At the end of the day, the best coffee-producing country will come down to personal taste, but some countries stand out from the rest. This is not only based on subjective judging either.
Many factors will affect how a coffee will taste. Certain geographical factors will make one coffee better than the other, and most of the world's top coffee-producing regions will share the same geographical characteristics. You also have to consider the country's coffee-producing tradition. Let's take a look at some of the conditions that make for the best coffee and a list of the countries that produce the best coffee in the world.
The Geography and Biology of Coffee
Understanding the geography of coffee is very important when looking at which country produces the best coffee in the world. The way the coffee was cultivated and harvested will also make a difference.
Coffee comes from an evergreen shrub that originated in Africa, which is why some of the best coffees in the world come from the area. The shrubs produce seeds, or beans, that are then roasted, ground, and brewed.
There are two major types of coffee beans: Robusta and Arabica. Arabica is the most widespread because it is the most mass-produced. Arabica beans are mostly grown in Latin America while Robusta beans are usually found in Africa. There are also coffee-producing regions that produce beans of both types like Indonesia, India, and a variety of Asian countries.
Arabica beans make about 60% of all the beans that are produced around the world and are more prized than Robusta beans. Some Robusta beans are highly rated, however, so don't dismiss a Robusta because of the name.
If you want to know where the best coffee comes from, you first have to look at the climate. Two of the most important elements to look for are rainfall and sunshine. The temperature in the area should also hover around the 73F to 82F mark. The area needs to get at least 60 inches of rain per year and no more than 80 inches too. Some areas can produce great beans with less rainfall, but they need to use irrigation systems to do so.
Arabica beans also need a certain dry period for them to achieve full maturity, which is why only a select few countries can produce them. Arabica trees need at least three months of dry time for the beans to reach their full potential.
The time at which the bean was picked will also make a huge difference in how good the coffee will be. Beans that are picked up before they’ve fully ripened will not be as good as fully ripe beans, and some people will be able to tell the difference between a coffee that was harvested prematurely and a fully mature one.
Now that we know a bit more about what conditions make for a great coffee, let’s take a look at some of the top producing coffees in the world and the type of coffees they produce.
When people ask what country has the best coffee, Ethiopia will often be near the top of the list. Ethiopia has a coffee-growing culture spanning centuries and growers in the country have perfected their craft. It also helps that Ethiopia is the country from which the coffee plant originated.
Ethiopia is currently the 5th largest producer of coffee in the world with over 441,000 metric tons per year. Ethiopian coffee is known for its almost wine-like spicy flavour and is grown mainly in the Eastern part of the country in high altitudes. Altitude is another geographical factor that makes for great coffee, and the country's topography makes it perfect for growing coffee.
If you're looking for the best coffee variety in the region, you can’t go wrong with Harrar coffee. It is one of the country's most famous coffees and has received many accolades. This is the perfect bean if you want to get a taste of authentic Ethiopian coffee.
We can’t speak about which country has the best coffee without mentioning Colombia. Colombian coffee is famous among critics and is also the most mainstream type of coffee you’ll find.
Being mainstream doesn’t make it mundane, however. There are tons of different types of coffees hailing from the region all varying in taste and quality. The country is known for its Arabica beans principally and currently produces more than 858,000 metric tons of coffee per year.
What makes Colombian coffee so great is the climate and how much care growers take in growing their beans. Farmers in the country have coffee growing down to a science and are constantly working to improve the quality of their product.
The only issue with Colombian coffee is transportation as the harsh terrain makes it hard to transport beans to shipment and production centres. This is why we often see supply issues and wild price fluctuations with Colombian coffee.
While it may not produce the best coffee in the world, Brazil is still the number one coffee-producing country and produces many fine beans. Brazil produces about 3,558,000 metric tons of coffee per year, which is almost twice its closest rival, Vietnam. Brazil produces one-third of the world's total supply of coffee.
One of the reasons why Brazil produces so much coffee is because of its infrastructure. Brazil doesn’t have to deal with some of the issues Colombia has and enjoys roughly the same climate. Brazil also occupies a much larger territory than Colombia which allows it to produce more beans and more varieties.
Brazil produces both Arabica and Robusta beans, with Arabica beans making up about 69% of its total production.
Costa Rica is right next to Brazil and enjoys some of the same climatic and geographical conditions. Costa Rica has great infrastructure too, which allows for a steady supply and fixed prices. The country produces about 82,500 metric tons of coffee per year, which is modest compared with other countries on this list. However, it is still recognised as the best coffee country in the world by some because of the quality of its beans.
Costa Rican coffee beans have a classic flavour and are well-rounded. They also have unique beans that are grown from volcanic soil. These beans have a rich walnut taste and some of the most famous beans in the country are grown near volcanoes. Some of the classic Costa Rican beans you should try include the Cashier, Margarita, and the Costa Rica bean.
Vietnam is the second biggest coffee-producing country in the world. The country is mainly known for its Robusta beans which make up about 95% of the country's production. The country produces around 1,830,000 metric tons, which accounts for about 17% of the world's coffee supply. Arabica beans are mainly produced in the northern part of the country while Robusta beans are mainly grown in the south.
People don't always think about Rwanda when they think of the best coffee in the world, but they’d be surprised at the quality of the beans they’ll find there. Rwanda is right next to Ethiopia and has the perfect climate and geography to grow Robusta beans. The government has also made great efforts to improve the country’s infrastructure and production capacity.
The Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula, Yemen in particular, produces one of the most famous coffees in the world, Arabian Mocha. The coffee is known for its deep chocolatey taste and is only produced in small quantities, which is one of the reasons why it's so rare and expensive.
One thing that will surprise people when they look at Arabian Mocha, however, is the appearance of the beans. While the coffee itself is premium, you wouldn’t be able to tell by the looks of the beans. This is because they don't have a standardised shape, are often broken, and are smaller than most beans. But you shouldn't let this stop you from trying this coffee as it has been named the best coffee in the world by many critics.
Indonesia is one of the world's biggest coffee-producing countries and produces over 642,000 metric tons of coffee per year. The country is mainly known for its Robusta beans, but also its famous Kopi Luwak beans that are pre-digested by civet cats before being roasted. This produces a coffee that is smoother and less acidic. This is also one of the most expensive coffees in the world and one every coffee lover should try at least once in their lives. The country has many other beans that beg to be discovered, like the Sumatra Gayo, the Bali Blue Moon, and the Java Taman, so don't look only for the novelty.
These are some of the best coffee-producing countries in the world and you should make it your duty to try coffees from all of these regions. They all have their intricacies that make their coffees unique, so try a few of them until you find a few favourites.