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[Buying Basics] Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Specialty Coffee Beans

For coffee connoisseurs, the world is an exciting place filled with specialty beans, brilliant blends and remarkable brews.

Want a coffee with subtle hints of blueberry? There’s a bean for that. Like your coffee professionally ground? There’s an expert barista just a couple of miles away. We don’t always realize how lucky we are.

It wasn’t always like this. As recently as the eighties, coffee was, well, a bit boring. There weren’t many flavors to choose from, there wasn’t much variation in terms of roasting or grinding.

It was all very simple and rather dull. Coffee lovers spent less time in the supermarket, but they weren’t enjoying the same variety of tasting experiences we do today.

There were certainly no specialty coffee beans around.

Today, there are hundreds of coffee beans originating from an assortment of vibrant and celebrated growing regions.

There’s organic coffee, Fair Trade coffee, light roast coffee, non-caffeinated coffee, arabica, coffee, direct trade coffee and a host of other options. It can be difficult to know where to start sometimes, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

This guide takes an in-depth look at specialty coffee and the best ways to shop for and experiment with these beans.

We’ll discuss the benefits of buying specialty products, what type of characteristics and flavor profiles you can expect from light, medium and dark specialty roasts and why processing is the secret to a truly terrific cup of joe.

Discovering the Beauty of Specialty Coffee

If you’d like to know more about what specialty coffee stands for, both ethically and environmentally, you can read my previous guide to coffee growing and the impact of direct trade.

It explores the emergence of the specialty movement and its connections to international coffee markets and the lives of regional farmers.

Here are some of the reasons I recommend buying specialty. Firstly, many of the roasters have direct trade relationships with coffee farmers. I mean, they fly out to personally visit farms.

Not only does this mean they pay their coffee growers more (after cutting out the middleman), they also have a direct hand in sowing, growing and harvesting processes.

Specialty coffee is absolutely some of the best coffee you’ll ever drink because the people involved with making it are all working so closely together.

This is not your average mass produced product. It’s about as close as you’ll get to drinking your favorite brew in the mountains of Bolivia or Uruguay.

Unthought Of Flavors

Specialty coffee beans are among the highest quality beans on sale to consumers.

With no factory roasting, there are no unpleasantly ashy or bitter flavors. The roasting process is meticulously controlled by artisan coffee makers and produces extraordinary notes and profiles. Expect to taste hints of everything from aromatic spices to juicy fruits and flowers.

One of my favorite specialty coffees combines a delicate, sweet chocolate flavor with distinctly nutty and cinnamon notes.

Others taste treacle sweet like honey. I tried a specialty coffee once that tasted just like red apples. Specifically, red ones. The flavors were subtle but I could make that clear distinction.

Even seasoned coffee drinkers tend to assume this is some artificial effect. They think specialty roasters are soaking coffee beans in flavorings or spritzing them with chemicals.

I promise it’s not the case. When coffee beans are grown, picked and roasted in specific ways, these flavor profiles are created naturally. It takes a lot of skill and hard work which is why specialty coffee tends to cost a little more than the regular stuff.

Third Wave Coffee

There’s nothing particularly new about drinking coffee. The coffee plant has been domesticated as a food crop for centuries.

For hundreds of years, it was freely traded as a commodity just like cotton or oil. In the early days, all beans were roasted until very dark to eliminate what was thought as ‘odd’ flavors.

These are the same signature flavors we covet today but, back then, people weren’t drinking coffee for its flavor profiles.

It was largely used as a stimulant, so there was little to no distinction between beans or blends. No matter where it originated, most coffee tasted drab and uninteresting.

Fortunately, human beings are great at finding ritual and pleasure in food. Over time, the coffee industry evolved. People began to enjoy the beverage for its rich, silky flavors as well as it’s motivating properties.

Coffee historians – yes, they’re real – describe the evolution of coffee in three phases.

First Wave Coffee – Diner Coffee

  • Low quality coffee beans (usually mass roasted and produced)

  • No attempt at traceability or contact with growing regions

  • Fewer regulations and quality control checks

  • Pre-ground coffee was often sold stale to coffee houses and consumers

  • Common in diners, coffee shops and other commercial establishments

  • Think supersized drums of Maxwell House and Folger’s



Second Wave Coffee – Barista Coffee

  • Greater focus on quality but mostly still mass-produced
  • Increase in popularity of ‘novelty’ coffees (flavored lattes, frappes, etc.)
  • Beans being roasted with more care but over roasting is common
  • Coffee tends to be dark and bitter
  • Think Starbucks’s or smaller ‘mom and pop’ style diners

    Third Wave Coffee – Specialty Coffee

    • Much greater interest in coffee grades/qualities
    • More investment in roasting and other processing methods
    • Skilled baristas start precision roasting in smaller batches
    • More coffee products with light/medium roasts
    • DT and other trade practices shed light on farms
    • Consumer demand for ethical coffee increases
    • Popularity of home coffee making equipment soars
    • Think Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle and Fair Trade

    There’s nothing wrong with enjoying third wave coffee for its flavors only. The variety of flavors on sale today is truly remarkable.

    You could try something new every week. There’s no reason you need to deep dive into the complex world of coffee farming and roasting other than it’s a fascinating journey.

    The third phase of coffee’s evolution is defined by a wholescale reimagining of what the beverage could be.

    Today, every step of the growing and manufacturing process is transparent and adjustable. From sowing to brewing, it’s possible to tweak and change the coffee bean in big and little ways to generate new characteristics.

    The future of coffee is personal. We’re already exerting more influence over grinding and brewing processes with home devices.

    Perhaps, in another ten years, home based coffee roasters will be more popular. They’re already available, of course, but they can be fairly expensive.

    Plus, there’s a lack confidence relating to roasting as even pro baristas are still discovering new techniques.

    The Golden Rules For Buying Specialty Coffee

    Let’s talk shopping. You’re ready to enjoy your first specialty coffee. What type of coffee product should you opt for?

    The level of choice on offer at independent coffee stores and artisanal coffee houses can be intimidating. So, where should you start?

    Always Buy As Fresh As Possible

    This is the most important shopping tip for coffee of all types, but it’s particularly vital for specialty beans.

    These products have been precision roasted with meticulous care and attention to detail. They deserve to be enjoyed at their absolute freshest.

    You’ve got to remember, coffee isn’t some artificial flavoring manufactured in a plant somewhere. It’s a completely organic substance.

    It grows from the ground. Like all crops, it starts off fresh and gradually loses flavor and quality as it ages. To enjoy it at its best, you need to drink coffee that’s as fresh as possible.

    Two to three days after roasting, specialty coffee beans are at peak freshness.

    This is the perfect time to experience the fruitiness of their natural oils. The sugars are sweet but in a clean and crisp way that may taste unusual at first. The acidity is balanced but impactful.

    There’s barely a hint of bitterness and it serves to underline the unique intermingling of caramel, sweet and citrusy notes.

    As coffee ages, its flavors decline in potency. The sugars present in the beans become ‘muddier,’ the natural oils evaporate and any acids begin to turn bitter. What was once a multifaceted flavor profile grows increasingly muddled.

    While this isn’t going to result in a coffee that’s hideously undrinkable, the flavors change so much that aged coffee beans hardly taste like their fresh equivalent at all.

    For some, it’s never a big deal. As long as a morning brew is tolerable and stimulates the brain, they don’t care about lost potency.

    This is fine. We’re not all interested in becoming coffee tasting experts. However, if you’re serious about learning how to taste coffee and perhaps even pursuing a career as a barista or roaster, freshness is paramount.

    Fortunately, there’s only one thing you need to remember.

    Coffee beans are considered ‘fresh’ for up to three weeks AFTER roasting. Some varieties lose a lot of their freshness after just a fortnight. Most retain potency and quality for the full three weeks. After this point, it’s all downhill I’m afraid.

    You can continue to brew and enjoy your beans, by all means, but expect a significant decline in flavor.

    Let’s make things trickier. The three week rule applies only to pre-ground coffee beans that have been stored as advised. Once you grind your beans, the aging process accelerates.

    Freshness is lost at a much faster rate from coffee grounds than it is whole beans. It’s why you should never grind more coffee than you need right here, right now.

    You need to grind much more frequently. I don’t enjoy it either. Yet, I never batch grind or ask baristas to do it for me. If it takes you an hour to get home after buying the coffee, it has enough time to lose its freshness twice over.

    That’s right. It takes between 20-30 minutes for ground coffee to age to a point at which flavors decay and oils evaporate. So, leave those beans in the bag until the brewer is out and ready to work.

    While I wouldn’t say ‘best by’ dates on coffee are a scam, they’re a clever marketing ploy. These dates say nothing about freshness or quality.

    They’re not lying – you can continue drinking coffee well past peak freshness – but they’re holding back on some key details. Disregard ‘best by’ dates when shopping. Look for the ‘roasted on’ or ‘roasted by’ date.

    Not all coffee products will have one of these dates. They tend to be a terrific indicator of quality. Specialty coffee roasters who want customers to enjoy their products at peak freshness are transparent and clear about roasting dates.

    They’ve put hard work into producing these complex flavors. Of course, they want you to experience it at its best.

    If they had their way, we’d be drinking from nothing but fine china and lifting our cups from tasselled cushions. Trust your roaster. Fresh is best.

    Pick The Right Roast For You

    Mass-produced commercial coffee is almost always dark roasted. Dark roasting hides a multitude of sins which is why manufacturers use it to conceal imperfections in low quality beans.

    It neutralizes unpleasant flavors but it also destroys a lot of the more delicate, desirable ones too.

    Specialty roasters spend time regulating and adjusting the roasting process to balance out bad flavors without killing off the good ones. It can be a fussy, time consuming process.

    Yet, it means there’s a much larger degree of variation. All coffee roasting grades – from light to dark – can taste exceptional if produced with care and skill.

    Light Roast Varieties

    Lightly roasted coffee beans are a dark tan shade. No oils are visible on their surface.

    As processing is so minimal, these varieties hold on to almost all of their original flavors. The quality of the actual coffee crop makes a huge difference here because any inadequacies or weaknesses will show up clearly.

    Most light roast coffees deliver a vibrant, crisp acidity that highlights and intensifies fruity, citrusy notes.

    Aromas are juicy and sweet and there’s barely any bitterness to be found. Choose light roasts if you like your coffee light, refreshing and not too rich or indulgent.

    Lightly roasted beans are tougher because they’re been through less processing. If the grinding feels tough and resistant, don’t worry. You haven’t broken your burrs.

    Apply more force. Try to grind evenly and at a consistent speed. These beans are just naturally harder and more difficult to force through the blades. That’s all. It’s not you. It’s the beans.

    Medium Roast Varieties

    Medium roast coffees are a light brown shade. In some rare cases, you can see a hint of oiliness on their surface. Most beans will be dry though. These coffee products retain a majority of the flavors they were originally grown with.

    They’re not quite as distinct and flavorful as light roast varieties because their notes have been smoothed out and mellowed.

    Medium grade roasting takes the edge off any sharper flavors to create a more inoffensive blend. In many ways, it’s the happy medium for coffee drinkers who appreciate quality but don’t want anything too exotic or unusual.

    Expect silky caramel notes and hints of honeyed sweetness to take the sharpness out of citrusy and acidy flavors.

    Medium roast beans are more bitter than light roast but the difference is largely negligible to casual drinkers.

    Dark Roast Varieties

    I don’t want you to think dark roast always equals bad coffee. It doesn’t have to. There’s a great deal to love about dark roast beans when they’re produced with care and not just blackened to within an inch of their lives because it’s easy.

    I believe there’s a clear difference between specialty dark roast coffees and mass-produced dark roast products.

    Not everybody agrees with me. Some people don’t like dark roast varieties in any form. They tend to be more bitter, more earthy and lot heavier bodied.

    These are after dessert coffees, let’s say, rather than the bright, easy drinking brews you’d enjoy early in the morning.

    Dark roast coffees are very dark in color. However, specialty versions are still noticeably lighter than their mass-produced counterparts. This is how you can tell there’s a level of precision and control in the roasting process. They’re not blackened.

    They’re not burnt. It’s common for these beans to have a clearly oily surface.

    Dark roasted coffee is farthest away from the raw coffee beans on the farm as far as natural flavors go.

    Yet, when roasted correctly, they’re not drab or boring. The aromatic notes are smooth and intoxicating. Expect hints of chocolate, spice, wood and molasses.

    Super Dark Roast Varieties

    Personally, I steer clear of anything more processed than dark roasted beans.

    It’s up to personal preference, so do experiment with them if you want to. The problem with ‘extra dark’ or ‘super dark’ coffee is that heavy refining strips the beans of so much flavor.

    It becomes impossible to distinguish acidy flavors from sweet or spicy flavors. The overbearing roast just muddles everything together.

    The overriding flavors are ash and an intense smokiness. Some people love it. Most can’t stand it. It’s certainly an acquired taste and one I can’t recommend.

    Know The Difference Between Arabica And Robusta

    Even some lifelong coffee enthusiasts misunderstand the difference between Arabica and Robusta beans. So, let’s get to the bottom of things once and for all. Firstly, Arabica and Robusta are just names for two different coffee species.

    While there are hundreds of different coffee species in existence, international coffee industries overwhelmingly favor Arabica and Robusta (sometimes known as canephora).

    Contrary to popular assumption, these two are not the same and do not produce the same type of coffee. The beverage you end up with will depend on which species you buy at the coffee house or supermarket.

    Arabica Beans

    When growing, Arabica beans look unremarkable. In fact, they’re very skinny and malnourished looking.

    The plants have thin, almost bare branches and appear fragile and weak. Ironically, this is the sign of a healthy plant. The fewer branches, the more energy gets invested in growing the beans and infusing them with all kinds of interesting flavors.

    Arabica is favored for commercial coffee because it’s sweeter and cleaner. Bitterness is minimal.

    If you’re unsure what type of specialty coffee you’ve been enjoying, there’s a good chance it’s Arabica, more so than the alternative.

    Robusta Beans

    Robusta coffee plants are very different. They grow leafy, verdant and fat. Their branches hang heavy with dense and juicy coffee beans.

    The harvests are more abundant which enables lower prices on the commercial market. The trade-off for this is slightly less defined flavor profiles.

    With more leaves and more beans, the nutrients are spread more thinly. This results in smoother, less distinct notes and a more standardized, commercial tasting coffee.

    Again, there is lots to love about Robusta beans. What one coffee drinker shies away from, others can’t get enough of.

    If you want to experience specialty coffee at its fullest, the important thing is to know what you’re drinking and why.

    Do be aware Robusta beans contain 50% more caffeine than Arabica beans. It’s a natural effect and has nothing to do with how the coffee is roasted or processed.

    The plant’s compounds produce more caffeine while growing. Take this into consideration before consuming lots of Robusta.

    Geisha Coffee Beans

    Here’s an extra tip for anybody taking their coffee tasting journey very seriously.

    Not many people know there are several ‘sub-species’ of coffee plant within the Arabia and Robusta species. Once you get down to this level of detail, things become complex and expert.

    You can enquire about sub-species at your local coffee shop but there’s no guarantee the baristas will be able to help.

    If you are keen to learn more, look into the Geisha sub-species that was rediscovered around fifteen years ago. It now grows in Panama and is considered one of the finest coffees in the world. I warn you, it is expensive.

    Is it worth it? Of course it is.

    Choose Between Single Origin Or Bean Blends

    So much of making the perfect coffee is about preference. I’m not afraid to say there are varieties and forms of processing that I find unpleasant. Super dark roast coffee is one of them.

    For the most part though, you’re choosing between two terrific options that just suit different kinds of people.

    This is the case with single origin coffees and bean blend varieties. When discussing professional coffee tasting, I’m almost always alluding to single origin products.

    The harvest from one plant is ground and used to make coffee. All of the flavors are notes derive from this one type of bean. There’s just something pure and uncomplicated about it that coffee artisans love.

    Is it better than blending two great coffee beans together? It’s hard to say for sure.

    Single Origin Coffee

    Single origin coffees are very simple. They are made of one type of coffee plant from one farming site. Any flavors present can be attributed to that one coffee plant and its species, location, climate and growing method. These coffees are the best way to ‘taste’ a particular region of the world.

    Balinese coffee tastes different to coffee from Nicaragua. Peruvian coffee isn’t the same as Kenyan coffee.

    I’ve tried two coffee beans farmed on opposite sides of the same volcano, within miles of one another, and they were worlds apart in flavor. It was an extraordinary discovery and only possible because both beans were true, undiluted products of their environment.

    This is the benefit of single origin products. They’re authentic.

    They’re not perfect though. Single origin coffees are usually seasonal. It’s rare to see them grown all year round.

    So, even if you’re a huge fan of single origin coffees, you may have a hard time finding high-quality products outside of the 2-3 month season.

    They can be much less tolerant of brewing than bean blends. It’s easier to over extract. If you’re learning how to coffee taste for the first time, I’d strongly recommend starting with a blend.

    Move on to single origin coffees after experimenting with optimum grind sizes and brewing times. Finally, single origin products are simply too characterful for some.

    They’re quite intense and you’re more likely to experience unusual, exotic and atypical flavors than you would with a standard filter coffee.

    Coffee Blends

    Twenty years ago, bean blends were an easy way to hide imperfections in lower quality harvests. Today, much has changed. We know a lot more about the roasting process and boosting specific notes and flavors.

    High-quality blends are now created to highlight complementary flavors and generate brand new taste sensations.

    For instance, richer tasting South American beans are commonly combined with crisper, fruitier Kenyan varieties. This generates a balance and harmony that normally only comes from highly skilled light roasting.

    You’ll notice anything above three beans is hard to find in supermarkets or coffee shops.

    Generally, producers don’t like to combine more plants than this. It can muddy the flavors and take away any chance to distinguish between individual notes.

    There are products out there with four, five, even six beans. I’ve never tried them but you may be curious.

    You can buy bean blend coffees all year round. They’re normally very affordable (though specialty blends can get pricey depending on unique features and selling points). They are easy to brew and satisfying to drink.

    The Quick Guide To Coffee Processing And What It Means For Your Brew

    In this next section, we’re going to discuss different coffee processing methods and their impact on taste and flavor profiles. Coffee processing is a vast and detailed topic, so I’m going to condense it and share some practical knowledge.

    Twenty years ago, nobody cared about what happens to coffee beans after harvesting. They’re packed in a crate and sent off for shipping right?

    Well, sort of. In recent years, processing has become a subject of interest because roasters now know it’s another action that greatly affects quality and flavor.

    Natural Processing (Dry)

    Sometimes known as ‘dry’ processing, this is the most natural and least invasive way to prepare coffee beans for roasting.

    It requires minimal technology so it is considered to be authentic and largely true to historical methods. Unsurprisingly, it is also the most time consuming form of processing.

    Coffee beans processed naturally (or dry) rarely become specialty coffees. Besides taking longer to prepare, it leaves room for imperfections. The longer the beans sit around, the greater the risk of blemishes, decay and flavor degradation.

    There are some naturally processed specialty coffees available and these are of an impeccable quality. They have to be to become specialty suitable in the first place.

    The Method:

    Harvested coffee beans are spread evenly on patios and left to dry in the sun for up to four weeks. When shrivelled and very dark in color, the important part of the plant – the actual bean – is separated from the rest of the plant.

    They are again spread on the patio and dried over weeks. The beans are ready for shipping and sale when their moisture levels have dropped to between 8-12%

    As the coffee beans are initially dried while attached to the plant, they retain a distinctive fruitiness. There is minimal acidity, stronger sweet notes and intensely aromatic odors.

    Ethiopian coffees are often naturally processed. They are among the juiciest, fruitiest beans on the market. Expect strong notes of strawberry, blueberry and cherry.

    Washed Processing (Wet)

    Washing coffee beans is a faster, more precise method of processing that leaves less opportunity for imperfection.

    Generally speaking, these coffees are of a higher quality just because the system involves more checking, inspections and control.

    The Method:

    The coffee beans are harvested and left in water to ferment for up to five days. After this, they’re drained and roughly cleaned.

    The cleaning process is very hands on and rugged because it’s also used to separate beans from unwanted plant parts.

    Then, the beans are laid out on the patio as they would be in a natural (dry) process. The difference is they need only a few days to dry. Once they reach the desired moisture level, they get packed up and shipped out.

    As the beans are separated from the plant much quicker, they retain less of that earthy exoticism.

    They taste less fruity and unusual. Wet processing still produces terrific flavors though with crisp, clear notes, a lighter body and vibrant acidy notes.

    Honey Processing

    Honey processing is a mostly an amalgamation of wet and dry coffee processing with an interesting addition.

    The Method:

    The beans are harvested and left in water to soak for two or three days. As with wet processing, they are then roughly cleaned.

    The difference is the beans aren’t completely separated from the rest of the plant. They retain a thin coating of sticky mucilage. This is allowed to remain on the beans while they patio dry.

    The result is an atypically sweet coffee that cannot be produced with other methods. Honey processed coffees are medium bodied, with a moderate level of acidity and a flavor consistency somewhere between sharp and muddled.

    They’re not ‘muddy’ tasting, but they notes are a little smoother and slightly less defined.

    Decaffeinated Processing

    I know, I said the ‘d’ word. It’s not very popular around here. Regardless, it’s a major component of coffee markets these days.

    Nobody wants to admit they’re a decaf fan but producers manage to sell plenty of it. Like standard caffeinated coffee, it’s been on quite an evolutionary journey.

    In the seventies, decaf coffee was still being manufactured with trichloroethylene, a carcinogenic solvent.

    Thankfully, it has since been outlawed. Decaffeinated coffee is the healthiest variety you can drink (depending on your perspective). It doesn’t contain any caffeine, so there’s no chance of common side effects like insomnia, heart palpitations or stomach upsets.

    You can also avoid these side effects by enjoying caffeine in sensible amounts.

    For those who are sensitive or allergic to caffeine, decaf coffees may be the only option.

    The Method:

    The beans are harvested and left to soak in pure CO2 that is kept in a state somewhere between liquid and gas. I’ve never seen it but I imagine it looks pretty cool. The CO2 slowly extracts the caffeine from the beans without causing harm to their other attributes.

    Alternatively, the beans may be soaked in hot water for several hours. The resulting brew is siphoned into another vat where it is combined with methylene chloride or ethyl acetate.

    Caffeine bonds to the chemical additive after which it can be easily filtered out. The decaffeinated liquid is then reintroduced to the coffee bean pulp. This is a quick and inexpensive form of processing.

    Selecting The Right Origin For Your Coffee

    This might be the toughest part of your coffee selection process because there are no bad choices here, only personal preferences. The goods news is there’s nothing preventing you from tasting beans from every single corner of the world.

     

    It’s an expensive adventure to go on. Your friends will get sick of you trying to discuss differences between Mexican and Nigerian beans over lunch.

    Yet, there’s an extraordinary feeling that comes with knowing you’ve traveled the world in a cup. I highly recommend experimenting and tasting coffee from far and wide.

    My advice is to ensure you respect every coffee you try. If you truly want to taste the differences between iconic international growing regions, standardize your tasting sessions.

    Use the same home grinder and brewer for each cup of coffee. Drink each coffee at roughly the same time of day and in the same location if possible.

    You can revisit my tasting articles to brush up on professional tasting techniques.

    Central America

    The majority of Central American coffees are farmed in mountainous regions and wash processed. It’s why they tend to taste clear, distinctive and have highly individualized notes.

    Panamanian coffee is famed for its vibrant flowery aromas and crisply acidic notes.

    Guatemalan coffee is much harder to pin down because the country’s climate is incredibly varied.

    The region is capable of producing many different types of coffee – with a wide range of flavor profiles – because there are so many farming styles. Many offer delightful hints of red apple, cinnamon and honey.

    Mexican coffees are interesting because the region doesn’t match the lightly acidic flavor profile characteristic to Central American beans.

    Instead, coffee beans are grown at lower altitudes here to produce a richer, earther profile with spicy, chocolatey notes.

    South America

    South America is a sprawling continent so it makes sense to find so many diverse coffee beans here.

    There isn’t a single standout flavor profile for this reason. There are many celebrated flavors and varieties.

    For example, Ecuador farms its coffee extremely high up in the Andes Mountains. At 8000 feet, the beans take on a fruity flavor that is both clear and distinctive without being overpowering. I have a fondness for Ecuadorian coffee because of this curious combination of gentleness and precision.

    Most of us have heard a little about Columbia’s coffee. Some call it the most famous coffee on the planet. Only Arabica beans are grown in the region. There are no Robusta varieties here.

    Columbian beans commonly produce either light, citrusy flavors or much heavier profiles with earthy, almost grassy type notes.

    Coffee beans grown in Brazil can be similarly varied but most present a characteristically low acidity level and heavy body.

    This combination is a result of beans being farmed at lower altitudes.

    Asia

    The majority of the coffee beans farmed in Asia are from the Southeast. Although, highly regarded growing operations have now emerged in India and Yemen.

    Thailand only grows a small volume of Arabica coffee beans but caffeine connoisseurs are enamored with it.

    Specialty beans produced in the north of the region present a moderately acidic flavor profile with rich and aromatic floral notes.

    It’s a surprise to some to hear Vietnam is the second largest coffee grower on the planet. Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate to high-quality products.

    The region grows most of the world’s Robusta beans intended for use in instant coffee. Until Vietnam invests more heavily in specialty growing, I’d recommend giving this one a miss.

    The Final Word On Buying Specialty Coffees

    We've been on quite the journey together, visited all four corners of the world and explored many aspects of coffee farming and production.

    I hope with your deeper understanding of where coffee comes from and what makes it delicious, you can go out and purchase single bean and bean blend products with more confidence.


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