Ask the Coffee Lab: Why do coffees from different countries taste different?

By Winston

I’m not sure I get this: Why do coffees from different countries taste different?

It all comes down to what we call terroir.

Like wine, coffee expresses regional characteristics and exhibits the effects of its terroir, or “taste of place.” Differences in soil, altitude, rainfall, processing techniques, and even social conditions affect what’s in the cup.  One of the most important conditions is the areas own traditions and for handling and processing coffee.

Take Sumatran coffee, like our Fair Trade Sumatran Lake Tawar.

Beans from Sumatra have always been highly prized not only because of their full flavor, but also because of their distinct appearance. Sumatran coffee beans, when green, are often asymmetrical in shape and have a deep aquamarine tint.

The drying techniques employed by Sumatran coffee farmers also contribute to the coffee’s distinctiveness. These techniques involve an extended period of the coffee bean’s exposure to the pulp of the berry after the berry has been harvested—a process which is believed to produce deeper tones in the brewed coffee.

Compare that coffee from southeastern Mexico, along the Sierra Mountains, like our Fair Trade Organic Mexican Select.

Coffee farmers process their beans using their own local wet mills. This process results in a balanced acidity in the coffee, for the process of fermentation and drying are quite immediate to each other. While this organically grown coffee is cultivated in an environmentally friendly manner, its flavor is improved as well. Being shade grown, the coffee plants mature slowly, creating sweeter coffee beans.

Since our team gets the chance to go to these places, see the people, we also get to know their traditions, their culture.  While you may not be with us on the trip, you do get to experience these places through their coffee.  Guess you can say, you can tour the world through your coffee cup.

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