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The flavour of coffee is almost impossible to generalize due to the many factors that affect the taste. Things like the altitude of the plant, the ripeness of the fruit and the degree of fermentation are just a few examples of what affects a coffee's taste profile.
That said, we can get a pretty good idea of what a cup of coffee will taste like depending on what part of the world it’s from. And, as single-source coffee is a growing trend today, being able to distinguish the different tastes from different countries will help you choose the flavour of coffee you enjoy the most. To help you pinpoint your favourite coffee we've compiled a beginner’s guide to coffee flavour based on region.
Something to note: this guide doesn’t take into account the brewing or roasting process, which can have a drastic effect on the final result.
Central America has greatly influenced our coffee-flavour profile. These coffees are usually very balanced with a good mixture of smooth sweetness and some tart, fruity acidity (the brightness of the coffee’s taste). They are often described as having a “clean” flavour.
Did you know Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer? It produces 25% of the United States’ coffee beans. In terms of taste, South American coffee can be similar to Central American coffee, but the diverse landmass in South America provides a good variety and interesting microclimates — especially in Colombia. Colombian coffees tend to have better developed acidity, balanced with sweetness. Brazilian coffee has a woodsy fruity taste and a creamy body.
Some coffee aficionados maintain that Ethiopia produces the purest coffee. It's the birthplace of coffee with a rich cultural tradition and coffee still grows wild in the forests. At one point, scientists tried to document all the different varietals and they gave up (more likely ran out of funding) at 10,000 varietals. African coffees are often described as complex, fruity and floral, which comes from the high content of phosphoric acid in most African soils. These are stronger, fragrant-rich and full-bodied flavours.
Asian coffees tend to be earthier and darker than most other blends. Unlike Central American and South American coffees, the unfamiliar beans from Asia tend to polarize coffee fans: some swear by them while others can't stand them. The beans are less acidic, more complex and, at times, even savoury.
There you have it! Coffee flavour profiles from beans around the world. Hopefully, next time you enter an artisan coffee shop you'll know which region of bean to go for.