Types of Coffee from Around the World

We are often asked: what is the best coffee for a cafetiere? Well, since coffee is all about taste, there isn't one simple answer. Instead, embrace the fact there there are so many delicious tasting coffees around, and, equipped with a decent coffee grinder and cafetiere, you can have the chance to taste them all. Below is a quick reference guide to the various coffees from around the world, with a bit of background about coffee bean types and coffee growing, just to get you started.

A small evergreen bush from the genus Coffea is the source of the world's coffee. Coffee berries from this bush contain coffee seeds, which we have come to call the coffee bean. All over the world, coffee berries are harvested and dried; the seeds from these dried berries are roasted, ground and brewed to create coffee in many varieties. Coffee stimulates the human physiology and is a beverage consumed everywhere you go in the world.

Un-roasted green coffee beans are an agricultural commodity traded all over the world, from sources of cultivation in Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America and South America. Twelve countries rank coffee as their #1 agricultural export; coffee is ranked #7 in value among all agricultural exports in the entire world.

coffee beans

There are two main species of the shrub of the genus Coffea from which the world's coffee beans are harvested: the Arabica and the Canephora, more commonly known as the Robusta. Arabica was originally native to Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya, while Canephora/Robusta was native to sub-Saharan Africa, from Uganda to Guinea and southern Sudan. Arabica is usually favoured over Robusta because of the general bitterness of coffee made from Robusta. 75% of the coffee beans cultivated and harvested in the world are Arabica, though the Robusta bean is cheaper and contains 50% more caffeine than the Arabica bean. Robusta is often mixed with Arabica to produce a coffee with a better body and a stronger taste, especially in espresso blends.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the leading producers of both types of green coffee beans were Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia and Colombia. Sources for both Arabica and Robusta beans were Brazil and Asia; Arabica beans alone came mainly from Central America, Arabia and eastern Africa; Robusta beans came mostly from southeast Asia and central and western Africa. Beans from different countries and even from different regions within a country can be distinguished by aroma, flavour, acidity and body of the coffee brewed from those beans. The reasons for these differences are either the varietal species of the Coffeea shrub or the cultivating and/or processing done in that region.

Varietals of the Coffea plant are usually named for the region in which that varietal is prevalent. Kona coffee beans come from Hawaii; the beans are the most expensive in the world. Bourbon coffee beans come from the Indian Ocean island of Réunion, previously called Île Bourbon while under French control. Java coffee beans were planted by the Dutch on the Indonesian island of Java - Java's "kopi luwak" is the world's most expensive coffee and is created by feeding ripe coffee cherries to civets, whose digestive tract refines the coffee beans. Guadeloupe Bonifieur and Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee are grown on those respective Caribbean islands. Colombian coffee is very aromatic with a heavy body. Ethiopian coffee is considered fruity and complex.

Originally, the shrub that grows coffee beans grew in the shade of other trees - this type of cultivation is called shade-grown coffee. In the 1970s, farmers in various parts of the world began cultivation of the coffee shrub out in the sun. The sunlight caused the plants to grow more quickly and to produce greater yields. However, the flavour of shade-grown coffee beans is considered by many to be superior. Also, fields of sun-grown coffee bushes require clear cutting of forests and the increased use of pesticides and fertilizers.

So, though farmers of sun-grown coffee plants may produce more coffee beans, the quality of the coffee produced from those beans is not considered as good as coffee from shade-grown beans. But, a farmer's choice to grow shade-grown coffee beans would result in lower yields and lower income. To balance out this inequity, the concept of Fair Trade was born. The program guarantees farmers a price for their coffee harvest, thus reducing the need to cultivate sun-grown coffee plants and increasing the incentive to cultivate shade-grown coffee.

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