Coffee from around the world

Coffee from around the world

How coffee plants reached so many countries

From its natural home in Ethiopia, coffee plants were firstly taken to Yemen, then around 1690 to Ceylon and then Java by Dutch merchants working for the Company of the Indies. In 1720, coffee plants were shipped to the Americas: Haiti, Mexico, Venezuela, Santo Domingo, Martinique and Brazil. Today all countries situated between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn produce coffee, the main ones being: Mexico, Columbia, El Salvador, Venezuela, Guatemala, Brazil, India and Indonesia (Arabica); Zaire, the Ivory Coast, Uganda, Cameroon, Indochina, India and Madagascar (Robusta).

Coffee Varieties by country


All Arabica plants in the Caribbean and the Americas are believed to descend from a single plant taken surreptitiously by De Clieu to Martinique from the gardens of King Louis XIV.

The most valued Jamaican coffee beans are grown at high altitudes. The rarest variety is the Blue Mountain, which is grown in state-controlled plantations. Roasted beans yield a sweet, aromatic, slightly acidic and full-bodied drink.

Other varieties include the Prime Washed, Jamaican Mountain Choice and High Mountain.

Costa Rican coffees have the strongest flavour of all Latin American varieties and are full-bodied and acidic. The best varieties are generally considered to grow on the mountains along the Pacific coast.

The varieties cultivated in Haiti are roasted till dark, with most of the production exported to Italy and France. Haitian coffees are known for their full, slightly sweet flavour, with little acid. The Port au Prince variety sometimes has a pungent aroma and spicy aftertaste.

The coffee grown in Guatemala is distinguished by its almost smoky flavour and high level of acidity, while the beans themselves have a rather imperfect appearance. The varieties generally take on the name of the mountain region in which they are cultivated, with the exception of the huge Maragogipe bean which is grown on the plains.

Mexican coffees tend to be full-bodied, rich and slightly acidic, with a fragrant aroma. The most valued varieties are those cultivated at high altitudes.


The Dutch and French colonialists introduced coffee to South America in the 18th century, and, thanks to the generally ideal climatic conditions, today coffee is cultivated in many countries across the continent.

Brazil is the world's largest producer of Arabica coffee, with the variety of note being Bourbon Santos which yields a delicately-flavoured beverage, as well as being very good indeed for making blends. Other varieties, particularly those belonging to the Rio class, are rather sour and sometimes even acrid. One of the more important varieties is the Maragogipe which is famous for its giant beans, and are grown on trees that are the result of a botanic mutation of the Arabica bean.

Largely due to the characteristics of the terrain and the relatively stable climatic conditions, Colombia is the world's second largest producer of coffee and the first as far as quality is concerned. The most prized bean is the Medellin variety, full-bodied, rich and slightly acidic. The Vintage Colombian is, on the other hand, a rarity, and is produced from beans aged for an amazing eight years before roasting, this giving a full-flavoured and almost syrupy coffee.

The best quality Venezuelan varieties grow along the Colombian border, and are amongst the finest – though less well known – in the world. Merida and Caracas, with their low acidity and light-body, are particularly popular in European countries.


Africa is progressively becoming an important producer of coffee for the international market. Though Arabica originated in Ethiopia, 75% of African coffee beans are actually of the Robusta species, which has proved to be more resistant to disease and assures a more abundant harvest over the native Arabica, The Ivory Coast, Angola and Uganda are the biggest producers of Robusta, with Ethiopia and Kenya being the only African countries to produce Arabica alone.

Angola is predominantly a producer of Robusta, plus also exports a small quantity of Arabica – Andulo or Gando – which, with a relatively, neutral flavour, makes it ideal for blending.

Coffee plants still grows naturally in Ethiopia, where they are harvested by the local community and the beans dried in the sun. This variety, called Djimmah, has a spicy, slightly piquant flavour. Harrar, or Ethiopian Moka, is one of the rarer varieties. Similar to real Moka, this coffee produces a dark red beverage with a full, strong and rather winy taste.

Kenyan coffees are known for being full-bodied and slightly acidic, with Kenya AA being the best variety.

Tanzanian coffee is drunk pure and black –never blended. Winy, acidulous and sweet, the most prized Arabica are the Kilimanjaro and Plantation Buboka. An exceptional rarity are the round coffee beans of these varieties.

The classic coffee, Moka, comes exclusively from Yemen and although the bean is irregular and unattractive, it yields an exceptional juice that is spicy, bitter/sweet and full-bodied.


India is the largest producer of coffee in Asia and grows both Arabica and Robusta. Java, Sumatra and the Hawaiian islands were amongst the first international producers.

Java is considered to produce one of the most delicate and refined Arabica beans in the world. The finest is full-bodied, with low acidity and a spicy aroma.

All coffee types grown are excellent, with a full- bodied sweet flavour and never syrupy. The Kona coffee plants are cultivated on the slopes of the Manua Loa volcano.

The British are the biggest customers of Indian coffee, the most common variety of which is Mysore, which is dark, full-bodied and acidulous.

Rich, sweet and moderately acidic, Mandheling is the most valued of the Sumatran coffee beans.

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