The Best Countries To Grow Coffee and How Altitudes affect flavor profiles
Coffee is a beverage that is enjoyed throughout the world. A drink that you can have when you wake up, for a boost in the early afternoon or a post dinner shot of espresso. You can also mix it with many different things ranging from cream, sugar and syrups to beer and spirits. Coffee is so diverse with an array of combinations, there is something for everyone to love!
From bold flavors of a dark roast to the smooth and mellow notes of a light roast, there is no surprise that coffee can be found pretty much anywhere on earth. But that begs the question where is coffee grown? Coffee is grown in a variety of regions around the earth, however some places are better than others when it comes to producing high quality beans. In this blog we will discuss the best countries and altitudes to produce this magnificent beverage.
Let’s begin with a Country that grows some of the finest coffee beans in the world. Nestled in Northwest South America, Colombia is home to a plethora of coffee growers and roasters. The country’s mild climate and high altitude create the perfect conditions for producing arabica coffee beans. Along with the mild climate it has an impeccable balance of rainfall and sunlight. Volcanic soil in this region helps to grow almost any plant including coffee. Known for having delicate flavors and aromas. Colombia coffee is often described as having a bright acidity, a medium body and a smooth finish. No wonder they have been exporting coffee for almost 200 years to countries all around the globe. Click the link below to learn more about the history of Colombia coffee growing below.
Number two on the list is located in East Africa. Ethiopia has been and still is a top producing country for coffee beans. Ethiopia is the seventh largest producer of coffee in the world and number one in Africa. Accounting for 3% of the global market with almost 500,000 metric tons exported in 2022. Coffee growing in Ethiopia dates back thousands of years. A place known as the birthplace of coffee because this is where the arabica plant originates. Several different microclimates and altitudes make for a sought-after region to grow. Giving us unique flavor profiles of fruity and floral notes with a medium body and bright acidity. Aside from the prime temperature and rainfall, much of Ethiopia’s growing success comes from a lack of agrochemical use and the protection of its forests. Click the link below to learn more about coffee production in Ethiopia.
Located in Central America not far from Colombia it is no surprise that Costa Rica lands at number three on this list. The conditions of growing coffee here are similar to Colombia. Volcanic soil with the rainfall and sunshine being in harmony makes for a desirable landscape to produce coffee. The high altitude of 900 meters (2,700 ft) to 1,500 meters (4,500 ft) above sea level make for a variety of flavor profiles. Often described as having notes of chocolate, caramel and citrus with a medium body and easy finish. Coffee production in Costa Rica began in the late eighteenth century and has since been an agricultural staple in the country. In fact, in the early nineteenth century the revenue from coffee had surpassed cocoa, sugar and tobacco. In conclusion, Costa Rica has been a top producer for quite some time due to the land conditions and temperature. Much of the infrastructure has been funded from the revenue generated from coffee sales. Click the link below to learn more.
The next on the list is located in North Central America. Guatemala is famous for having a very diverse landscape including volcanoes, lakes and large rainforests. Bordering the pacific ocean to the west, it is no surprise that the rainfall is heavy. In the mid nineteenth century is when coffee production sprouted in Guatemala. With high altitudes, fertile soil and easy distribution between North and South America it was superb conditions and location for a thriving coffee industry. Typical temperatures range from 60-90 degrees year round and the altitude is between 500 meters (1,600 ft) to 700 meters (2,300 ft) above sea level. With 40-80 inches of rainfall per year throughout the country and almost double that near the coasts it is more than enough to support large coffee farms. For most of the 20th century Guatemala was the top producer of coffee in Central America. Coffee was important to the economy at the time and still holds true today. The coffee grown in Guatemala is often expressed to have a full body with notes of chocolate, nuts and spices. Click the link below to learn more about the coffee production in Guatemala.
The most populous and vast country in South America by a long shot is our next candidate. Brazil does almost everything very big and coffee production is no exception. Brazil alone produces roughly one third of the world’s coffee. Making it by far the world’s largest producer of the coffee. The coffee plantations are most prominent in the southeast of Brazil and encompass 10,000 square miles of land. A large portion of the country falls in the tropical zone with humid warm weather and rich soil it is no surprise that it grows an incredible amount of crops with coffee being one of the most abundant. The crop first arrived in the early 18th century and was a staple crop behind sugar and cotton. Up until the early 19th century production was for domestic purposes only. Demand sky rocketed in North America and Europe driving Brazil to export the good around the globe. Click the link below to learn more about the coffee production in Brazil.
Located in East Africa, next on our list for the best countries to grow coffee is Kenya. Another top producer of arabica coffee beans and it’s no surprise given the high altitude, fantastic soil and fitting climate. Located near Mount Kenya there are many plateaus that are perfect for coffee farms. The altitudes among these plateaus range from 1,400 meters (Roughly 5,000 ft) to 2,000 meters (Roughly 6,500 ft) above sea level. The acidic volcanic soil is more than a seasoned coffee farmer could ask for. Along with the optimal amount of sunlight and rainfall, it’s so surprise that Kenyan coffee is highly sought after. Coffee grown in Kenya is comparable to Colombia, it is mild with bold flavors of grapefruit and chocolate. Click the link below to learn more about the coffee production in Kenya.
There are many other countries that grow coffee but these six stand out from the rest. As we have discussed in this blog so far, the ideal conditions for growing coffee are cool to warm tropical climates at high elevations with rich volcanic soil and optimal rainfall. The coffee belt stretches across the globe from East to West along the equator. Prime conditions fall in Central America, Northern and Central South America, Central Africa and Southeast Asia.
Different Elevations for Coffee Bean Growing
Now, let’s talk a little bit about the different elevations that coffee beans flourish in and the flavor profiles they produce.
Low Elevation (0-2,000 feet)
Growing coffee at this elevation brings a nutty, earthy flavor with low acidity and a heavy body. These beans typically have a higher yield per plant and are more resistant to pests and diseases. The low elevation brings harsh conditions such as high temperature and less rainfall. Coffee beans at this elevation tend to become ripe quicker than at higher elevations and have a more subtle and bland flavor profile.
Medium Elevation (2,000-4,000 feet)
Coffee grown at medium elevations will have a balanced flavor profile with hints of fruit, floral and a chocolate. With a medium body and neutral acidity, the quality of beans is better than low elevations. Higher elevation means more difficult growing process and the beans are more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Richer soil and heavier rainfall make for more robust flavors at this elevation.
High Elevation (4,000-6,000 feet)
The flavor profile continues to get more complex as you continue to grow at higher elevations. Coffee beans grown at this level of altitude have a higher acidity with notes of citrus, berries and floral. Lighter body with a crisp, clean and bright taste. Beans grown at this altitude are known to be of the highest quality and most sought after in the world.
Very High Elevation (6,000+ feet)
It is rare for coffee to be grown at altitudes above 6,000 feet. Coffee growers may use these elevations for small batches. Extremely high acidity with bright and fruity notes for a delicate finish. Vibrant and complex flavor profiles draw an exclusive target market for coffee beans grown at this elevation. Beans grow this high are for seasoned coffee drinkers, not for the faint heart!
Well, that pretty much sums up this blog. The best countries to grow coffee and the how different altitudes affect flavor profiles. I hope you enjoyed this blog and learned something new. Here at The Coffee Club we are always expanding on our coffee knowledge and our community. Our goal is to bring people together that share the same passion for coffee as we do! Coffee is a beverage that is enjoyed throughout the whole world. Grown with love and passion somewhere on almost every continent. As we continue to grow as a company, we hope to continue to bring you new information and products that keep the coffee community thriving. Stay tuned and cheers to another cup!