Cover Photo: Nicolas Solerieu \ Unsplash

A daily ritual for many (if not more), a soothing yet stimulating cup of joe is mindlessly integrated into our everyday routines. And yet, the beans at the core of our coffees are beautifully complex, rich with histories and nuances that make every brew more exciting. Here, we take a look at some of the best coffee-producing regions from around the world.

In the same way that the one grape sprouts a diversity of flavours and textures in wine, each coffee species invites limitless potential for delicious cups of joe. Of course, a lot of the variation between each pour is largely attributed to the processing methods employed from field to bag, and the brewing methods used to extract that coffee goodness thereafter. However, the region the beans come from also imparts a distinct mark on the end-result. Like wine, coffee is largely affected by its originating region’s soil, terrain, and climate - its terroir.

For expert insight into some of the world’s best coffee-growing regions, we spoke to Philippine Coffee Board president and co-chairperson Pacita ‘Chit’ Juan, and Robert Francisco, the board’s executive director and managing director of UCC Coffee Academy Philippines.

First off, interestingly, Juan points out that when talking about 'coffee regions' we need to understand that "this usually means with respect to coffee producing, and not coffee consuming". Read on to learn about the world's highly regarded coffee regions and find out where you should be buying your beans from: 

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Africa

For Francisco, the beans from Africa continue to be some of the world’s most superior as the continent boasts “heirloom varieties and the best coffee”.

ETHIOPIA

Any talk of heirloom varieties necessarily integrates Ethiopian coffee. Largely considered to be the homelands of coffee, the plants still grow wild throughout the nation today. The popular arabica species was first discovered in Ethiopia and now comprises 60 per cent of the world’s coffee supply, typified by delicious caramel and floral notes. However, the plant is notorious for attracting pests and disease, demanding greater care and in turn higher prices.

Fun fact: Francisco shares that "gesha is a variety of coffee from Ethiopia but has now been grown almost all over Central America, which is very different from that of its original country".

UGANDA

Together with Ethiopia, Uganda historically dominates the region’s coffee production - in 2015, the two shared a whopping 62 per cent of the continent’s production. Uganda’s most celebrated beans are of the robusta variety, which tends to have a much sharper and more bitter flavour profile than arabica, as well as a higher caffeine content, hence its name.

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Uganda Photo Weaver's Coffee & Tea Official Facebook Page
Above Photo: Weaver's Coffee & Tea Official Facebook Page

Other notable coffee-growing regions in Africa include Kenya (arabica) Tanzania (arabica and robusta) and Côte d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast (robusta).

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Central & South America

Numerous countries in Central and South America have been “very aggressive in producing high quality and superior coffee”, observes Francisco, noting that these regions have turned their attention to two key components: (1) improving the processing methods already in place, and (2) diversifying the crops they have available. As a result, Francisco notes that they better align themselves with “consumer demand for fruitier and floral coffee and aromatic brews”.

GUATEMALA

While Guatemala’s coffee production is almost exclusively arabica, they remain one of the most dominant coffee-growing countries in the world. The nation widely varies in its altitude, terrain, and climate, producing beans with a delicious variety of complexity.

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Photo: Gerson Cifuentes \ Unsplash
Above Photo: Gerson Cifuentes \ Unsplash

PANAMA

Panamanian geisha (or gesha) is oft lauded for its nuanced flavour profiles, producing “delicate floral, jasmine, and peach-like aromas”. As a subclass of arabica, geisha is also grown in many other regions in Central and South America, but the Panamanian appellation is considered to be of especially high quality due to the nation’s terroir - in fact, a pound of these prized beans from Lamastus Family Estates sold for USD$1,029 in 2019.

COLOMBIA

If you’re after a milder, rounder brew, the beans for Colombia may tickle your fancy. The arabica beans from this South American country tend to have a balanced acidity, and as arguably the best-known coffee producer in the world, their top harvests yields an approachable sweetness that makes for a reliable cup of joe. 

Other notable coffee-growing regions in Central and South America include Honduras (arabica), Costa Rica (arabica), Brazil (arabica and robusta; the world’s largest coffee producer).

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Asia

YEMEN

Not to be confused with the chocolate-filled concoction, the beans from Yemen are all coffee, no cacao. These Yemen Mocha beans are another subclass of the popular arabica variety that lends a distinctively deep, full-bodied brew thanks to the dry-processing method employed after harvest. Although they’re named after Mocha, the port-city through which most of the beans were exported, the beans are grown on the country’s beautiful terraced mountainsides.

INDONESIA

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Photo: Andrey Bond \ Unsplash
Above Photo: Andrey Bond \ Unsplash

Coffee plants are grown across multiple regions in Indonesia such as Bali, Sumatra, and Java. The nutty, comparably heavy Java arabica, were commonly blended with the beans from Yemen, thus inspiring the popular term Mocha Java. However, Indonesia’s coffee production is actually that of the robusta variety, followed by arabica and rarely, liberica.

PHILIPPINES

Although it is unclear when or where coffee beans first arrived in The Philippines, coffee trees were already found in the provinces of Batangas and Bulacan as early as the 1800s. The country is graced with an environment suited to grow all four commercially viable coffee species: arabica, robusta, liberica (locally known as barako), and excelsa. While excelsa is often now classified under liberica, it continues to be recognised as a distinct species in the archipelago.

Other notable coffee-growing regions in Asia include Vietnam (robusta; the world’s second-largest coffee producer), India (arabica and robusta), and China (arabica and robusta).

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