The Coffee Belt is an imaginary band that circles the globe around the equator, encompassing all of the world’s coffee-growing regions. It touches primarily on Africa, Asia, South America and Central America.
While these regions all share a tropical climate, their lands each have unique characteristics that influence the flavor profiles of the coffee they produce. Even different regions within a single continent—or different farms within a region—can produce coffees that are quite different. Much like a wine’s characteristics are associated with the terroir in which the grapes are grown, so it is with coffee.
In very general terms, however, certain flavors are associated with particular continents and regions.
The major regions can be seen on our coffee belt map (above) and also listed below, with the taste qualities that coffee aficionados typically associate with their beans.
- Burundi: full body, low acidity, grassy, chocolate
- Congo: full body, low acidity, intense, chocolate, nutty, tobacco, vanilla, earthy, spicy
- Ethiopia: full body, chocolate, cherry, creamy, earthy, blueberry or medium body, flowery, herbal, nutty
- Ivory Coast: medium body, low acidity, chocolate, nutty, earthy spicy
- Kenya: full body, zesty, citrus, floral, herbal
- Rwanda: medium body, chocolate, floral, nutty
- Tanzania: medium body, woody, earthy, spicy
- Uganda: full body, chocolate, creamy, vanilla
- Yemen: full body, chocolate, wine
Asia and Southeast Asia
- Bali: medium body, low acidity, creamy, nutty, chocolate, vanilla, earthy, pine
- India: medium body, medium acidity, spicy, earthy, tropical fruit
- Java: full body, chocolate, nutty, low acidity, creamy
- Myanmar: light body body, medium acidity, complex, fruity, floral
- Papua New Guinea: medium body, medium acidity, spicy, milky fruity, earthy, nutty
- Sumatra: full body, intense, earthy, woody, gritty, low acidity
- Vietnam: low acidity, medium body, vanilla, spice, woody, bitter
- Dominican Republic: medium body, medium acidity, mild, sweet, caramel
- Hawaii: medium body, deep, complex, fruity, floral, vanilla
- Jamaica: medium body, low acidity, tobacco, mellow, sweet
- Puerto Rico: medium body, low acidity, smoky, creamy, buttery, nutty, sweet
- Costa Rica: medium body, citrus, nutty
- El Salvador: medium body, medium acidity, red fruit, chocolate, citrus
- Guatemala: can be spicy, smoky, chocolate, earthy or delicate, floral, fruity, sweet
- Honduras: medium body, crisp, light-bodied, nutty, spicy, orange, caramel
- Mexico: heavy body, low acidity, milk chocolate, bright, lively, fruity
- Nicaragua: medium body, mild acidity, vanilla, hazelnut, chocolate, pear
- Panama: zesty, lively, spicy, lemongrass, herbal
- Bolivia: light body, caramel, chocolate, can be flowery and fruity
- Brazil: full body, low acidity, milk chocolate, fruity, spicy, floral
- Colombia: medium body, medium acidity, fruity, citrus, nutty
- Ecuador: light/medium body, medium acidity, caramel, fruit, floral, nutty
- Peru: light body, medium acidity, sweetness, spice, nutty, chocolate, earthy
The best way to learn the characteristics of coffees from all these regions is to sign up with a coffee subscription service and have fresh coffee beans delivered to your door on a regular basis. You can read about one such service in our Atlas Coffee Club review.