Read About Coffee Origins & Common Characteristics
Coffee taste, acidity and body vary greatly across (and even within) regions. Adding to that, the decisions that two different coffee roasters make to an identical bean will greatly impact the final coffee's characteristics. Therefore, it's always best to explore individual coffees' characteristics to find something you like -- we recommend browsing Javaya's Roasting Soon section.
For starters, here's a decent overview of what you can expect in a bean, by origin:
- South + Central American coffees: A great choice for beginner coffee drinker, but can get pretty complex for the expert to enjoy. Per seriouseats.com, these coffees "...are known for their balance and even temperament. Some, depending on country, provide deep berry, chocolate, nut, spice, and fruit notes." If you are buying coffee for someone whose preferences are unknown (or if you're not sure what YOU like), check out the Guatemalans and Colombians.
- African coffees: A great African single-origin can be bright, exciting, and mouth-watering. A favorite of coffee nerds, they are a great way to expand your palate's horizons. Per seriouseats.com, "flavor traits, depending on country, present such flavors as blueberry, tomato, spice, and melon." We like the blueberry-forward Ethiopians and juicy Kenyans here at Javaya.
- Asian coffees: These coffees are the most full-bodied and luxurious, almost syrupy. Seriouseats.com says about the Asian region: "These coffees are smooth, dense, and exotic with dark chocolate, bold nuttiness, and subtle earthy tones." The Asian region also covers a pretty wide range of geographies (e.g. it includes Hawaii's famed Kona and Papua New Guinea's underrated varietals) so it's always best to explore each coffee's characteristics before selecting one.
Scroll down to learn more about the characteristics of coffee in different origins...
Guatemala was the top exporter of coffee in Central America until 2011. Coffee is a very important element of Guatemala's economy.
Coffees from Guatemala tend to contain more apple and malic notes with high acidity and often taste of chocolate. Like most Central American coffees, they are smooth with sugar-browning sweetness and are, for the most part, incredibly balanced. Some Guatemalan beans can have a hint of smokiness.
Colombia is the third-highest producer of coffee in the world after Brazil and Vietnam, and is #1 in the arabica bean (which is where its reputation for being the biggest, "best" coffee producing country comes from). In 2011 UNESCO declared the “Coffee Cultural Landscape” of Colombia, a World Heritage site.
Coffees from Colombia are best described for what they're not: Extreme. Colombia's best beans are moderate in taste (especially sweetness), acidity and body. As one author notes, "they make moderation into an art form."
Coffees from Guatemala tend to contain more apple and malic notes, with smooth, sugar-browning sweetness. They are, for the most part, incredibly balanced.
Ethiopia accounts for about 3% of the world's coffee production and is considered by many to be the "birthplace" of coffee following the discovery of the coffee arabica plant. The coffee trade is highly regulated by the government. Ethiopia is vastly biodiverse country and the coffees from this country are just as diverse. As such, it's hard to categorize the taste notes of Ethiopians -- but there's definitely something for everyone!
Depending on the Process, coffees from Ethiopia can taste fruity, heavy, and wine-like with syrupy body (Natural process) or floral, tea-like, and delicate and dry on the palate with lemongrass or jasmine characteristics (Washed process).
Kenyan coffees are marketed by a co-op system and about 70% of Kenyan coffees are produced by small-scale farmers.
Coffees from this country are highly sought-after by experts for their universally tropical flavors. These coffees can be described as big, bold, juicy, intense, full bodied with cocoa and other savory-sweet characteristics. They can often be intensely acidic and tart.
Burundi and Rwanda
This region is very high altitude and dominated by small producers. Political and social turmoil in the area has hurt the coffee growing industry in recent years.
Coffees from this region exhibit clean, delicate flavors with rich body and acidity. Their taste and aroma are dominated by berry notes.
The coffee-growing territory known as Indonesian consists of several regions: Bali, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Java, Timor and Papua (the western half of New Guinea). Regions such as Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and even Sri Lanka and India exhibit similar characteristics to Indonesian coffees.
Coffees from this region are characterized as having a "long finish/aftertaste." They are full-bodied and vibrant with rich taste, but have gentle acidity.
Papua New Guinea
Consisting of the eastern half of New Guinea, "PNG" coffees exhibit low to moderate acidity (characteristic of the region) and are often described as earthy and low-toned.
Most people think of Kona when they think of Hawaii. In reality, other coffees are grown on the Hawaiian Islands as well.
Kona coffees have complex aroma and taste, yet are delicate and mild.