"Location, location, location" is a common mantra in real estate, and the exact phrase could easily apply to the coffee bean belt. Bean belt? Actually, it's more of a band around the centre of the earth, a horizontal strip between the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the Tropic of Capricorn in the south often referred to as 'the tropics.' This is where coffee is grown.
The bean belt crosses some 70 countries, all with tropical climates, fertile soil, and perhaps most desirable, high altitudes for coffee trees to thrive. There are only two seasons in the tropics; the wet season and the dry season. Second in value only to oil, coffee is one of the world's most traded commodities.
There are three primary coffee-growing regions; the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Across the bean belt, it is primarily small-scale farms that produce close to 70 percent of the world's coffee. The Americas region covers the lush tropical Central American countries of El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama. Flavour profiles in Central American coffees range from nutty and citrus to floral and spicy. Panama, in particular, is famous for Gesha coffee (often referred to as Geisha) grown on Volcan Baru, the tallest mountain in Panama. With limited supply and high demand, Gesha coffee fetches astronomical prices on the world market. Expert coffee tasters describe it as unlike any other coffee, with an almost tea-like flavour and a silky texture.
South American coffee-growing countries include Colombia, Peru, and the largest coffee-producing country globally – Brazil. South American coffee profiles highlight notes of chocolate, fruit, and nuts.
Moving across the bean belt to Africa, most coffee is grown in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and the birthplace of coffee – Ethiopia. African coffee has bright acidity and perhaps the fruitiest notes of any coffee in the world. An interesting side note – few African people drink coffee, having a predominantly tea-drinking culture. The Middle Eastern country of Yemen is also considered part of the Africa region in the bean belt.
The countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and India grow the majority of coffee in the Asia region of the bean belt. Vietnam is second only to Brazil in coffee exports. Described as earthy, even smoky sometimes, coffee from this region makes for a rich, deep cup.
There are a few additional regions to the belt, including coffee grown in Jamaica, Australia, Puerto Rico, and perhaps the most famous of all – Kona coffee is grown on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Oh, to be traveling one day soon! How cool would it actually be to visit the regions of the coffee bean belt? That's on our bucket list for sure. Feel free to share our little trip around the coffee-growing world.