Gourmet coffee refers to the best coffee in the
world. They are usually “single origin” or estate farms, having unique characteristics. Search our website to find gourmet coffees of the world.
Fast and easy. “Specialty coffee” is another term often used. It is the definition given
and regulated by the Specialty Coffee Association and refers to the top 20% of all
coffees in the world. That is the best, the “gourmet coffee”.(http://www.scaa.org/?
page=main). You should be aware that there are two types of coffee beans, Arabica
and Robusta. The difference is that it is harder to produce Arabica beans, since they
grow in fewer regions. Therefore, they are rarer and more sought-after. Gourmet
coffee uses premium Arabica. If the coffee you purchase is really the best ground
coffee, it will
say 100% Arabica beans, a blend, of Robusta. If that’s not clearly stated, you can
assume they are Robusta–which doesn’t mean it’s bad coffee. Arabica is superior in
quality and taste and has half the caffeine of Robusta. This means that it should be
outstanding and noteworthy. Being the “cream of the crop”, it is in limited supply. A
good roaster must develop a good relationships with various plantations, which takes
time and money. These specialty coffees are often referred to as “single source”.
Factors that affect coffee flavor are soil, elevation, and the amount of sun or
rainfall. Add to that, how it is processed after it’s harvested. Other factors include
picking the beans at the right time. Were they allowed to develop and picked when the
fruit around the beans were sweetest and matured? All these circumstances determine how
the final product will taste and give it it’s unique tones, flavor, and acidity. The top
farms are the experts at this.
About 70% of the coffee’s quality depends, not surprisingly, on the bean, itself. The
remaining 30% depends on the region where it was grown. These two factors determine the
character and quality of the coffee.
Best Coffee Beans
Arabica beans require special conditions to grow and flourish. They can only grow at an elevation of about 4,000 feet, with an average temperature at
70 degreesfahrenheit.This limits where they can grow, but one of the favorite places is alongside volcanoes.
Obtaining such gourmet coffee is too expensive for most supermarket and coffee chains.
The time and effort are just too great. Besides, enough of such a product would not be
available for mass distribution. Another benefit of these single source estates are that
they are not a blend. You can get that unique quality more consistently because you know
the exact location that produced it. This is why third wave coffee lovers
are big fans. They see it as more than a commodity, but more like “fine wine” to be
savored. Andrew Hetzel from CafeMakers Coffee Consultants explains, “Educated consumers
that I have encountered are looking for guidance: help interpreting and communicating
the complex tastes and sensations that they experience from good coffees. Most consumers
are not educated and have no interest in becoming educated, but can be subtly guided to
better quality coffees. The accompanying information a roaster or retailer provides is
extremely helpful, describing its source (the farm, land, people, climate, cultivar,
processing and so on) in as much detail as possible.”
Arabica Coffee Beans
The best coffee-growing regions are found in the Equatorial zone known as “The Bean
Belt”, located 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South, or for us in the Western
Hemisphere, between Mexico and Brazil. Arabica growing at high elevation in rich soil,
and the more vigorous Robusta at higher temperatures and lower elevations. Coffee is
grown in more than 50 countries. In Central America and the Caribbean it is produced in
Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama.
Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is considered one of the finest coffees in the world.
Known for its smooth, silky taste, it is well-balanced and full bodied. It is easily
some of the world’s best coffee in the world, having a mild taste with a moderately
sweet, fruity flavor, with a subtle taste of chocolate. This results in a smooth and
complex taste. The best of Jamaican Blue Mountain are produced on old estates like
Silver Hill, Wallenford, Moy Hall, Old Tavern Estate, and Mavis Bank. Grown on the
eastern end of Jamaica, at elevations of 7,402 feet, where the climate is cool, and damp
allows the beans to take longer to develop. This takes about twice as long as other
producing areas. The combination of elevation, rainfall and soil contribute to the
unique qualities of this coffee.
In Mexico it is usually grown on small farms, instead of plantations. Even so, they are
one of the biggest producers, with over 100,000 coffee farmers. Most are located in the
southern areas of Chiapas, Veracruz, and Oaxaca. Their coffee is known for its great
aroma and deep flavor. If you like dark roasts this is your choice, though it’s often
used in blends. A smaller producer is Puerto Rico, where coffee arrived in 1736, from
Martinique. By the late 19th century, they became the sixth leading exporter of coffee
world-wide. Unfortunately, hurricanes have wreaked havoc and destroyed farms over the
years, but the industry is slowly starting up, again. This is being done with high-
quality Arabica beans noted for their balance of body and acidity, while having a fruity
aroma. PP: CA-A lesser known region is Guatemala, which produces coffee that has a
unique taste, rich in flavor. Grown at an altitude of 4500 feet in the rugged growing
areas of Antigua, Coban, and Huehuetanango. These beans tend to be medium to full-bodied
with a depth and complexity of flavor that is almost spicy with hints of chocolate.
Costa Rica, to its south, has a solid reputation, with its meticulous attention to
quality processing and growing methods. They produce wet-processed Arabicas, with medium
body and sharp acidity. Often considered to have perfect balance. Production is mostly
on small farms.
Moving south to South America, is the better known producer, Columbia, which ranks
second in world production. It is often thought of when people look for gourmet coffee
because of its high standards and fame. This is due to the expertise of thousands of
small family farms. The result is consistently high-quality, mild coffees, with a
balanced acidity. Contributing to this is the mountainous landscape, the perfect growing
environment. So rugged is it, that the coffee often has to be transported by jeep or
mule. The highest grade, Colombian Supremo, has a subtle, aromatic sweetness. The
Excelso Grade is softer with a bit more acidity. The biggest coffee producing country in
the world is Brazil. Their coffee plantations cover very large areas. The produce both
Arabica and Robusta beans, depending on climate and type of soil and elevation.
Brazilian coffee has a sweet, medium body, with low acid.
East Africa produces coffee from Ethiopia and Kenya. Ethiopian coffee comes from three
areas, Sidamo, Harrar, and Kaffa. It has a bold, full-bodied, and full flavored. Kenyan
coffee is familiar to many and tends to have a sharp, fruity acidity, full-bodied, and a
rich fragrance. Grown in the foothills of Mt. Kenya on small farms they put their
emphasis on quality in the processing. Kenya has its own particular grading system .
Their largest beans are graded AA in a 10-point system; AA+ means it was grown on
an estate. On the west coast of Africa, Ivory Coast is one of the world’s biggest
producers of Robusta coffee, which is very aromatic, with a light body and low acidity.
This type is best suited in a dark roast and are often used in espresso blends. Yemen is the
country where coffee was first cultivated commercially. It is still grown in their
centuries-old way. Family farmers make terraced gardens and due to the short-supply
of water causing the coffee beans to be smaller and more irregular in size and shape.
Yemeni coffee has a unique taste that is deep and rich. Centuries ago the coffee was
shipped all over the world via their port of Mocha. The Dutch blended this coffee with
that of their colony in Java, Indonesia, and thus was born the familiar blend of Mocha-
Indonesia is a huge country of thousands of island. Three of the larger ones, Sumatra,
Java, and Sulawesi, are world-famous for gourmet coffee. The Dutch
brought the plant there in the 17th century, and the country quickly became one of the
biggest producers. Most of the farms today are 1-2 acres and most of the coffee is dry
processed. Indonesian coffee is notable for being rich, full-bodied, with slight
acidity. Since they also produce a higher grade coffee that is “aged”, warehousing these
coffees slowly ages them in Indonesia’s warm, damp climate and creates a product that is
sought-after for it’s deep body and lower acidity. This is a process that even today’s
technology can’t match.
Vietnam is fast becoming one of the world major coffee producers. The French originally
brought it in the mid-nineteenth century, when missionaries brought Arabica trees and
planted them in the Tonkin area. In recent years, it has been re-introduced. Mostly
Robusta coffee is grown in the southern half of the country on small plantations.
Vietnamese coffee has light acidity, mild body, and good balance. It is often used in