Coffee beans are grown in within an area known as the ‘bean belt’, which is roughly bound by the tropic of cancer to the north, and tropic of Capricorn to the south. The best growing areas offer moderate sunlight and rain, steady temperatures of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and rich soil. Of the two types of coffee trees grown, the Arabica accounts for nearly 70% of total harvest while the Robusta, a hardier plant that produces lower quality beans, makes up the remaining 30%. Here are the top ten coffee producing regions.
The leading producer of coffee beans, Brazil accounts for nearly 30% of the world’s supply of coffee, producing approximately 22.5 million bags per year. Because Brazil is a top producer, some coffee enthusiasts fear that Brazil’s emphasis on quantity leads to decreased quality; however, some regions in Brazil do offer a finer variety like the Bourbon Santos, which is highly sought after. A producer since the 18th century, Brazil grows mostly Arabica coffee trees, and is the only growing region subject to occasional frost.
Part of Colombia’s success can be attributed to having ports in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as it is the only South American country that does. Most Colombian coffee is grown in the foothills of the Andes Mountains where the high altitude and moist climate make for a mild coffee bean; nearly 10.5 million bags are produced each year. Because coffee is such important revenue for this country, all cars entering Colombia are sprayed for harmful bacteria that could potentially destroy coffee trees.
The first thriving coffee plantation in Indonesia in the late 1800s was on the island colony of Java (hence, coffee’s nickname of Java). A one-time top producer of Arabica beans, many of Indonesia’s Arabica coffee plantations were destroyed, yielding an increase in the production of hardier Robusta beans. Still, some very high-quality Arabica beans are grown there, such as the Sumatra, Flores, and Sulawesi. Indonesia produces nearly 6.7 million bags yearly.
A late-comer to coffee production, Vietnam became a top producer in the 1990s. The industry has grown very quickly, and Vietnamese traders worry that processing has not caught up to growth, so the quality of Vietnamese beans is far behind many other countries. Daklak is Vietnam’s main growing region, and yields around 5.8 million bags of Robusta beans each year.
Mexico began major exportation of coffee beans in the 1870s, and is now the leading source of US coffee imports. Most of Mexico’s coffee beans are grown in the southern part of the country by small-scale farming operations that number in the hundred thousands. Exporting around 5 million bags per year, Mexico produces some very fine bean varieties such as the Altura and Pluma Coixtepec.
Ethiopians lead the continent in coffee consumption, which is fitting since Ethiopia is the natural home for the Arabica tree, and the setting for most coffee origin tales. Approximately twelve million Ethiopians make a living from coffee, producing 3.8 million bags each year. Ethiopia is the top exporter of Arabica beans on the African continent.
India produces nearly 3.8 million bags of coffee beans per year, and coffee production is strictly controlled by the Indian Coffee Board, which some believe reduces quality of beans and dampens economic benefits to growers. One special type of Indian coffee is the Monsooned Malabar, which is made from green beans that have been exposed to monsoon winds blowing through open warehouses.
Coffee cultivation in Guatemala was introduced by German immigrants in the 19th century, and coffee has since become a major industry with nearly one quarter of the population involved in coffee production. Guatemala’s high-grown beans (above 4500 feet) are among the world’s best coffee, especially those beans grown on southern volcanic slopes. This country produces 3.5 million bags per year. Coveted blends are the Atitlan and the Huehuetenango.
Cote d’ Ivoire
This country has seen a recent decline in coffee production, possibly due to their emphasis on volume and lack of investment and planning for sustainable production in the future. Mainly producing Robusta beans, nearly 3.3 million per year, coffee from Cote d’ Ivoire usually ends up as mass-market coffee in France and Italy.
In Uganda, Robusta coffee beans account for 75% of the countries export revenue and provide employment for 80% of Uganda’s rural working population. Most of the UK’s instant coffee comes from this country. Churning out 3 million bags per year, Uganda relies heavily on coffee as a source of income, and will remain that way for a long time to come.
Why is Fair Trade Important to Coffee Producing Regions?
Basically, the goal of the Fair Trade movement is to ensure that the world’s coffee farmers, most of whom run small operations, get paid a fair price for their crops in order to reach a decent living wage. The Fair Trade agreement ensures that a minimum price is paid to these farmers per pound no matter how the market fluctuates, guarantees long-term relationships for selling goods, and gives credit at fair prices. Fair trade is thought to offer environmental benefits as well, because these small-time growers do not need to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides to produce a higher quantity of beans. The growers under Fair Trade receive enough money to live on from their small plots of shade-grown coffee trees.