of the world’s Arabica with Colombia coming in second at around 14%. Conditions in these two countries dictate global coffee prices by sheer weight of volume. If there is an abundant harvest in Brazil prices plummet for other much smaller producing countries, irrespective of their own harvest. 

Flavours range throughout the continent depending on altitude, processing and varieties. With the Andes being the backbone of coffee producing countries like Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador – this altitude provides clean fruit-like acidity to otherwise chocolatey bases. While coffees from lower lying Brazil typically offer milk chocolate, nuts and a rich mouthfeel. 

CENTRAL AMERICA

The many different producing countries of Central America make up another key region for coffee growing. Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador and Mexico typically produce well-structured coffees with balanced acidity. Each of these countries have contributed greatly to the development of better quality coffees. Whether it be innovations in processing methods or careful cultivation of new of obscure varieties.

Coffee is also grown in parts of the Caribbean such as Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It also grown much farther afield in Hawaii where the famously expensive Hawaiian Kona coffees prevail. These prices however are more indicative of farming costs and scarcity than quality alone. 

 

What is specialty coffee?

We always talk about specialty coffee, but what does that actually mean? How is our coffee special and why is it worth waiting a month for that bag to come through your letterbox?

Technically, coffee can be classed as ‘specialty’ when it scores above 79/100 points using the grading system of the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America). This looks at the main characteristics of the coffee including acidity, body, aftertaste, balance, flavour, aroma, fragrance. If we look at all of the coffee produced in the world, coffee scoring above 79 points is already in the top percentile, but there is a lot of debate these days about what ‘specialty coffee’ actually means, as the term usually refers to the world’s top-quality coffees. The best coffees sit between 84 and 90, and it is very rare that a coffee would score above 90. So our coffee subscription products are what you could call ‘top specialty’ or ‘gourmet specialty’. We go above and beyond specialty and buy coffee of at least 84 points, so a full 5 points above the minimum grade for what can be considered ‘specialty’.

These kind of coffees are the result of true dedication and extensive quality control, from the experts at origin to our 3 in-house Q Graders (the certification required to score coffee using the SCAA system). Every step of the coffee journey matters: it needs to be perfectly ripe when the cherry is picked, it has to be processed and dried correctly, shipped without any deterioration of quality, it has to be stored correctly and finally, it needs to be roasted to perfection, to bring out the best notes and flavours. We carefully make sure all of these steps are met so that the coffee that makes it into your cup is the best it can be.