Coffee: How the origin makes a difference
NB: This is one of the pages/sections we're rewriting since a lot of this was written with coffee shops in mind and nowadays most of our customers are individuals.
I'm fond of saying there are only three kinds of coffee in the world -- from Central and South America, from Africa and Arabia, and from Indonesia and other Pacific rim countries. That's not literally true of course -- there can be great differences within a single region of a country -- but even a novice cupper can distinguish a Kenya from a Sumatra from a Colombia when tasted side by side. Then, some days, all the Centrals taste alike and it makes you long for something from far away.
The best way to learn what coffees from different origins taste like is to try them, but here are some general descriptions to get you started.
Current availability is on the Price List page.
Single Origins - coffee from a particular country or region.
The top export grades are supremo, which everyone is familiar with, and the slightly smaller bean excelso that we used to buy. Colombian coffee has moderately high acidity, far more than a Sumatra, but less than a Kenya, and is full-bodied but less than Sumatras and on a par with the best Africans. A top Colombian will have a slight flavor mindful of Ethiopians.
The surprising thing about Colombia is that so much of their coffee is quite good. Colombia is second only to Brazil in the amount of coffee produced, but it's all washed, high-grown on small farms, and well sorted.
This is the quintessential middle of the road coffee -- that's not a criticism -- a good Costa Rica has great body and high, pleasant acidity. It's a coffee no one will dislike; if you can't decide what coffee your customers might like, try one from Costa Rica. It's not always easy to tell where in Costa Rica the coffee is grown, though all of the top strictly hard bean grade (SHB) is from farms above 1200 meters. Well known regions include Tarrazu and Tres Rios, but the coffee is often labeled with the name of the farm or the exporter or something else; it's better to go by taste rather than name (or price).
Peru has often been considered the poor relation of the better known South American coffees. The quality of the coffee, however, has improved greatly in recent years. Perus tend to be lighter than Colombians -- a little less full-bodied yet with high acidity because all Perus are quite high grown. A good example will have a distinctive, often nutty, flavor lacking in Colombian coffee.When roasted longer to bring out some of the oils, it produces a mild, sweet French Roast that we've found to be popular here in Western North Carolina.