Where does coffee come from? - Really understanding region of origin

Coffee is a tropical plant.

And tropical plants can only grow in tropical rain forest environments.

Wouldn’t a map be more adept at showing you where tropical rain forest environments exist than a quirky blog voice?  Yes.  Yes it would.

The highlighted portion represents the "coffee belt"

The highlighted portion represents the "coffee belt"

That highlighted area is where tropical rain forest climates reign.  The type of climate where your hair frizzes and you are forced to admit that your natural/organic deodorant really doesn’t work.

This area is called the “coffee belt.”  Or the area between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.  Depends if you ask a coffee enthusiast or a geographer.  

COMSA Co-op in Marcala, Honduras

COMSA Co-op in Marcala, Honduras

We know, not always the image that comes to mind.  It is more intuitive to dream up images of brunch and cable knit sweaters when thinking of coffee.  We do it too, you’ve seen our Instagram (you have right? @1villagecoffee).

Follow us @1villagecoffee

Follow us @1villagecoffee

But if you can find a way to think about where that coffee came from (a.k.a. the region of origin) your personal coffee journey can become more of an actual world-wide journey.

From a practical stand point-that knowledge is going to help you pick the single origin coffee that you can dig.  Like knowing you love Pinots from Oregon or that you are just not going to be into the German beer that the craft beer store clerks always recommend to you.  

From an existential stand point-that knowledge is going to help you appreciate that it honestly takes an entire community (a village…if you will) to bring you that coffee.  Imagery of workers hand picking coffee cherries will inspire awe because, yes, each coffee bean was once inside of a cherry picked from a bush.  

Courtesy of Fair Trade USA.  Woman picking coffee cherries in Sumatra.

Courtesy of Fair Trade USA.  Woman picking coffee cherries in Sumatra.

It is so OK if you are not thinking about it...but if you want to, we want to help.

There are three major coffee regions: Latin American, Africa, and Asia/Pacific.  

Below are some words generally associated with each region, provided by our coffee roaster.  Personal fav: “coffee tasting coffee.”  Roaster Steve keeps it real, guys.

Within those coffee regions, there are countries (i.e. Ethiopia and Rwanda).  

Within those countries, there are subregions (i.e. the Yirgacheffe subregion in Ethiopia).

Within these subregions there are farms and co-ops.  (i.e. the Kochere Farm in the Yirgacheffe subregion).

Not done yet…just pausing to breathe.

And within those farms and co-ops are varying cultural traditions for how to get that green bean out of that cherry and prepare it for roasting (we will do a post on how coffee goes from a tropical plant to a green bean ready for roast…and when the future is now we will link to it here).

Freshly picked coffee cherries in Honduras

Freshly picked coffee cherries in Honduras

Every one of these facts helps tell you what experience you are about to have with that coffee.

Which is why every one of these facts tends to be on a bag of specialty coffee (single origin bags that is, blends are a blend of single origins) .  A mainstream coffee may let you know the coffee is from Ethiopia, but a specialty company will hit you with all the details.

Check out our Ethiopia YirgZ label.  Yirgacheffe is a southern sub-region in Ethiopia known for its floral and citrus flavors that result from being grown at high altitudes.  Z refers to zero defect, as in the farm that sorted this coffee sorted it 3 times to ensure no pesky little defect beans snuck their way into your cup.  

Oh-did we totally just whet your palate for some YirgZ?  Click here to be hooked up.

It’s a lot to think about.

So did this help you think about it?  Did this help you in that moment when you are staring at a coffee section in your local grocery store pondering if you should go for the Ethiopia YirgZ or the Colombia Alejandro Joven?  Tell us if it did (comment below!), and please please tell us if you got to experience a marvelous cup of coffee as a result.