An Origin, Region, & Varietal Guide: Season 14



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!

ECUADOR is a South American country, and has been growing coffee for a long time, though has been more popular over the past 10 years. Ecuadorian coffees grow in very diverse environments, ranging from sea level to above 2000 masl. There are many challenges with growing coffee in Ecuador due to climate change (and being on the equator), but we are so glad to see improvement in coffee quality year after year. Coffee grows in 10 or more separate regions, though we do see specialty coffees grown more commonly in Loja, Pichincha, El Oro, and Galapagos. Other coffee growing regions include: Azuay, Carchi, Chimborazo, Imbabura, Tungurahua, and Zamora-Chinchipe. 

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. 

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. 

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, Cuzco, 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.  

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. 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). 

VIETNAM is the second highest coffee-producing country in the world. Although known to produce mostly Robusta, there has been a growing specialty coffee industry with Arabica. Both Arabica and Robusta in Vietnam generally grows below 1600 masl. 




Batian, Ruiru 11, SL-28, SL-34 is a combination of coffees that come from Kenya. SL-28 + SL-34 originated from Kenya’s Scott Laboratories, a research program that conducts coffee varietal research. SL-28 and SL-34 are Bourbon-related varietals, 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.

CASTILLO originated from and is typically only grown in Colombia, developed for its rust resistance by Cenicafé. Descended from the Colombia variety, it was released in 2005, and continues to provide good yield and production to date. Castillo is sometimes seen as less desirable compared to other varietals that have high cup quality and low yields, however there are certainly excellent Castillos out there. Flavour profile for a typical washed coffee is smooth body and citric acidity. 

FIELD BLEND signifies there are several varietals harvested from the same area. Some farms isolate certain varietals, and some do not, due to multiple reasons such as (but are not limited to): labour to keep lots separate from neighbouring lots, or (un)intentional blending of multiple harvested lots in order to develop a specific regional profile.

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.

LANDRACE/HEIRLOOM ETHIOPIAN varieties originate from Ethiopia with non-traceable specificity of varietals; also known as “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 such as 74110, or Dega. Typically very small bean size after roasting, oftentimes has some variation in size, and can sometimes have longberries mixed in.

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 grown in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Rwanda, and Vietnam.

ROBUSTA SE is a general varietal name for a different species of coffee, known as Robusta or Canephora. Robusta is typically grown at lower altitudes, and is a high yielding plant with low risk of plant diseases. Robusta varieties tend to taste very different to Arabica varieties, as they contain higher amounts of caffeine, also resulting in high bitterness in the cup.

(YELLOW) CATURRA was originally discovered in Brazil, and is 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.



Back to blog