An Origin, Region, & Varietal Guide: Season 11



BRAZIL is the biggest coffee producer in the world. Vietnam and Colombia are in second and third in terms of worldwide coffee production, but Brazil still produces about 4 times more coffee than Colombia, and doubles Vietnam’s coffee production. Today, coffee quality control technology is quite advanced in Brazil, and Brazil is known to implement new technology to help with coffee yield/production control, fermentation and coffee processing, as well as sorting and the exportation process overall. Most coffees that grow in Brazil, are grown at an altitude of under 1600 masl. Coffee growing regions here include 5 larger ones, and are split into sub-regions. The 5 main growing regions include: Bahia, Espirito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and Sāo Paulo. Some sub-regions that you might see are located within Minas Gerais, such as Cerrado, Matas de Minas, and Sul de Minas. Another popular sub-region is Mogiana, which is located in Sāo Paulo. Most coffee in Brazil goes through natural or pulped natural process, though we have seen more experimental processes in recent years such as washed, anaerobic & carbonic macerations, and introduction of non-coffee ingredients in processing too.

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. 

INDIA has had a long history of coffee production, and is considered to have one of the most diverse selections of coffee varietals. Currently, most producers are growing Robusta varietals, and we have seen some producers shift to more Arabica production. Due to the climate, pest- and disease-resistant varietals are prioritized in coffee research, and in recent years has been focusing on hybridizing robusta and arabica varietals to improve cup quality. Coffee in India is grown in three main regions: Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Some other regions are also growing coffee, mostly on the eastern and northeastern coast of India. Despite the popularization of the unique Monsoon Malabar process, most Arabica coffee nowadays are processed in multiple other ways. We have seen washed, natural, and honey processed Indian coffees, as well as innovative and experimental processed coffees.  

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.




CHIROSO is a new varietal, originating from a specific region named Urrao in Antioquia. When it was first “identified” about 9 years ago, it was named Caturra Chiroso due to the oblong, Caturra-like shape. However, recent genetic studies have shown that it is actually a recent Ethiopian arrival, and has Ethiopian landrace genetics. Unfortunately there isn’t much more information on this varietal, though it is highly prized as a complex yet delicate coffee. Chiroso is currently only grown in Colombia.

CATURRA was originally discovered in Brazil, now widely grown in Latin American countries, such as Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Peru. Related to Bourbon plant as it is a natural mutation of Bourbon, and is not related to Robusta varietals. Usually average to slightly larger than average size after roasting. Typically has a medium to medium-high acidity.

CATUAI is grown in many places around the world, most typically in Central and South America, including but not limited to: Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. Catuai is a hybrid between Caturra and Mundo Novo. There is not much research on Catuai 81 as a specific varietal or subvarietal, however, Catuai 81 is typically grown in specific regions in Brazil. In some ways, this variety is slightly more difficult than others to identify via taste.

KARTIKA is an abbreviation of Kopi Arabika Tipe Katai, which translates to Catuai arabica coffee. It is an Indonesian variation of Catuai, and was initially popular due to its high quality flavour profile. It is extremely susceptible to coffee rust and other coffee-related diseases, and also quite difficult to grow due to Kartika requiring a lot of fertilizer compared to other Indonesian coffee varieties. Kartika trees often bear smaller cherries, which may be an indication post-roast that a coffee may be a Kartika varietal. Kartika is mostly grown in Indonesia.

RED BOURBON can sometimes be referred to as Bourbon. 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 this season’s Leaderboard list of countries, we have seen coffees labelled Bourbon and/or Red Bourbon in Brazil, Burundi, Colombia, and Costa Rica. 

SL-28 (and SL-34) originated from Kenya’s Scott Laboratories, a research program that conducts coffee varietal research. SL-28 and SL-34 are both Bourbon-related varietals, and provide a great price for farmers & producers due to the market demand. These are grown most commonly in Kenya, but have recently been grown in Colombia, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. This varietal can oftentimes taste of blackcurrant, tomato/red fruit, and/or black tea. 

SLN 9 + 5B are two different varietals, and SLN is shortened from “Selection”. Central Coffee Research Institute (CCRI) and the Coffee Board of India developed and released 13 Arabica selections for commercial cultivation, and both SLN 9 and SLN 5B went through introgressive breeding. SLN 9 is a rust-resistant cultivar, and was hybridized with many tall Arabica varietals such as S795, Gesha, and Bourbon. SLN 5B is also a relatively rust resistant cultivar, where defoliation is not common. It is a hybrid between Devamachy and S.333. In comparing SLN 9 to SLN 5B, SLN 9 typically provides a better cup, and SLN 5B typically produces FAQ (fair to average quality) or FAQ+ grade coffees. SLN 9 + 5B are mostly grown in India.

TABI was developed by CENICAFE, the Colombian coffee research institute, and is a hybrid of Bourbon, Timor, and Typica varietals. Tabi means “good” or “excellent” in Guambiano, an Indigenous Colombian dialect. One of its main differentiating factors is in its cherry size (quite large), as well as its resistance to leaf rust. Tabi is mostly grown in Colombia. 

WOLISHO & DEGA are both Ethiopian landrace and/or heirloom varietals. The Jimma Agricultural Research Center (JARC) is currently doing more research on Ethiopian varietals, finding and naming unique varietals or strains of coffee. Wolisho was named after a tree that is indigenous to the Gedeo zone. Dega was also named after an indigenous tree, and when burned smells similar to when coffee is roasted. Wolisho & Dega are mostly grown in Ethiopia. 

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