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Coffee Regions Central America & Mexico Caribbean South America Africa & Middle East Asia & Indonesia Hawaii

Asia

India

Ah, the glory of the world's largest democracy! This was the first major region outside of Arabian Africa to cultivate coffee, mainly due to some clever smuggling of fertile coffee beans. Far from the major coastal cities, I love to explore monsoon-ravaged tropical regions of southern India and delight in the spicy coffees, hinting of cardamom and pepper.

Ranked 7th in the world.*
Best known varietals: Indian Mysore, Monsoon Malabar.

Vietnam

There are few things more enjoyable to me than a stop in Vietnam for a leisurely bike ride around the emerald green rice paddies to peacefully watch the women in palm-leaf conical hats growing rice in the serenity. Normally, I would stop for coffee on my excursion but in Vietnam, I generally pass. The 4th highest producer of coffee in the world is Vietnam, whose coffee industry was developed in the 1990's via a heavy infusion of cash from the World Bank, who saw money to be made by exporting beans. Sadly, despite the volume produced, Vietnam specializes in low grade Robusta, a bitter bean often used in blends to "cut" the amount of Arabica needed. The sheer volume of Vietnamese Robusta flooding into the market place, despite its low quality, is hurting many coffee growing countries, such as Nicaragua, who must severely lower the prices of their higher quality Arabica beans in order to compete against Vietnams volume and extremely low prices. Vietnam provides the beans for cheap pre-ground and whole bean coffee blends sold in the supermarket. Now that's a bitter bean to swallow.

Ranked 4th in the world. *

Indonesia

This enormous, tropical archipelago stretching from Southeast Asia to Australia is a challenge to navigate. Three of the region's major islands produces a third of the world's coffee beans, though only a portion - about 10% - is Arabica. The rest are less flavorable Robustas.

Java

Yes, the most notable of the coffee islands. Famous for its name. While navigating the muddy roads east of Jakarta in my battered Land Rover, one can smell the coffee berries springing from the trees on large coffee estates. Thank goodness the Dutch brought coffee here in the 17th century and entered a favorite nickname into the coffee lexicon.

Sumatra

It's an enormous island, just a skip by boat to the west, produces coffee known either by its own name or the Mandheling label. Sweet and crisp, this is a truly complex brew. The island of Sulawesi to the east produces a similarly complex cup, like that of Sumatra and maple syrupy notes. Such character!

Best known varietals: Sumatra Arabica

New Guinea

Farther to the east, the island of New Guinea, part Indonesia, part independently governed as Papua New Guinea, is also a noted coffee producer, producing a well-balanced bean with a fruity finish.

Ranked 3rd in the world. *
Best known varietals: Java, Sumatra, Mandheling Celebes, Catimor, Djember, Tim Tim.

 

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