Top 10 coffee-growing countries in the world!
If coffee growing was an Olympic event, it'd be a marathon not a sprint. And not just because Africa totally dominates. Being a coffee superpower requires years of economic, infrastructural, and government investment. Plus, a bean-friendly terroir, farmers dedicated to quality control, and a trust in industry buyers to bring the beans to the masses.
So, which countries shell out the best beans? To get an idea, we asked a group of 11 roasters and writers to weigh in. Obviously, with all of the variables involved, naming favorite countries is not an easy task.
Points were assigned by the judges' top choices. Their #1 pick received 3 points, #2 - 2 points, and #3 got 1 point.
Naturally, personal bias in taste, education, and life experience influences one's picks, but by polling a diverse cross-section of the coffee world, we feel like this is an honest pulse of the industry, as taken from some of its finest minds. Here are the results, with the reasoning below.
8 (tie). United States (Hawaii) - 1 point
"I love the fact that Hawaii is the only place in the United States to produce coffee. And not only produce coffee, but a coffee that is truly exceptional. Hawaii offers consumers an easy way to get a first-hand glimpse of coffee production without having to travel to the ends of the Earth." - Connie Blumhardt, publisher of Roast Magazine
8 (tie). Panama - 1 point
"We just can't get enough of the Gesha cultivar, for which Panama is famous. Though Gesha, like all coffee, originated in Ethiopia, it grows spectacularly well in Panama. Just look how many of the competitors in the World Barista Championship and the World Brewers Cup (held in June in Rimini, Italy) succeeded with Panama. Though historically coffee was undervalued in Panama, the success some small coffee estates have had with the Gesha specifically in the Best of Panama competition (annual) has made Panamanian coffee extremely sought after for its tea-like quality and exceptional floral cup." - Sarah Allen, editor of Barista Magazine
8 (tie). Rwanda - 1 point
"This one is an extremely personal pick. We’ve never before witnessed such a remarkable rise of coffee quality in such a short time. They went from producing zero specialty coffee to being the first African nation to host a Cup of Excellence competition in the space of eight years. The transformation happening there is dynamic and unprecedented, and the country is changing before our eyes. I spent a lot of time there as a volunteer in the early part of the last decade and helped train the first generation of coffee tasters, many of whom have gone on to become world-class professionals and a critical part of the small nation’s coffee industry. They’ve also got my all-time favorite hot sauce, a ‘pili-pili’ made from a particular kind of Scotch-bonnet pepper. Rwanda is one of the last places on Earth you can find mountain gorillas, and there are few things more astonishing than hanging out in the forest for an hour with a family of wild gorillas." - Geoff Watts, VP of Coffee at Intelligentsia
7. Indonesia - 2 points
"While the Indonesian government has held back the overall quality of this producing country, there is a renegade band of quality-focused producers pushing the limits of processing and cultivar-specific coffee growing on the islands of Java and Bali. With a community of farmers who work for themselves, and incentives in place for quality production, Klasik Beans and the Java Sunda Cooperative are pushing boundaries socially and agriculturally." - David Buehrer, Greenway Coffee Company
5 (tie). Honduras - 3 points
"A standout among Centrals. Our coffees from Santa Bárbara have always reminded me more of African coffee than Central American coffee. The two producers we have been working with over the last four years live on opposite sides of a mountain, and though they also grow the same varieties (Catuaí and Pacas), they taste rather different. César Fernandez's coffee from El Cielito has a very special golden raisin quality that is rounded out with apricot and red raspberry. Mariano Mejía's coffee from San Luis Plane tastes like green tea, red currant, and hazelnut." - Cheryl Kingan, coffee buyer for Cafe Grumpy
5 (tie). Costa Rica - 3 points
"I love Costa Rica for all the country has to offer -- amazing people, amazingly beautiful country, and, of course, amazing coffee!" - Connie Blumhardt, publisher of Roast Magazine
4. Guatemala - 7 points
"While there's a lot of great coffee in Central America, Guatemala has really stood out this past year or so with fantastically sweet, balanced, and supple coffees full of flavor. I have been increasingly surprised with different offerings from the small country; it's like the origin that keeps giving." - Bill Walsh, writer at Pure Coffee Blog
3. Colombia - 10 points
"For Colombia, I love the diversity throughout the country and the abundance of microclimates present, each offering a unique flavor profile. Due to Colombia's location to the Equator, many areas actually experience two harvest seasons rather than the one seen in most coffee-growing countries around the world... giving the opportunity for delicious and fresh coffee year-round. There are many small-scale producers that are growing, harvesting, processing, and drying themselves (rather than delivering to cooperatives or mills for the latter), which leads to some pretty stunning single producer micro-lots, which can really highlight the producer's craft, handiwork, and the given terroir of their area." - Ryan Knapp, director of coffee at Madcap Coffee Company
"Colombian coffees, roasted properly, taste like fresh fruit. Of course, there's a lot of different flavor profiles, and a slew of different varietals that can be found in Colombia. But when I really enjoy a Colombian, it has a fresh fruit quality to it. A ripeness. A juicy quality that is typical and specific to properly roasted Colombian coffee." - Josh Hydeman, coffee roaster at Heart
2. Kenya - 12 points
"Almost a century ago, a brilliant group of researchers decided to find the right variety for quality and heartiness in Kenya. To this day, the variety SL28 has defined the country for its amazing quality." - Timothy Hill, coffee buyer and quality manager at Counter Culture Coffee
"Kenya has some of the most exquisite coffees I've ever tasted. If I were to think back on the top 10 cups of coffee I've ever had, most of them would be from there. The coffees from Kenya have such a unique flavor profile, and it's hard to find anything that compares from any other country. In many Kenyan coffees, you find a big red berry and black currant sweetness that's balanced by intense brightness that makes it very memorable. If I could only drink coffee from one country the rest of my life, it would be from Kenya." - Brian Jones, writer at Dear Coffee, I Love You
1. Ethiopia - 25 points
"With sweet fruit notes and delicate floral aromas, it's hard to imagine a coffee that tastes better than a finely washed Yirgacheffe or a big, sweet, natural processed Sidama. This is the genetic birthplace of Coffea arabica, which has been growing wild and harvested here for millennia. Every time I drink a coffee from Ethiopia, I can't help but feel that this is how coffee is supposed to taste and everything else is an imitation, a copy of a copy, changed in some way inadvertently because of genetic drift or changing climates. Ethiopia also has the largest genetic diversity of coffee varieties, many of which still remain unclassified, which helps contribute to the uniqueness of the cup character." - Lorenzo Perkins, director of education at Cuvée Coffee
"There's a reason great coffee comes out of Ethiopia year after year: it's truly the birthplace of coffee. That means its producers rarely contend with problems that can overwhelm coffee growers in Central and South America (where coffee is not native, but rather introduced). The saddest and most recent example of this is the coffee-leaf rust that has plagued Central America this past year and wiped out thousands of farms. Because coffee is native to Ethiopia, it rarely incites climate or disease-born chaos. Coffee still grows wild all over Ethiopia, and there are thousands of undiscovered varietals in Ethiopia. Specialty coffees from Ethiopia are known for their syrupy body, which is a result of the dry processing method still popular with Ethiopian producers, in which the coffee's cherry skin is left intact. This process also lends the coffee an exceptionally fruity and floral character." - Sarah Allen, editor of Barista Magazine