An Origin, Region, & Varietal Guide: Season 7



BURUNDI is a small country in East Africa with coffee and tea as their primary exporting products. It is quite difficult to get coffee exported in Burundi, but is always worth it. There are 6 main regions that grow coffee, including: Gitega, Karuzi, Kayanza, Kirundo, Muyinga, and Ngozi. Most of the processing here was washed, though we are seeing more and more honey and naturals in the market. 

COLOMBIA is a large South American country and is one of the largest exporters of coffee. We see many grades of Colombian coffee around the world, ranging from the low end of commercial coffee all the way to award winning, competition grade specialty coffee. There are many regions to list for Colombia, but the slightly more common ones we see here in North America include: Antioquia, Cauca, Cundinamarca, Huila, Nariño, and Tolima. Regions we see slightly less of here include: Boyacá, Caldas, Cesar, Caquetá, Casanare, Guajira, Magdalena, Meta, Quindio, Risaralda, Santander, Valle. Colombia typically produces washed coffees historically, however we have been seeing more naturals and honeys from here, and spectacular experimental/innovative processing coming from various regions and producers. Identifying Colombian coffees may be one of the most difficult due to the many regions and profiles that exist as a result of the diverse terroir. We know it’s a tough one, so don’t be so hard on yourself if you can’t identify it! 

COSTA RICA supplies a small portion (less than 1%!) of the world’s coffee supply. There are several regions that we see coffee from more often, including: Central Valley, West Valley, Turrialba, Orosi, and Tarrazú. Regions we see less coffee from include: Guanacaste, Tres Ríos, and Brunca. Costa Rica mainly processes their coffees as washed, or honey (which is more commonly distinguished between white, yellow, red, and black honey). We are also seeing natural process coffees coming out of Costa Rica.

ETHIOPIA is known to be the birthplace of coffee. The majority of coffee farmers and producers in Ethiopia are smallholder farmers, owning less than 1 hectare of land. Cherries are mostly picked and sold to a cooperative, or dried naturally and then sold to a cooperative. Many coffees you see from Ethiopia will not have a farmer or producer’s name for this reason. When you see one specific name, it is likely because they are a larger, privately owned estate, or a larger cooperative with one head manager or owner. Ethiopian regions sometimes shift to this day due to the political and social climate, though we do see the majority of coffees from the following regions and sub-regions: Guji, Sidama, Yirgacheffe, and Harrar. Other less common regions we see in North American coffee shops include: Djimma/Jimma, Limu/Limmu, Lekempti/Nekemte, Kaffa, Arsi, and Bale. Coffees from Ethiopia are usually washed or natural, and we may occasionally see a honey or experimental process coffee. 

INDONESIA, located in Southeast Asia, is split into larger coffee-growing regions with their specific and prototypical flavour profiles. Regions include Bali, Flores, Java, Sulawesi, and Sumatra. East Timor, Timor-Leste, and Papua New Guinea are often included as regions as well. One of the main coffee processing methods here is wet-hulled as a result of the climate. The high humidity environment demands a different approach, where wet-hulled is similar to a washed process, but involves more than one drying period. Instead of washing and drying once, it is dried to 50-55%, sold or stored, then half-dried again where the parchment is removed (i.e. wet-milled). It is finally air-dried again, and exported. Recently, in addition to wet-hulled (AKA giling basah), we are seeing more washed, semi-washed, and natural processes, as well as experimental processing. 

KENYA joined the coffee exporting industry relatively late in the 1960s. Many farmers and producers, similar to Ethiopia, own small lots and sell cherry to a cooperative, where it is then further processed. Kenya has its own sales channels, mostly selling either in an auction, or direct to a buyer. You will see that most coffee varietals coming out of Kenya have the letters “SL” in front of them, an abbreviation for “Scott Laboratories”. Some other common varietals now grown and found in Kenya include Ruiru 11, Batian, and K7. There are many regions to list for Kenya, but the slightly more common ones we see here in North America include: Kericho, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Kisii, Mt. Elgon, Murang’a, and Nyeri. Regions we see slightly less of here include: Bungoma, Embu, Machakos, Meru, Nakuru, Taita Taveta, Thika, Tran-Nzoia. 

MEXICO is the 8th largest coffee producing country. There has been a shifting focus towards Mexican coffees due to quality improvements in recent years, such as lot and varietal separation, new varietals being grown, and great growing conditions. There are 4 main regions that are slightly more well-known for coffee production, including: Chiapas, Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz. Some other regions that also grow coffee include: Colima, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, and San Luis Potosi. Most coffee from Mexico goes through a washed process, though we are seeing more natural- and honey-processed coffees, as well as experimental processes. 

PERU is the 5th largest coffee producing country. Coffee farms are typically in remote areas, and similar to Ethiopia and Kenya, most farmers and producers own small lots of land at approximately 3 hectares. There are several regions that we see coffee from more often, including: Amazonas, Cajamarca, Cusco, Huánaco, and Junin. Regions we see fewer coffees from, here in North America, include: Ayacucho, Pura, Puno, and Villa Rica. Most coffees from Peru are washed process coffees, with the very occasional natural and honey processed coffees in recent years.  


All the above varietals are commonly grown in Indonesia. Abyssinia typically has a longberry appearance. Ateng is a common name for Catimor coffees. Gayo 1 and 2, and TimTim are all related to one another, believed to be related to Catimor, Sarchimor, and Timor varietals. All 5 varietals have robusta-related genetics. 

Originally discovered in Brazil, now widely grown in Latin American countries, including: Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru. Related to Bourbon plant as it is a natural mutation of Bourbon.

Varietals that are widely grown in Latin American countries, including: Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru. Although Caturra and Bourbon do not have robusta genetics, Catimor does (related to the coffee varietal Timor).

Originating from Ethiopia with non-traceable specificity of varietals; also known as “heirloom varietals”. The Jimma Agricultural Research Center is currently doing more research on Ethiopian varietals, finding and naming unique varietals or strains of coffee such as 74110, or Dega.

Originating from Ethiopia, but is now grown in many countries due to the unique flavour profile and market value. Countries that we have seen geshas grown in include: Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mexico, and Peru. From the Leaderboard list of countries, we have not seen a gesha from Burundi nor Kenya. World Coffee Research resource is incomprehensive with Gesha-related varietals. 

Recently discovered in Peru. Related to Bourbon plant as it is a newly named varietal, and potentially a Bourbon and Ethiopian varietal hybrid. Research is incomplete at the moment. 

A first generation (F1) hybrid coffee varietal between T5296 (Sarchimor) and Sudan Rume (from Ethiopia). Commonly grown and found in Costa Rica. From the Leaderboard list of countries, we have not seen a milenio from any of the other origins.

Bourbon is one of the main arabica varieties in the world, and is typically differentiated by peak ripeness colour (red, pink/orange, yellow). It was originally introduced in Brazil, and it made its way through Latin America and East Africa. There is a lack of research regarding the many Bourbon-related varieties. From the Leaderboard list of countries, we have seen coffees labelled Bourbon and/or Red Bourbon in Burundi, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Peru.

SL-28 + SL-34
SL-28 and SL-34 originate from Kenya’s Scott Laboratories, a research program that conducts coffee varietal research. These both are also Bourbon-related varietals, and are typically the two varietals that provide the best prices for farmers & producers due to the market demand. These two varieties are grown most commonly in Kenya, but have recently been grown in Costa Rica & Colombia.

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