I am pretty sure there is a scientific study somewhere that can back me up when I say something supernatural happens in my bed every morning. It casts a paralyzing spell on me that makes it impossible to leave it. The struggle starts as soon as the first alarm goes off and it lasts throughout as many snoozes as possible until bitterly and out of time, I leave my bed and on auto mode start my rushed morning rituals.
During the minutes between waking up and having our first/sanity-saving cup of coffee, we are not even sure of what we are doing, right? Let alone able to think intelligently. So let’s be realistic, we adore coffee, but at that time the last thing we care about is the origin of the beans or the journey they have been on until they reach our cups, we just want to drink it.
However, at eleven o’clock at night, when the non-morning people are quite productive and likely to be online researching black holes or other paramount subjects, it might be interesting to find out a bit more about where your coffee comes from and how their home country can influence their characteristics, a little bit like our culture can influence us.
The Arabica coffee tree is rather capricious and it will only yield our beloved beans if cultivated under specific terms. It requires sunshine, a little bit of shade, moderate temperature – about 20 degrees – and a little rainfall. This plant gives a whole new meaning to high maintenance. So let me introduce to the Coffee Belt – the countries between the tropics which meet the demanding requirements of the Arabica tree.
The coffee produced in Central America in countries such as Guatemala, is often referred to as the every man’s drink due to its balanced acidity and body which compliments honey, caramels and nutty flavours. Don’t be misled by the simplicity of the terms used, the coffees of this region are anything but boring.
When you move a little bit lower towards South America, you will notice that the coffee beans are lower in acidity and rather sweet. Brazil is not only the largest exporter in that region but also worldwide. Colombia another major player in the coffee industry, is very well-know for its medium-bodied and balanced acidity beans, and often is the name that pops to mind when we think of south American coffees.
Across the ocean in Africa, a totally different profile blossoms, the beans produced hold much higher acidity, with a full body and often exhaling a zesty, grassy aroma. Ethiopia, the “birthplace” of coffee is also the home of the Arabica tree and so the country is the leader of high quality coffee. Kenya also plays a role in the coffee market of that region and it produces a bright, fruity, acidic flavour that gets the lovers of specialty coffee in euphoria not as much as the beans from Tanzania though – a love affair of the 3rd wave scene.
Working our way through the map, we arrive in Asia and again the characteristics of the beans will vary. If you grab a cup of coffee from Sumatra, Java or Sulawesi you will find a full-bodied beverage with a low-toned acidity, earthy tones and a smooth taste that lingers in the palate and will amazingly compliment a rich slice of chocolate cake, I can attest to that! Vietnam, surprisingly, is the second biggest coffee exporter but its production focuses mainly on Canephora plant aka the infamous Robusta.
Robusta is the ugly sister of the Arabica tree. An easy-going plant, that does not have any special requirements and will yield twice as much as the Arabica, making the end product much cheaper. This type of bean will mainly be used for instant coffee, but and make sure you note this, Robusta beans make the nicest crema, essential for espressos, so let’s not look down on it.