Many coffee connoisseurs will only drink coffee produced from a particular region – single source. Often, there is a particular taste characteristic associated with the area. The altitude, soil type, climate, and methods of harvesting are among the top factors that give coffee beans their own unique flavor. While the roaster, producing the final product is certainly important to the overall taste of coffee, the region that the coffee originates is a major component as well. In general, a good coffee bean growing region offers moderate sunshine and rain, steady temperatures around 70 degrees F, and rich, porous soil. In my series of blogs I will discuss various regions where coffee is produced, and the particular characteristics associated with them.
The first region that I will discuss is Latin America. Latin American countries currently produce most of the coffee consumed worldwide, with Colombia and Brazil being the leading producers. Both Arabica and Robusta beans are produced throughout Latin America. Amazingly, Brazil is responsible for almost a third of all coffee production in the continent. Because of mostly low growing altitudes, Brazilian coffee can be nutty, sweet, low in acidity, with sweet or bittersweet and chocolate notes. Second, in total coffee production, Columbia in contrast to Brazil is known for its high-altitude coffee estates. These estates produce a coffee with medium acidity, full body, with rich, caramel-like sweet taste. Gran Filtro Dark by Lavazza is a great example of great full bodied Brazilian coffee.
Most Latin American coffee found in regular grocery stores is likely to be of Brazilian or Columbian origin. Other regions to note are Venezuela, Peru, and Costa Rica. Venezuela once rivaled Columbia in coffee production, but in recent decades, coffee has taken a back seat to petroleum. Nonetheless, Venezuela still produces unique, low in acidity coffee with mostly delicate and mild aromas. Because of the gentle nature of Venezuela coffee, it is well suited for drinking as straight espresso.
Accounting for a very minor percent of Latin America production, Costa Rican coffee typically has a very wide range of flavor characteristics and is often associated to specific estates or farms. I have heard coffee from Costa Rica described as fruity, chocolaty, and sweet. Because of the single-source origin of most Costa Rican coffee, the flavor characteristics can be very distinctive and difficult to replicate. Unfortunately, the source of Costa Rican coffee is seldom passed on to the consumer. If you happen to find a Costa Rican coffee that you like, you most likely will be very limited to where you can buy that particular blend.
Like Venezuela, coffee from Peru is said to have mild acidity and very light body. Often, coffee from Peru exhibits a vanilla-nut sweetness that is very unique in taste. Although hard to come by, I would urge you to try coffee from Peru, should you happen to have the chance.
Both the Gaggia Intenso and Arabica coffees are examples of a well-balanced blend of coffee beans from Latin America. I will be covering other regions in some of my upcoming blogs. In this blog, I’ve have given some general taste characteristics of coffee produced in Latin America. I would be interested to hear about your specific experiences with Latin American coffees as well as any favorites that you may have. I’m always open to trying different coffee.