Coffee bean origins and their flavours
Coffees produced around the world can have a variety of flavours; there are, however, some general characteristics for different regions.
- For mild coffees, focus on Central American or Island coffees.
- For espresso, try an espresso blend or use Brazil or even Ethiopia as single origin espresso.
- For darker roasts and coffees with lots of body, check out Indonesian or Brazilian coffees; these tend to have more body, less acidity and take a dark roast well.
- For bright, flavourful coffees, try Kenyan coffees which can tend to be more acidic, more citrus, or Ethiopian coffees which can be fruited or bittersweet chocolate.
- For a bold, flavoursome coffee, try Guatemala which tends to have a nutty, chocolaty, spicy and fruity flavour, all at once.
This quick guide can serve as a basic overview of how coffees taste from region to region:
Central American Coffee Beans
- Costa Rica – medium body, citrus, nutty
- Guatemala – can be spicy, smoky, chocolate, earthy or delicate, floral, fruity, sweet
- Honduras – crisp, light-bodied, nutty, spicy
- Mexico – light/medium bodied, milk chocolate, bright, lively, fruity
- Nicaragua – mild acidity, vanilla, hazelnut, chocolate, pear
- Panama – zesty, lively, spicy, lemongrass, herbal
- El Salvador – pretty similar to Nicaragua’s
South American Coffee Beans
- Bolivia – medium body, caramel, chocolate, can be flowery and fruity
- Brazil – medium/full body, low acidity, milk chocolate, fruity
- Colombia – medium body, medium acidity, fruity, nutty
- Ecuador – light/medium body, medium acidity, caramel, fruit, nutty
- Peru – medium body, medium acidity, spice, nutty, chocolate, earthy
African and Arabian Coffee Beans
- Burundi – full body, low acidity, grassy, chocolate
- Congo – full body, low acidity, intense, chocolate, nutty, tobacco, vanilla, earthy, spicy
- Ethiopia – the birthplace of coffee and the most diverse region in the world, it’s very hard to find terms that can accurately describe this country’s coffee; these coffee beans can have full body, chocolate, cherry, creamy, earthy, blueberry or medium body, flowery, herbal, nutty
- Kenya – full body, zesty, citrus, floral, herbal
- Rwanda – medium body, chocolate, floral, nutty
- Tanzania – medium body, woody, earthy, spicy
- Uganda – full body, chocolate, creamy, vanilla
- Yemen – full body, chocolate, winy
- Zambia – medium body, tangy, citrus, caramel, bittersweet
- Zimbabwe – medium body, woody, low acidity, herbal, vegetal, spicy
Indonesian and Asian Coffee Beans
- Bali – full body, low acidity, creamy, nutty, chocolate, vanilla, earthy
- Flores – full body, low acidity, floral, earthy, woody, syrupy sweet
- India – full body, spicy, medium acidity, tropical fruit; monsooned Malabars are very intense, full body, tobacco, low acidity
- Java – full body, chocolate, nutty, low acidity, creamy
- Myanmar – medium body, medium acidity, similar to Brazils
- Papua New Guinea – full body, medium acidity, fruity, earthy,
- Sumatra – full body, intense, earthy, woody, gritty, low acidity
- Sulawesi – full body, low acidity, herbal, spicy, woody
- Timor – full body, low acidity, floral, woody, earthy, herbal
Islands and Others
- Australia – medium body, medium acidity, mild, juicy, syrupy
- Dominican Republic – medium body, medium acidity, mild, sweet, caramel,
- Hawaii – medium body, low acidity, creamy, vanilla, brown sugar
- Jamaica – medium body, low acidity, tobacco, mellow, sweet
- Puerto Rico – medium body, low acidity, smoky, creamy, buttery, nutty, sweet
Alternatively, if you have the time, feel free to read further detail below on some of the countries.
Popular Single Origin Coffee Beans from Southern America
Coffee was introduced to Colombia in the early 1800’s and has a wide variety of cultivars. They jockey for the number one coffee producer in the world, but is second to Brazil. Colombian coffee is a traditional dark-roast coffee with a strong, memorable flavour.
The number one producer of coffee in the world. They offer a medium-roast bean with low acidity from the centre of the coffee world. The coffee has a heavy, syrupy body with a hint of tobacco flavour – a great component for an espresso blend.
Brazil Santos gourmet coffee beans are processed using the natural dry method. The coffee bean is dried inside the cherry so that some of the fruit’s sweetness is evident in the deliciously tasteful brewed cup of coffee.
Brazil Cerrado coffee is generally clean with a good body (creamy mouth feel), low acidity, well-balanced, and often exhibiting a nutty and even slightly caramelly flavour when light-roasted, perhaps even malty, though more chocolaty if given a darker roast.
Peruvian coffees are grown very high in the Andes Mountains. This exceptional altitude creates a coffee with a bright effervescence, gentle sweetness and a nice medium body. Peruvian coffee usually has soft acidity with a rich thick taste and memorable aftertaste. It has a very gentle, subtle flavour and is good for any kind of coffee making.
Popular Single Origin Coffee Beans from the Central Americas
This strictly hard bean is grown at altitudes of 4 500 meters or higher. Guatemala is a medium- to full-bodied coffee in the cup, often with depth and complexity in taste, almost spicy and chocolaty to the tongue.
Coffees of Guatemala Antigua combine aroma notes of spice, flowers, smoke and occasionally chocolate with acidity ranging from gently bright to severely powerful. It creates a vibrant cup of coffee with a unique smoky finish.
This is generally a well-regarded blending coffee. When roasted, the cup is less acidic, with a sweet caramel flavour.
Some Nicaraguan coffees are among the best in the world. When roasted, the cup is mild with a light acidity and very well balanced.
When the beans are roasted, they are mild, sweet and bright with a tangy aroma and full-bodied richness. This coffee is highly dependent on the roast. A lighter roast will bring out a milk chocolate brightness with some berry overtones while a darker roast tends to accentuate a bittersweet chocolate with a slight whiney finish.
Popular Single Origin Coffee Beans from Africa
The coffee is grown together with bananas for shade and can be superb. When roasted, the beans are sweetly acidic, aromatic and intensely flavoured.
The first Arabica coffee tree was introduced in Burundi by the Belgians in the early 1930′s. When the beans are roasted, they have a complex and sometimes creamy flavour with a high acidity.
This is where coffee originated and many legends exist on how, where and why it has been cultivated, dating even as far back as the ninth century. This coffee is shade-grown and mostly in the traditional organic method.
It is not hard to believe that coffee originated in a land where wild coffee tree forests are still the primary source of harvested coffee. Ethiopia is the second largest coffee producer in Africa and seventh in the world. When roasted, the beans have a fruity aroma and are winy with a sparkling acidity.
Ethiopian Limu coffee is renowned for its good cup, sweet, spicy/winey flavour and balanced body and is therefore sought after by many roasters, especially in Europe and USA. Washed Limu coffee is one of the premium gourmet coffees worldwide.
Malawi has one of the most sought after coffees in the world. When roasted, the beans are soft, floral and delicate.
Uganda mostly grows Robusta coffees, but Arabica coffee is grown in Bugishu and is well worth looking out for. When the beans are roasted, they have a tart acidity and some winy components. Ugandan coffee has a clean, bold taste with hints of bittersweet chocolate. The best part is that in most cases, the proceeds from the purchase of this coffee benefit the people of Uganda.
One of the finest coffees available and well known for its strong flavour, good aroma and acidity. When roasted, the beans have a bright acidity and are full-bodied.
Indian & Indonesian Coffee Beans
Coffee is produced throughout the Indonesian archipelago, and Java is one of the great names of the coffee history. When the beans are roasted, they have a well-balanced acidity and are rich, full-bodied with ripe fruit undertones and chocolaty taste
India is known for monsooning its coffees – a process that is recreated naturally in order to copy the flavour and taste profiles created by the exposure the beans have during the high humidity during monsoon seasons on original journeys by ship. The coffee has a delicate hint of spice and a good body.
Jamaican Blue Mountain
This is a classification of coffee grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. The best lots of Blue Mountain coffee are noted for their smooth, balanced, mild and subtlety in flavour and lack of bitterness. Over the last several decades, this coffee has developed a reputation that has made it one of the most expensive and sought after coffees in the world.
One of the very best coffees available and strictly a high bean. It is full-bodied and deliciously balanced with a spicy and complex cup.
Organic Coffee Beans
Organic beans are beans that have been produced without the use of pesticides or herbicides. When roasted, they are smooth, with a slight acidity and balanced flavour.
Decaffeinated coffee or “decaff” is coffee that has had most of the caffeine removed. Commercially, there are two methods used to remove caffeine from coffee:
European Process of decaffeinating coffee:
This process originated in Europe and is mostly used. It involves soaking the beans in water and then “washing” them in methylene chloride to absorb the caffeine from the bean. The beans are then rinsed clean of the chemicals, dried and shipped to the coffee roasters.
This method provides decaf coffee with more flavour than the Swiss water processing. Although there is almost no trace of any chemicals left in the bean after roasting, some people are uncomfortable knowing that the coffee they are drinking was chemically processed.
Swiss Water Process of decaffeinating coffee:
The second method is known as “Swiss water processing”. This process uses hot water and steam instead of chemicals to remove the caffeine from the coffee. The “life” of the bean is taken into the water, and then the water solution is put through activated charcoal filters to remove the caffeine. Once the caffeine is removed, these same beans are then put back into the decaffeinated solution to re-absorb everything except the caffeine. The beans are then dried and shipped to the roasters. The disadvantage is that the water processing removes more than just the caffeine. Some of the oils from the coffee bean are removed as well, making it less flavourful.