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Coffee In Latin America And The Caribbean

Jan 15, 2008
Coffee is produced in many parts of the globe in over seventy countries including parts of East Africa, India, Indonesia and Vietnam (second largest producer in the world), but here we're going to concentrate on coffee in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Most Like it Black

Apparently most coffee drinkers in Mexico take it black and believe that the best black coffee comes from their country. I'm sure the natives of many other countries would dispute that and probably the story is apocryphal.

Mexico produces approximately 3.5% of the world's coffee and the greatest concentration of coffee growing here is in the south of the country but the types are divided into lowland and Altura (high), i.e. grown in mountainous country.

Lowland coffee is mainly grown in Vera Cruz State, on the Gulf of Mexico, east of the central mountain range, whereas Altura Coatepec, a very popular coffee, is grown in the mountains near Coatepec city. Other mountain-grown coffees worthy of note from Vera Cruz State are Altura Orizaba and Altura Huatusco.

In Chiapas State, situated in the south east of Mexico near the border with Guatemala, coffees are also grown in the mountains. The best known of these is Tapachula, named after the town, which has a medium light body and soft flavour.

Oaxaca State is another prolific producer.

Simply the Best

Arguably, Guatemala produces the most interesting tasting coffees in the world, being slightly spicy or smoky on top of a somewhat acidic base.

Coffee growing areas include Antigua (the former capital of Guatemala) and Atitlan, in the central highlands, where the coffee tends to be rich and of spicy acidity in flavour and well-bodied, whereas the coffees grown in the mountains on the Pacific or Caribbean sides are less acidic and more fruity.

Rich and Robust

Of all the coffees in Central America, those of Costa Rica are amongst the most favoured, being full-bodied with a robustly acidic flavour. Most of the coffee here is grown around the area of the capital, San Jose, the most well-known districts being San Marcos de Tarrazu, Tres Rios, Heredia, and Alajuela and it is thought that the height at which the coffee is grown may have more influence on the flavour than actual area or estate.

Major Player

Colombia produces about 10% of the world's coffee, which can vary in flavour from mild and flavoursome to positively uninteresting.

The better coffees are produced on the slopes of the central and eastern mountain ranges in areas such as Nariņo State. Bucaramanga (after the town) produces rich flavoured coffee with low acidity and full body said to resemble that grown in Sumatra. The Bogota (after the capital city), is believed to be one of the most high-grade blends is lower in acidity than the notable Medellin but is still flavoursome.

Much of the coffees is produced by small private growers then processed by the Colombian Coffee Federation. It is this "cooperative" coffee which can vary somewhat in quality.

Coffee in the Caribbean


Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is world-renowned for its smoothness and rich flavour. Unfortunately, supply is short and consequently prices are high. Other Jamaican coffees are undistinguished and the "Blue Mountain Style" coffees almost certainly contain coffee grown at much lower altitudes and indeed, may not contain any coffee grown in Jamaica at all.

Low Flyer

Haiti produces a very tiny percentage of the world's coffee but what it does produce has a pleasant softness and sweetness. This is attributed to the low altitudes at which it is grown, the high rainfall and the volcanic soil of the coffee growing area.

Nearly Jamaican?

The Dominican Republic produces only a small amount more coffee than Haiti but experts are comparing it with the richness and acidity of that grown at high altitudes with that of the Jamaican Blue Mountains. Low grown coffees are softer and less acidic.

There are many other countries in this region which grow coffee but we only have time here to cover a small cross-section.
About the Author
Liz Canham is webmistress of Coffee All Day.
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