The Geography of the Coffee Bean: The 3 Main Coffee-Growing Regions

the geography of coffee

Cabin Door Coffee

Coffee. It’s not just a simple plant in any old garden . . . coffee = landscape + climate + elevation.

Attention all Map-of-the-World Lovers!  Boots here, as promised, to talk more about the Geography of Coffee.   And to keep it interesting, I am going to keep it brief.  As our friend Bill Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”  Now I don’t know that my end goal today is Coffee Wit, but I am going to do my best to stir your interest in the geography of coffee.

Coffee is Geography . . . Geography is Coffee  

The 3 main coffee regions of the world:

  1. Latin America: well-balanced; crisp and bright acidity; more consistent quality
  2. Africa/Arabia: exotic; berry, citrusy/grapefruity, and spicy flavors; more unpredictable
  3. Asia/Pacific: full-bodied; spicy, herbally; depth; pairs well with savory
  4. These regions each have unique and distinct, geographically-inspired taste profiles.

All of this base-camp info will ultimately lead to me walking you through a coffee tasting at the end of all this fascinating Geography stuff.   Next?  We will look at how to “taste” coffee and identify the characteristics that help you to identify region.  But in the meantime, I am feeling some camp stories percolating to the surface.  I might have to explore some of those before looking at coffee tasting.

And if you are interested in this kind of stuff — I am! –then you will be surprised that you can not only taste but actually smell the geography of the bean before you even slurp.

So have some fun today just enjoying the flavor of your coffee.  Appreciate how very far those little beans in their burlap sacks had to travel to give you so much pleasure.

Who doesn’t want a map of the world on the wall? And it’s so inexpensive! I have two maps posted in my cabin: one in the kitchen and one in the little house with the crescent moon cut out of the door.

Rand McNally Signature Map of the World

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This paperback looks so awesome!  Who doesn’t want to know the secrets to happiness?  I am thinking: I must order this.

Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World

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Have you heard this music?  It is simply the best in collaboration, talent, creativity, and musicality . . . all from around the world.  

 Songs Around The World (CD + DVD)

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5 Lively Factoids on The Geography of the Coffee Bean

the geography of coffee

Cabin Door Coffee

Coffee . . . it’s not just an attitudinal thing . . . it’s a latitudinal thing.

Attention all Geography Cognoscenti . . . aka Map Lovers!  Boots here, as promised, to talk about the Geography of Coffee.  For all of you who haven’t had their coffee yet or for those of you whose eyes glaze over when they anticipate a pedantic and unsolicited lesson on coffee  . . . well, have no fear.  The thing you don’t know about Boots, the Badass Coffee Babe, is that she wants nothing better than to get back to splitting some kindling for tomorrow’s fire, filling the kerosene lamps while there’s still light in the day, and maybe taking a skinny dip in the lake to feel refreshed after all of the chores.

So, here it is . . . delivered in bullet points so that you can isolate the facts from the minutiae.  This is all good stuff that you can toss out to that cute barista while you’re waiting for your beverage.  S/he will think you are a geographical wonder.  Try it.  You’ll see how attractive knowledge is.

Coffee is Geography . . . Geography is Coffee

  1. Coffee beans carry their own unique geography with them.
  2. Geography IS a coffee profile . . . a flavor.
  3. Coffee is more than an attitudinal thing . . . it’s also a latitudinal thing.  It’s grown in the equatorial band between the two tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
  4. There are three primary coffee regions in the world. (We’ll get into these soon.  Promise!)
  5. These regions each have unique and distinct geographical profiles. You can train your tongue to identify them . . . which is why when you first smell and then take a sip of black coffee, your palate can tell immediately where those beans were grown.

All of this will ultimately lead to me walking you through a coffee tasting at the end of all this fascinating Geography stuff.  If you are interested in this kind of stuff — I am! –then you will be surprised that you can actually smell the geography of the bean before you even slurp.

So have some fun today just enjoying the flavor of your coffee.  Appreciate how very far those little beans in their burlap sacks had to travel to give you so much pleasure.

Who doesn’t want a map of the world on the wall? And it’s so inexpensive! I have two maps posted in my cabin: one in the kitchen and one in the little house with the crescent moon cut out of the door.

Rand McNally Signature Map of the World

http://amzn.to/2cu3Ih2

This paperback looks so awesome!  Who doesn’t want to know the secrets to happiness?  I am thinking that I must order this.

Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World

http://amzn.to/2cu1UVw

These mugs might not represent the coffee-growing latitudes . . . but you are going to look super smart when you bring up your newly-learned factoids when someone comments on your mug of the world.

3D Rose mug: Vintage European map of Western Europe Britain UK France Spain Italy etc retro geography travel Ceramic Mug, 15 oz, White

http://amzn.to/2bSv5Tn

3dRose mug_112942_4 Vintage map of the North Pole polar cap Russia Northern America Greenland geography travel theme Two Tone Black Mug, 11 oz, Black/White

http://amzn.to/2cu14YJ

Question: How does roasting affect the coffee bean?

Just the facts, Ma’am . . . and pour me another cup while you’re at it.

How does roasting affect the coffee bean?

Roasting brings out the essence . . . the aroma, body, and flavor that is locked inside the green coffee beans.  The roasting process transforms the chemical and physical properties of the beans . . . and the different degrees of roasting produce characteristic taste profiles and different amounts of caffeine.

City Roast, Full City Roast, Vienna, Espresso, Italian, New Orleans, French . . . so many different roasts!  At the risk of over-generalizing . . . lighter roasts make for a brighter, more lively taste profile while darker roasts make for a sweeter, lower acidity coffee.  Drinkers who prefer a low level of acidity in their brew are steered toward a darker roast . . .  French roast being one of the more common choices for a low-acidity coffee. This comes with a caveat though, as many people do not like what they describe as the “burnt” or “oily” taste of a dark French roast.  Perhaps French roast is an acquired taste.  Or maybe people have just gotten used to buying it as they equate dark roast with a more-refined coffee choice.

You may come across those people who are misled by the misguided notion that Dark Roast is “better.”  If you like dark roast, enjoy.  If you don’t like a dark roast, don’t feel like a wimp.  You will not be judged by the Secret Society of Coffee Snobs — not on my watch.  Feel safe with this knowledge.  If some French Roaster looks over his or her coffee cup at you drinking your light and lively cup of city roast, share with him or her that you prefer a brighter, higher acidity level in your coffee.  You can also add that your lighter roast contains more caffeine than their French roast.  This should stop any Snob from further judgment.

Of course, there are all manner and degree of roasts in between on the spectrum of light, medium, and dark.  Coffee beans contain oils that include some 600 chemical substances.  When the beans are roasted, the beans expand and, as a result, lose moisture.  The beans’ aroma comes alive and the oils give the beans a shiny appearance – especially in the darker roasts.

A light roast (Light City, Half City, Cinnamon Roast) have a light body with a detectable acidity.  This roast is often described as being “bright” or “lively.”  Drinking light-roast coffee is a personal choice and should not be an invitation to judgment.  All of you snobs, be nice.  Coffee should be fun and others should be allowed to drink cinnamon roast without being called wimps.

Medium roasts (commonly called Breakfast Blends) are generally considered to The Middle of the Road when it comes to drinking coffee.  This roast has more body than light roast beans and are more balanced in the areas of flavor, aroma, and acidity.  If you don’t know what roast of coffee bean to bring to your future in-laws for the weekend, bring a medium roast.  There is nothing wrong with going down the middle of the road on this topic.

A dark roast (Italian, espresso, French, continental, New Orleans) is dark brown in color and has a sheen of oil on the surface of the bean.  It is believed that the bean’s point of origin is disguised as a result of darker roasting.  With some dark roasts, you may taste a smoky, or even burnt, flavor.  And remember that the amount of caffeine is decreased as a result of added roasting.   While not being a French-roast drinker, I do like a darker roast myself and do not mind giving up some of the caffeine for this taste profile.

In the early days, the green coffee beans were roasted in a heavy pan over the fire.  Nowadays, coffee is roasted in a roasting factory– some small and some ginormous – generally in the country in which the coffee is going to be consumed.

It takes so little equipment and time to roast your own coffee.  I am wondering why no one has shared this information with me before.  After watching the videos below, I am ready to arm myself with this simple equipment and roast my own beans.  I love this kind of thing.

There are so many cool facts about this humble and elegant drink.  One little bit of information leads to another interesting tidbit.  I am thinking about taste profiles, aged beans, acidity, food pairings . . . you name it!  So much to know.  So much fun to learn.

Here is a super informative video that takes you on a Color Journey of Coffee Roasting.  It’s only 4:23 long and worth watching.  It also will help you understand why you prefer the roast that you do, as it discusses taste profile with different stages of roasting.  Cool!

And how about this idea of roasting coffee beans in a popcorn popper?  Fun!  It is a recommended method for getting started with home roasting.  If you’re like me and like to experiment with new ideas and learn about how things work, I am thinking it would be a fun taste treat to try this.  It literally takes minutes to have your coffee fresh-roasted each morning.  Wow!  What a fun thing to do on the weekend for your Monday morning coffee!  [P.S.  According to other research I did, shoot for a popper with a minimum of 1250 watts.]

Here is the Popcorn Pumper that he talks about lasting a long time in the video.  It has the recommended 1250 watts.

Proctor-silex Hot Air Popcorn Pumper 5 Quart

http://amzn.to/28TUWZe

. . . and here is a real-deal coffee roaster if you don’t want to mess with the popcorn popper:

FreshRoast SR500 Automatic Coffee Bean Roaster

http://amzn.to/28MgkSh

Papua New Guinea Organic Wild-grown Unroasted Green Coffee Beans (1 LB)

http://amzn.to/28PkmIX

Home Coffee Roasting, Revised, Updated Edition: Romance and Revival

http://amzn.to/28MiAsU

Bellemain Micro-perforated Stainless Steel 5-quart Colander-Dishwasher Safe

http://amzn.to/28OaluO

And this?  I want!
Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet L10SK3ASHH41B, 12-Inch

http://amzn.to/28Nb8yy

Whew!  What started out as a simple question has my mind spinning.  There is no short answer as coffee roasting is a complex and fun science that brings to us such a miraculous beverage.  Experiment with some green beans and leave a comment, reporting to us your roasting results!  Fun, fun, fun!

Life is a lively event.  Roast up some beans, drink coffee, and get to it.

What’s stopping you?

[Just the facts, Ma’am is inspired by and extracted from personal experience and research, informative youtube videos, and “All About Coffee Knowledge Cards” – published by Pomegranate Communications, Inc.]

Question:Why use an egg to settle the grounds?

Dearest DharmaOfTheHeart writes to ask:

question and answerHowdy! Do you have a recipe/method for good cowgirl coffee? I made cowgirl coffee when cooking with an old gal named Roma many years ago. She always used an egg to settle the grounds. Any comments?

Thank you for your question, Dharma.  This is just one of those synchronistic things!  I was writing an article on Cowboy Coffee and discussing the notion of adding egghells to the pot . . . and then your question arrived.  You can click on the post: On the Trail: How to Make the Best Cowboy Coffee and get your very answer!  According to the old-timers like Roma and to the scientists, it has something to do with opinion and with alkalinity and acidity.  Check it out.  It’s interesting stuff!

Link: https://cabindoorcoffee.wordpress.com/category/brewing-coffee-outdoors/

Roma sounds like she was a good egg!  And it sounds like, with a name like Roma, there are even more stories that go along with coffee and eggshells!  Thank you for your great question, Dharma. We appreciate you gracing the cabin with your presence today!

xoxSpur (Small) boots signature

Boots the Badass Coffee Babe