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.
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!
GUATEMALA is in Central America, and has similar coffee growing conditions to Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and parts of Colombia. Guatemala has been growing coffee since the 1850s, and also has a long-standing Cup of Excellence competition. Guatemalan coffees are typically high grown, and most Guatemalan coffees are traditionally washed. We are seeing more and more natural and honey processed Guatemalan coffees, as well as experimental/innovative processing emerge. Guatemalan coffee growing regions include: Huehuetenango, Acatenango, Antigua, Nuevo Oriente, Fraijanes, Atitlan, Coban, and San Marcos. In Guatemala, many varietals are grown; these include: Bourbon, Caturra, Catuai, Gesha/Geisha, Mundo Novo, Typica, Pache, Pacamara, Castillo, Tekisic, and more.
HONDURAS is in Central America, and has similar coffee growing conditions to Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. There are varying qualities of coffee that are grown here, and Honduras has had a Cup of Excellence competition for some years now. Coffee in Honduras usually grows in these 6 regions: Cópan, Opalaca, Montecillos, Comayagua, El Paraiso, and Agalta. We typically see Honduran coffees in North America from Cópan, Montecillos, and Comayagua. Honduras traditionally produces washed coffees, though we have been seeing increasingly more naturals, honeys, anaerobically fermented coffees, and other innovative/experimental processing methods. In Honduras, we can see a wide range of coffee varieties being grown, such as Bourbon, Catuai, Caturra, IHCAFE-90/IH90, Lempira, Pacamara, Pacas, Parainema, Typica, and Villa Sarchi.
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.
RWANDA is a smaller coffee-producing country, located in East Africa. Rwanda began coffee production closer to the beginning of the 20th century, and currently there are many smallholder farmers who have small coffee farms, bringing their cherry to a local washing station. Most Rwandan coffees grow Bourbon or Red Bourbon, and coffees are generally washed process. We have seen increasingly more natural-processed Rwandans, and the occasional honey-processed coffee. Growing regions include: Kivu, Virunga, Kizi Rift, Akagera, and Muhazi. Rwandan coffees, especially washed process coffees, tend to have a heavier and silky mouthfeel, sometimes even having a savoury characteristic to it as well. Coffees can have floral notes which can remind us of many African coffees, and have tropical fruit or berries with sugars that are generally lighter (sugarcane, honey, light brown sugar, light caramel).
BOURBON Originated in Ethiopia, and was then transported to Yemen. Bourbon was primarily introduced to Brazil, and then spread to South and Central America. Known to be one of the most important varietals in the world, it is now grown in many countries, though relatively more notably grown in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru.
CATURRA Originally discovered in Brazil, now widely grown in Latin American countries, including: 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.
COLOMBIA is also known as Variedad Colombia, and was introduced by Cenicafé in Colombia in 1983. This varietal was released before the currently slightly more popular Castillo varietal (which was released in 2005). Colombia comes from Caturra and Timor Hybrid varieties, and is a difficult one to identify sometimes as it was released four decades ago now. Varieties change and adapt, and many Colombian producers have begun to grow Castillo and other varieties, rendering this variety somewhat rare to find. Colombia (the variety) coffee seeds are typically slightly smaller than Castillo beans, and generally is less rust-resistant than the more recently released Cenicafé varieties. It is rare to find a Colombia varietal coffee outside of Colombia.
CATUAI (YELLOW + RED) 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, and grows as typically either red or yellow catuai. Catuai is 100% arabica due to the genetic lineage. Due to the different maturation colours, they can sometimes be mixed into the same lot if the specific lot is not separated/isolated. In some ways, this variety is slightly more difficult than others to identify via taste.
GESHA/GEISHA originates 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.
IH90 or IHCAFE90, is a relatively new varietal developed in Honduras that is high yielding and adapted for lower and medium altitudes. Plants are quite small, and highly susceptible to coffee leaf rust despite its Timor and Caturra genetics. This variety is most commonly found in Honduras. Although some coffee buyers can have negative associations with this varietal, we have seen many delicious IH90 coffees in recent years.
LAURINA is a relatively new varietal, more commonly found in Brazil, Colombia, and Nicaragua, and less commonly found in Costa Rica, Hawaii, and Indonesia. It derives from the Bourbon family, most likely Bourbon Pointu, which gives Laurina its slightly pointed bean/seed shape. Laurina has arabica-related genetics, but is naturally low in caffeine.
PINK BOURBON is a variation on the Bourbon varietal, which is grown around the world and difficult to trace. Pink Bourbon has only recently gained its own label, and is sometimes known as Bourbon/Borbon Rosado, and even Orange Bourbon. It is a hybrid between red and yellow bourbon, and is difficult to grow due to the ambiguous ripeness stage (i.e. it is difficult to tell if it is an overripe yellow bourbon, or an underripe red bourbon). This specific varietal (or sub-varietal) is most commonly seen in Colombia (known as Pink Bourbon or Bourbon Rosado) and El Salvador (known as Orange Bourbon), and on the rarest occasions in Brazil.
SL-28 + SL-34 originated from Kenya’s Scott Laboratories, a research program that conducts coffee varietal research. SL-28 is a Bourbon-related varietal, and provides a great price for farmers & producers due to the market demand. This is 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. Ruiru 11 + Batian are also mostly grown in Kenya. Ruiru 11 is a compact, high yielding variety developed in Kenya to allow for more intensive coffee production with fewer losses from diseases and pests. Batian was released in Kenya in 2010, and is a F5 generation selection from Ruiri 11. The varieties involved in the original hybridization include: SL-28, SL-34, Sudan Rume, N39, K7, SL4 and Timor Hybrid.