Coffee. Life blood. Energizer. Wake up call. Necessity.
Where is coffee grown though, this magical liquid?
Coffee is such an important part of so many of our lives, and many of us just have to have our morning fix in order to be able to function.
The beauty of coffee is that it’s a global drink. Its origins are varied, and the different preparations made with coffee all over the world are incredible.
Coffee cultivation began in Africa, soon spreading east and west. Today, coffee is found mostly between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
Note: For an amazing coffee experience, try coffees from some of these roasters.
Moderate sunshine, rain, steady temperatures, and porous soil are conducive to this magic bean, and the tree yields beans that carry entire economies on their shoulders. Coffee is a natural commodity second in value only to oil.
There are two types of coffee trees: robusta and arabica. Arabica are generally better quality, and robusta are a little harsher – though they only account for around 30% of the global yield.
These are the top exporters of coffee in the world according to 2015/2016 data of exports of 60 kg bags:
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1) Brazil(43,200,000 bags)
Coffee first found its way to Brazil from French Guiana back in the 18th century, and it found a place to thrive! Brazil produces about 1/3 of all of the world’s coffee. Some people do feel that the quantity ends up sacrificing a bit of quality, but that’s not to say there aren’t any exquisite varieties of coffee from Brazil.
Interestingly enough, Brazilian coffee is sometimes subject to frost, which devastates the crop. Frosts in Brazil inadvertently give a boost to other coffee producing countries.
Notable Beans: Bahia, Bourbon Santos
2) Vietnam(27,500,000 bags)
Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by French missionaries in the 19th century, but production did not hit full power until the 1990s. However the explosive growth of coffee production is giving rise to quality issues because processing technology has not quite kept up yet.
Notable Beans: Vietnam specializes in robusta production.
3) Colombia(13,500,000 bags)
Colombia is uniquely positioned in South America’s geography since it has ports to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, helping push Colombian coffee to both sides of the globe very easily. Coffee is such an important crop to Colombia that all cars entering the country are sprayed to kill bacteria harmful to coffee. The crop is found in the temperate and moist foothills of the Andes mountains.
4) Indonesia(11,000,000 bags)
When the Dutch started a coffee plantation on their Indonesian island colony on Java, I’m sure they were not aware that coffee would eventually earn a nickname! High quality Arabica coffee grows on Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Flores. Still, Indonesia is actually the largest producer in the world of robusta beans.
Notable Beans: Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi (Celebes)
5) Ethiopia(6,400,000 bags)
Ethiopia is the natural origin of the arabica tree and most of the legends surrounding coffee’s origins are from Ethiopia. It is the largest African exporter of coffee and domestically more Ethiopians drink coffee than any other African nation. 12 million Ethiopian’s livelihood comes from the bean, whose name comes from an Ethiopian province called “Kaffa”.
Notable Beans: Harrar, Sidamo, Yirgacheffe
6) India(5,800,000 bags)
Legend has it that India was the first place east of Arabia where coffee was cultivated. The Indian Coffee Board, however, is quite restrictive and some feel that this reduces incentives and affects quality.
Notable Beans: Mysore, Monsooned Malabar
7) Uganda(4,800,000 bags)
Uganda, even though it is really close to Ethiopia, grows very little arabica, but is an important producer of robusta. Robusta makes up 75 percent of exports from Uganda and is a key source of employment in rural areas.
Notable Bean: Bugisu
8) Mexico(3,900,000 bags)
Towards the end of the 18th century, coffee had found its way to Mexico and picked up in exports by the next century. There are nearly 100,000 small farms in Mexico today that account for most of Mexican coffee, and these are mostly situated in the south of the country. Most of the coffee that goes to the USA comes from Mexico.
Notable Beans: Altura, Liquidambar MS, Pluma Coixtepec
9) Guatemala(3,400,000 bags)
Serious coffee growing began in Guatemala at the hands of German immigrants back in the 19th century. Beans grown in Guatemalan highlands – especially on the volcanic slopes to the south are considered to be the among the best in the world.
Notable Beans: Atitlan, Huehuetenango
10) Peru(3,200,000 bags)
Peru is number 5 in arabica production in the world. Initially, most Peruvian coffee was consumed domestically, but exports eventually started and were boosted by easy transportation on the Pacific coast. Peruvian coffee grows on the slopes of the Andes.
Notable Bean: Typica, Caturra
To celebrate coffee, we’ve put together this map of coffee. Enjoy!
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