In many cities around the world there is a café on every corner. So it's no wonder that coffee is one of the top goods in the world. As the third most popular drink worldwide after water and tea, coffee beans are in great demand almost everywhere.
The top producers each produce billions of kilograms of coffee beans that find their way into the hands of avid consumers. According to the International Coffee Organization, a total of 169.6 million sacks of coffee were produced worldwide in 2020.
Why does the world love coffee so much?
For the love of coffee
As most coffee lovers would tell you, drinking coffee is a complex and nuanced experience - there is the rich aroma, the comforting warmth and the loveliness of the ritual of sitting down with a fresh cup.
With the variety of serving options and the caffeine boost it offers us, it's not difficult to understand why the world loves their coffee. In fact, we love the drink so much that people have conditioned it to associate the bitter taste of coffee with a touch of energy and positive reinforcement.
So where does the journey of each cup of joe begin? Let's get to know the best coffee producers in the world.
The world's leading coffee producers
Brazil is a real powerhouse in coffee production. The country single-handedly produces almost 40% of the world's coffee supply.
Many areas in Brazil have a climate that is perfectly conducive to coffee growing. Coffee plantations cover approximately 27,000 square kilometers of Brazil, with the majority being located in Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Parana.
Brazil differs from most other coffee-producing nations in that it dries the coffee cherries in the sun (unwashed coffee) instead of washing them.
The country is so influential in coffee production that the 60 kilogram jute sacks that were historically used to export beans from Brazil are still the global standard for measuring production and trade.
Vietnam has a niche in the world market in that we mainly focus on the cheaper Robusta bean. Robusta beans can contain up to twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans, which gives the coffee a more bitter taste.
Although coffee has been grown in the region for well over a century, production skyrocketed in the 1990s after Vietnam’s communist government reformed the economy.
Today Vietnam accounts for more than 40% of global Robusta bean production.
Coffee cultivation in Vietnam is also extremely profitable. The country's coffee yields are significantly higher than other coffee-producing countries.
A popular advertising campaign with a fictional coffee farmer named Juan Valdez helped position Colombia as one of the most famous coffee producing nations. As the coveted drink of choice, Colombian coffee is valued for its aromatic, mild and fruity aromas.
Some of the rarest coffees in the western world come from Indonesia, including Kopi Luwak - a type of bean eaten and excreted by the Asian civet. Coffee made from these coffee beans could cost you anywhere between $ 35 to $ 100 per cup.
Known for its full-bodied, down-to-earth and full-bodied coffee beans, Ethiopia is the country that gave us the Arabica coffee plant. Today, this type of coffee is considered to be the most widely used in cafes and restaurants around the world.
All of these top producers are located in the so-called “bean belt”, which lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
The Central American country has excellent climatic conditions for growing coffee. The most important coffee-growing areas are all in the high altitudes of over 1,100 m in the west and in the center of the country. 362,367 tons, mainly Arabica beans of extremely good quality, were harvested by small farmers in 2016. The cultivation of coffee beans is strictly controlled in Honduras by the Instituto Hondureño del Café.
In addition to fine spices such as pepper, vanilla and cardamom, the coffee plants in India thrive especially in the south of the country. The states of Kerala and Tamil are among the most important coffee-growing regions.
Approx. 60% of the 348,000 tons of coffee beans (2016) are Robusta, which grow better in the rather low altitudes. India is known for its processing method, monsooning, which is unique in the world: During the monsoon rain and its strong winds, the coffee beans are exposed to extremely high humidity in warehouses and so ripen.
The coffee bean is not as important in Peru as it is in the neighboring countries of Brazil and Colombia: With an annual production of 277,760 tons (2016), Peru is far behind its neighbors. Nevertheless, coffee is the South American country's most important export.
The coffee-growing areas of the Arabica plants are mainly in northern Peru and are owned by small farmers. It is mostly picked by hand. Coffee beans from Peru are in great demand.
In Guatemala, too, coffee cultivation is still mainly in the hands of small farmers who are trying to make profitable use of the cultivation areas again after years of political instability.
Thanks to the many volcanoes, some of which are still active, have extremely fertile soils on which the coffee plants thrive in low (Robusta) and high (Arabica) locations. In 2016, 236,145 tons of coffee beans were produced.
The second African country in the top 10 coffee producers is Uganda with an annual production of 203,535 tons. Coffee cultivation is one of the most important sources of income in the politically unstable country.
Robusta is mainly grown: only between 10 and 20% of the coffee plants grown are arabica. Coffee cultivation in Uganda is threatened by climate change: Rising temperatures as well as changing amounts and patterns of rainfall affect the sensitive coffee plants and deteriorate the quality of the beans.
The future of coffee production
Growing good coffee can become increasingly difficult with rising global temperatures. To future-proof good and continuous growth of coffee beans, it is important to find newer and hybrid blends of coffee beans.
Several studies and research missions have found wild coffee species growing off the coast of Côte d'Ivoire and in certain regions of Sierra Leone, which could be the answer to our coffee production problems. Coffee made from these coffee plants tasted similar to the famous Arabica bean and also grew at higher temperatures.
Although the future of coffee production around the world is somewhat uncertain, our shared love for the morning cup of coffee will drive innovative solutions, even in the face of changing climate patterns.
Brazil is by far the most important coffee producer in the world. However, only about half of the income is exported; the other half is enjoyed by the Brazilians themselves.
Only three Asian and two African countries are among the largest coffee producers in the world.
So coffee growing is still firmly in the hands of Central and South America. While Arabica beans are mainly grown in the coffee-growing regions of South and Central America, the focus in Asian and African countries is on Robusta.