Coffee Varieties From Around The World
Once upon a time, coffee was boiled. Then, coffee evolved, and came in two coffee varieties: instant or drip. Cream and sugar were the only options for changing the flavor. Almost every household used Folger's or Maxwell House. Suddenly, the world exploded with different varieties of coffee: Kenyan Peaberry, Kona, Australian Skybury, Barcelona... coffee drinkers were bombarded with new coffees almost every day.
Brazil has been the world's largest producer of coffee for over a century. This isn't a surprise, since about a third of the country is suitable for growing coffee. This South American goldmine produces exquisite aromatic blends like Bahia and Minas Gerais.
Even better known, thanks to Juan Valdez, is Columbia. While second in world production, Columbia's coffee is sweet and light. This coffee is designated as either supremo or excelso, and the coffees from Nariño and Popayan are second to none. But the world of coffee doesn't end with Brazil and Columbia. Many other areas of the world grow coffee, and therein lies distinctive flavor blends that have made their own mark on the world.
Mexico grows small coffee beans with a delicate body and a very light acidity, giving the coffee a very mellow flavor. Cuba makes an extremely strong coffee called café cubano. It is drunk like a shot of tequila, swiftly jolting fans with a shot of coffee goodness. Indonesia is making its own mark with its finely aged coffees. Indonesia's warm, moist climate produces beans slowly, allowing them to develop a deep body with little acidity. Indonesia is now the fourth largest coffee producer in the world. But let's not forget Malaysia. Even with such stiff competition, Malaysia's practice of brewing coffee in a muslin bag produces a strong cup you won't soon forget. Even their lesser variety, Liberica, should be tried by the true coffee connoisseur.
Little Thailand grows a brew that has a taste of chicory that they serve over ice and condensed milk... perfect for those who like iced coffee. Kona coffee from Mauna Loa in Hawaii is sweet, aromatic with a medium body. Java from Sumatra is rich and full of flavor, and Kenya's Beanya, which is grown at a dizzying 17,000 foot altitude is very smooth and has great depth, with a bit of an aftertaste that can't be put into words.
In the 15th century, people discovered the process of roasting and crushing coffee beans, and then filtering them through hot water. This simple process has produced indescribable pleasure to a majority of people on this planet. In Europe, coffee took yet another turn. France created café au lait, which is half coffee, half milk. Austria has its own traditional Viennese blend for centuries... consisting of two-thirds dark, and one-third regular coffee.
In 1901, Luigi Bezzera, and again in 1938, M. Cremonesi created what we know today as Italian espresso. They contain less caffeine than other forms, so two espressos can be enjoyed without feeling guilty. For those who prefer their coffees a little less aggressive, the creamy latte and cappuccino (named after the hood on a monk's habit) fill the bill.
Columbian coffee is world-renowned, and it deserves this designation. The La Esperanza from Tolima grows at approximately 6,000 feet and this affects the flavor. High-toned, with a hint of cherry and a delicate aroma, it carries shadows of milk chocolate and pipe tobacco. Did you ever think a mixture like that would taste as great as it does? Columbia is not done yet. The Supremo is a complex blend with notes of vanilla and subtle hints of semi-sweet chocolate. Drink this one hot... the flavors fade quickly.
Back to Hawaii, hand-plucked Kona is roasted as either medium or dark. The dark has a light acid taste, while the medium is slightly stronger. The espresso roast is a great favorite, where the dark strong flavor with its minimal acidity really comes through. Way over in Africa, we stumble across the Tanzanian Peaberry, which is grown on the south slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Peaberries sport a very distinctive shape, the beans are oval instead of the normal pair of beans with flat sides. Peaberries have a higher acidity and lighter body to the finished coffee. If you climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, you can always pick up a nice warm cup on your way.
While in Africa, stop in Ethiopia, the legendary home of coffee. In the Yirgacheffe region, they grow a citrus-inspired brew combining orange peel, ginger and lemon that is surprisingly chocolate-flavored as well as tart.
If you head east into India, stop to visit another famous landmark, the Monsoon Malabar. Growing in wet winds, these puffy yellow beans create a pungent cup with a slight hint of apricot. Before you leave, be sure to sample one of the Jumboors... it has a surprising sweet raisin aspect.
As we continue east, we cross into Indonesia, and subsequently we find Sumatra. In the Lake Toba region, the coffee grows suited for a light roasting, and gives up a sweet, flowery taste. Utilizing the jasmine-like coffee flower, it produces an astringent cup of coffee with a hint of cherry. In the northern provinces, they grow a traditional dark roast that is spicy and contains flavors of tropical fruit, cedar and grapefruit.
Hop over to Vietnam for a cup of Robusta from Lampung. The interesting washing, drying and polishing process they use creates an astringent, woody cup of coffee that holds its own against the higher-toned Arabica.
As we head home, a quick stop in Jamaica gives us the opportunity to find the unusual Jamaican peaberry. Like the African variety, it is a single bean. The coffee that results is completely different than the African variety, however. The Jamaican is sweetly acidic and full-bodied, with a touch of floral that makes it memorable.
Like fine wines and the grapes they come from, there are a great many beans and coffee varieties to be found all around the world. Take your time and sample them... it is a delightful pastime.
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