Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Coffees of the World

There’s more to a cup of java than rich, flavourful taste. Coffee growing around the globe has a story and heritage dating back over one thousand years. The lore of coffee in every country is full of legend, history, culture, intrigue, revolution, and yes, as with any good story, a bit of romance. So remember the next time you take a sip of Coffee, you’re not only tasting beans roasted by true experts, you’re getting a taste of the world.

The Americas
Coffees produced in the Caribbean, Latin, Central and South America is distinguished by light body, simplicity and sharp acidity. You’ll enjoy these coffees’ pleasant flavours and clean, crisp finish.

The largest country in South America, Brazil is the leading supplier of coffee to the world and home to the world's largest rainforest, the Amazon, which spans much of the North. The finer coffee-growing regions of Brazil are found in the southeast of the country and ship through the ports of Vitoria, Santos, and Rio de Janeiro. The state of Minas Gerais accounts for over half of the coffee produced in Brazil. The climate conditions here are unlike other parts of Brazil. The seasons are very distinct which provides almost ideal conditions in which to grow fine coffees.

Neighbouring Panama in north-western South America, Colombia is the only country on the continent with both an Atlantic and Pacific Coast. The coffee growing regions of Colombia start just above the Equatorial line and stretch north for more than 750 miles across the Andean Mountains. With geography encompassing the Amazon jungle to the east, the Pacific Tropical Rain Forest to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the north, the climate and topography in this country are as unique as its coffee. Over 500,000 Colombian coffee farmers, known as cafeteros, tend to small farms that spread over 900,000 hectares of mostly shaded mountainous areas. These growers are represented internationally by the non-profit National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia. The Federation's goal is to help the growers develop agronomic expertise, improve their living conditions and promote Colombian Coffee to the world through activities like the "100% Colombian Coffee Program."

Costa Rica
Small and mountainous, this country is bordered by the countries of Panama and Nicaragua and the Caribbean Sea and North Pacific Ocean. Rugged mountains, referred to as cordilleras, separate coastal plains. The cordilleras divide the country into three land regions. One of which is Meseta Central, the country's main coffee-growing region, with soil rich from the active volcanoes nearby.

Guatemala is the southern neighbour of Mexico. Coffee is the #1 employer accounting for 40% of the jobs in agriculture. In this area of the economy people across different ethnic groups and social classes are involved. Guatemala has traditionally grown coffee under the shade of trees. These coffee-growing land areas are positive contributors to the global ecosystem. The coffee forest is a seasonal home to migrating birds, enjoyed by many North Americans. These birds fly thousands of miles in search of suitable habitats during the winter months.

Lying about 500 miles south of Florida, Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean Sea. Mountains cover four-fifths of the country, with the Blue Mountains in the east peaking at 7,402 feet. Coffee is planted on terraces on the mountain slopes typically under the shade of avocado and banana trees. The mountainous terrain and cultivation methods require the ripe coffee cherries to be hand-picked. Cultivation is an art in Jamaica, supervised at every stage of development. To uphold the reputation and quality that has been built over the years, each export shipment is tested by certified tasters on the Coffee Industry Board.

Just south of the United States and north of Guatemala, diverse topography with varying altitudes and climate covers the Mexican terrain. Only a small percentage of Mexico's land is suitable for agriculture, although there are over 100,000 small coffee farms, mainly in the south, the east and west coastal areas. On the western coast, volcanic soil is rich and winds from the nearby Pacific Ocean form moisture laden clouds that sustain a high-altitude, rainforest environment. This area, where many of the trees grow naturally under the canopy of shade provided by the native forest trees, is home to some of the world's best coffee.

Panama is located on a narrow strip of land that connects North and South America in Central America. As a land bridge between two continents, Panama has plant and animal life more diverse than almost anywhere else on Earth. Panama lies within the tropics, and about one-third of its area is covered with rainforest. Along each coast are low-lying areas, but inland are mountains that divide the country into north and south facing slopes. In the southwest, the province of Chiriquí has mountain slopes covered with rich volcanic soil. Due to a temperate tropical climate, coffees in this region can be grown at high altitudes over 5,000 feet.

Beans grown in Venezuela are classified as Maracaibo, Caracas and Puerto Cabello - the first and last taking the name of their shipping ports. Caracas coffee, named after the nation’s capital, is shipped through nearby La Guaira. Each notation can be subdivided further by the districts in which its principal plantations lie. Coffee farms are found at levels from 1,000 to 5,000 feet, with the better coffees generally hailing from the higher altitudes.Caracas growths are generally light and winy, with a peculiar flavour that many educated palates find pleasing. Puerto Cabello coffees are rated just below Caracas, grown at a lower altitude and correspondingly inferior in flavour. Táchira and Mérida coffees are considered the best of the Maracaibo. They tend toward sharp acidity when new, but mellow and take on body with age.

Coffees in this region commonly have winey acidity, rustic flavors and intense aromas.

Situated in the northeast, bordered by Sudan on the west and Somalia and Djibouti on the east, Eritrea on the north and Kenya on the south, Ethiopia is of diverse topography. Wild Arabica trees native to this rugged land date back 1,300 years. It is debated that the word coffee came from the Ethiopian town of Kafa. Although coffee accounts for a major share of this nation's exports, most of the coffee remains at home, as Ethiopia has one of the highest per capita consumption rates. In the highland forests of the southwest, where coffee trees grow wild amidst the tropical rainforests, the coffee is picked by hand, as it always has been. Despite the demand for their fruit, many trees go unpicked simply because they are found in remote, nearly inaccessible regions of the mountainous highlands.

Situated on the eastern coast of Africa south of Ethiopia, Kenya lies with a leg on each side of the equator. The soil of the land is rich with volcanic minerals and home to some of the finest coffee trees in the world. Kenyan farmers are meticulous in the care of their crops. Specialty coffee is harvested in nurseries where it can be carefully nurtured. It is only after the coffee tree is 18 months old that it is transferred to cultivated ground and planted. There it continues to be tended for 3 more years. During the harvest the red berries are picked selectively by hand as soon as they are ripe, to ensure the highest quality.

Yemen is situated at the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. The coffee growing highlands of Yemen are not desert, on the contrary they are rugged mountains, intensely terraced and cultivated, with austere stone villages rising from hilltops like dreamlike extensions of the rock. Found along the Red Sea, Yemen was home to some of the world's earliest cultures. Using traditional methods created over 400 years ago, Yemeni people still cultivate much of their coffees without the use of pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. Yemeni farmers and small traders know their coffees with the deep cultural intimacy that develops when coffee is a way of life rather than a mere crop.

Formerly known as Southern Rhodesia and then as Rhodesia, Zimbabwe was named after the famous 14th-century stone-built city of Great Zimbabwe, located in the southeast. The country is renowned for the Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River and for its bountiful wildlife. Zimbabwe's population is divided into two main ethnic and linguistic groups, the Ndebele and the Shona, the former mostly inhabiting the southwest. The capital is Harare which is the center of a rich commercial farming district. The economy is diversified, with services, industry, and agriculture providing a balanced share of the country's earnings.

The Pacific
Arabica coffees in this broad region vary greatly and are generally considered to be the finest in the world. They exhibit full body, gentle acidity and rich, full body.

Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. that produces and exports coffee. Coffee is grown commercially on four of the six major islands: Maui, Hawaii, Molokai and Kauai. Coffee grows primarily on the islands of Hawaii and Kauai, with the coffees of the Kona region, on the west coast of the island of Hawaii, being the most highly prized. The mild Kona climate and volcanic terrain is ideal for growing fine arabica coffees.

Spanning along the equator over more than 3,200 miles of tropical-ocean, Indonesia shares borders with Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. Living amongst 6,500 of the 13,500 islands are around 300 different ethnic groups speaking 250 different languages. This creates one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world. Many of the Indonesian islands were formed by volcanoes and are mountainous, rising steeply from the sea. The soil, fertile and rich in nutrients from the volcanic ash, encourages the growth of fine coffees. Farmers and agricultural workers account for two-thirds of the Indonesian population and live in small rural villages. They enjoy the modern ways of life, but also continue to follow many of the ancient customs of their ancestors.

Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea, located north of Australia and east of Indonesia, occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and several hundred smaller islands. Most Papua New Guineans live in rural villages along the coast or in the rugged interior. High mountains and rainforests isolate many villages, although a network of roads and airstrips serves mines and plantations. Port Moresby, located on the mainland's southeastern coast, is the country's capital and largest city. For the native people of the New Guinea highlands, coffee is a very important agricultural export.

"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." -- Lao Tzu
Copyright © Demetrios the Traveler

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