Are you tired of the same coffee day in and day out? Then maybe you can expand your coffee palate by trying out exotic coffees from around the world. The definition of exotic coffee may differ from person to person but generally, it means coffee that is hard to find yet sublimely delicious. While there’s a certain comfort in drinking the coffee that you’re familiar with, sometimes it can be rewarding to try out new tastes and origins. If you’re ready to dive into the world of exotic coffee, here are the top 10 you definitely need to try at least once in your life.
One of the most popular exotic coffee beans in the world, Kenya AA is a deliciously rich coffee with bright acidity and pleasant aromas. Kenya AA is characterised by complex berry and fruity flavours with a clean mouthfeel. The ‘AA’ in the name refers to the quality of the coffee which is determined by various factors including bean size, shape, density, etc. The high quality of this esteemed coffee is attributed to the volcanic soil and high altitude at which it’s grown. The cherries ripen slowly which helps develop complex flavours.
Jamaican Blue Mountain
Widely regarded as the champagne of coffee, Jamaican Blue Mountain is a high-quality exotic coffee known for pleasant mildness and almost complete lack of bitterness. The processing method used for Blue Mountain coffee turns the beans a blue-green colour which is where the name comes from. The temperate Caribbean climate, rich soil, and plentiful rainfall produce large coffee beans packed with flavour. Jamaica Blue Mountain has floral and fruity flavours with delicate acidity, a nutty aroma, and a full body. This coffee is considered one of the most premium coffees on the market and is a must-try for any coffee aficionado.
Peaberry coffee is an oval-shaped single bean compared to the standard two beans obtained from other coffee cherries. In normal cases, coffee cherries contain two seeds or beans but sometimes only one seed is fertilised and so only one bean develops. About 5% of coffee cherries are Peaberry beans and these beans need to be separated from other coffee beans before roasting. Mysore Peaberry is from the southern state of Karnataka in India and is prized for its exotic flavours and superior quality.
Ethiopia is known as the birthplace of coffee so it’s no surprise that one of the best exotic coffees originates here. Grown in the Sidamo region of Ethiopia, Yirgacheffe is generally grown above 6000ft or 1800 MASL. The high elevation, unique location, and wet processing produce a light-bodied and deliciously fragrant coffee with delightful floral, citrus, spice, and chocolate notes. The characteristic jasmine aroma makes Yirgacheffe coffee stand out from the other exotic coffees. This exotic coffee is perfect for brewing espresso and does well as either a light or medium roast.
The United States is one of the largest consumers of coffee but did you know that they also grow their own exotic coffee? While the mainland is outside the coffee belt, the island state of Hawaii is ideally located for growing coffee. The volcanic islands are rich in nutrients and the climate is favourable for coffee crops. Coffee from Hawaii is called Kona coffee which refers to the Kona region on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kona coffee is characterised by delicate sweetness, low acidity, and a silky mouthfeel. If you want to take it a step further on the exotic scale, you could also try out Peaberry Kona coffee.
A beloved of coffee competitions around the world, Panama Geisha is a mainstay on any list of the best exotic coffees. While it originated in the Gesha region of Ethiopia, it’s now mostly grown in Panama. Gesha or Geisha is extremely rare and comes with an equally rare cup quality. It’s characterised by noticeable sweetness, often compared to chocolate and strawberry. Geisha is also grown in a handful of other countries, but Panama Geisha is regarded as the highest quality. It’s incredibly difficult to get your hands on these exotic coffee beans and prices are generally very high.
Kopi Luwak or Civet coffee from Indonesia is known even outside coffee circles thanks to its unique method of production. Civet cats forage coffee cherries in the forest, selecting only the best cherries to eat. They then excrete the beans which are collected by coffee workers to process further. The natural digestion of the cherries and beans is said to lend unique flavours to the coffee once processed and roasted. The unusual way of harvesting these exotic coffee beans is its claim to fame. However, this has led to the exploitation of Civet cats. Many farms now keep civets in cramped cages and force-feed them coffee cherries. Not only is this cruel animal abuse, but it also defeats the purpose of the animals selecting the best cherries. If you do go looking for this exotic coffee, do make sure that you source it from a transparent and ethical farm that doesn’t exploit animals, humans, or the environment.
Pacamara beans are the largest coffee beans in the world which earns them a spot on this list of exotic coffee. These coffee beans were developed in El Salvador as a hybrid of the Maragogype and Pacas varieties. 30 years of research went into producing this hybrid and it was made available to farmers in the 1980s. Maragogype is a tall crop with large cherries while Pacas is a small and hardy plant with small cherries. As a result, Pacamara coffee is medium-sized with dense leaves and numerous large, round coffee cherries. Pacamara coffee has notes of stone fruit, flowers, and caramel. It rates high in sweetness and has an intense acidity balanced with a creamy body and warm aftertaste.
Originating in the lush tropical forests of Indonesia, Sulawesi Toraja has a bright acidity and distinct sweetness. This coffee is often called ‘dark and brooding’ which is likely due to the fact that it works amazingly well as a dark roast. Sulawesi Toraja is produced through a processing method called "Giling Basah" which is a wet-hull method. The biodiversity and nutrient-rich area along with this particular processing method are what make this coffee stand out. Sulawesi Toraja is a must-try for coffee lovers who prefer intense, dark, heavy flavours without compromising on bean and cup quality.
Now, most of the coffees on this list are from countries and regions already known for growing coffee but have you ever tried coffee from Japan? While this coffee isn’t grown in Japan, this roasting method is unique to the land of the rising sun. While most coffee roasters use gas or hot air to roast coffee, Sumiyaki involves using charcoal to roast coffee. This is what makes it stand out. Sumiyaki coffee can be traced back to 1933 but it has become popular in the last few years. The idea behind this method is simple yet sophisticated. As you may expect, Sumiyaki coffee has a distinct smoky aroma and you will find flavours of dark molasses, dark chocolate, toasted nuts, and deep woody notes. The cup quality itself is well-balanced with a thick, syrupy mouthfeel and smoky aftertaste.
Now that you know which exotic coffees to keep an eye out for, go out there and start experimenting! I recommend brewing these exotic coffees with a French Press first and then trying out other brewing methods. Brewing with a French Press produces the strongest flavours and this will help you enjoy your exotic coffee more. If you’re looking for exotic coffee near you, try out small cafés that specialise in exotic coffees or look online for small retailers and farms. Make sure you do your research and always try to buy from traceable, transparent, and sustainable sellers. Enjoy!