CFN – The last article I wrote I described how to make a good cup of coffee. I talked about the freshness of the coffee, the water and the brewer but I did not talk about the basic flavour or flavours of coffee. This is a difficult subject because coffee isn’t a flavour but a combination of flavours, tastes and aromas, and taste perception is very personal and individual. Not everyone tastes the same things since the differences in tasting perception are based on experience, environment and DNA as well as personal health at the time of drinking your coffee. Smokers are well known to have diminished capacity to taste subtleties in food and beverages.
“Coffee is a sensual experience as well as a wake-up pill, and if it is drunk at all, it should be drunk well and deliberately, rather than swilled half cold out of Styrofoam plastic sups while we work. Enjoying good coffee may not save the world, but it certainly won’t hurt.” – Kenneth Davids, Coffee – A Guide to Buying, Brewing, and Enjoying. 5th Edition
Now having said that I am going to try and describe some of the basic characteristics of coffees grown in different regions around the world which may direct your coffee preferences. The origin of coffee has been identified as modern day Ethiopian but it is now grown around the world in the area between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn called the Bean Belt. In each area coffee has developed its own characteristics due in large to the differences in soil. Of course there are always exceptions to the rules depending on the variety of the bean, the weather during the growing season, etc, etc, but I am only trying to give you a guide. As you explore more and more single origin *specialty* coffees you will recognize what you like and when you like it. I would like to point out that *specialty* coffees refer to premium quality Arabica coffee beans, not the vanilla flavoured cara-mocha crap-a-chino coffee like beverages sold in the low end coffee chains.
The following description is an excerpt from the http://www.merchantsofgreencoffee.com web site. I couldn’t have written the descriptions any better so why not give credit where credit is due.
What Makes One Coffee Bean Different From Another?
Coffee acquires unique taste characteristics from its geography – soil, water, air, flora, etc. While entire books have been written about varietals and the art of Cupping Coffee, coffee taste can be described and generally characterized by continent of origin.
Africa – High acidity / low body
Coffees from Africa are distinctly bright (similar to citrus), sweet (fruits and floral), with a dry wine finish. Countries to note are: Ethiopia, Yemen, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda.
South Asia – Low acidity / high body
Coffees from Asia are rich and full bodied, with heavy earth and spice flavours. Countries to note are: India, Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Papua New Guinea.
Latin America – Medium acidity / medium body
Coffees from Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, possess a full spectrum of tastes from fruit and earth to nut, vanilla and chocolate. They are intensely aromatic. Countries to note are Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.
So there you have it, a general description of the usual unique characteristics of coffee grown in three different growing regions as tasted by experts. Keep in mind though that the truly great coffees usually are exceptions to the rules and your taste impressions are your own. Don’t be afraid to try new coffees but also don’t be afraid of enjoying a coffee that the critics don’t like.
For more information on the coffees that I have available please go to my web site,