Coffee is a highly subjective topic, of course, but coffee drinkers will agree that some coffees are better than others — and that’s because of growing conditions and other factors.
Coffee comes from beans that grow on trees, and those trees grow best in a tropical climate at high altitudes where the soil is rich. That means the best coffees come from the equatorial zones all around the world. But other factors are important too, like which variety of coffee tree is used, the precise chemistry of the soil involved and the weather. Plus, picking and processing techniques must be taken into account.
In North America and the Caribbean, among the best coffees is kona from Hawaii because of the lush volcanic soil and the clouds that protect the trees from intense sun. Great coffees also come from Mexico, where there are large plantations that produce sharply flavored coffees, and Puerto Rico where the Arabica variety is most common.
In Central America, Guatemala and Costa Rica are the biggest players in the coffee world. In South America, it’s Colombia and Brazil.
In Africa and the Middle East, Ethiopia still has native coffee tree forests that produce bold and earthy coffees. Kenya produces coffee that’s fruity and acidic and grown mostly on small forms. In Ivory Coast, robusta coffee is a major crop. It’s a light and acidic bean that does well when darkly roasted and is used for espresso in many cases.
In Asia, Indonesia is known around the world for its fine coffees, introduced to the islands by the Dutch in the 17th century. Coffee brought by the French has flourished in Vietnam.
For the best quality from any kind of coffee bean, research its origin and prepare your coffee the way it’s traditionally prepared in that region. That will ensure the best flavor — and the most authentic experience.