What is the Coffee Belt and Which Countries Belong to it?

Where can we find the Coffee Belt and is only coffee grown within it? Which areas surround the belt, is the continent where the coffee is grown affected? What about its taste?

Where can we find the Coffee Belt?

Imagine a belt that surrounds the whole Earth. A really big belt that covers almost the entirety of Africa. It also includes South and Central America, and Asia. If we want to be precise, the belt lies between the 23rd North and 25th South Parallel. Countries that lie within belt are characterised by ideal for coffee plantations which need fertile soil, mild temperatures and more precipitation. Whilst it’s not true that coffee can’t be grown anywhere else, in other places it will be nowhere near as successful.

Coffee Belt - click to enlarge and legend

Coffee Belt – click to enlarge and legend

Another continent, another taste

The resultant taste of the coffee (quality, flavour profile) is certainly influenced by where the coffee comes from. Flavour really does differentiate continent to continent, even separate farms within the same general area produce an individual coffee. Just to further complicate matters, everything within one crop can also be different. And, of course, methods of harvesting and other controls (primarily storage, roasting, grinding and preparation) influence the final product.

That’s how the final quality of coffee is affected by how it’s harvested.

That’s how the final quality of coffee is affected by how it’s harvested.

The Most Famous Countries and Their Coffee

Coffee is grown in more than 50 countries, let’s take a look at the most interesting ones.

Central America

In Hawaii, we can find one of the most expensive coffees in the world, Kona Coffee. This coffee is grown in ideal conditions under the active Mauna Loa volcano. It is rare, so the demand is huge, as is the price. For 250g, you pay almost £31.50. Since the 18th century, it has been one of the world’s finest coffee and even exists within its own coffee belt, the Kona Coffee Belt. Coffee is grown in volcanic soil in the mountainous terrains of Guatemala (similar to Hawaii). The unmistakable taste has been likened to tones of spicy chocolate.
Mexico is one of the largest exporters of coffee in the world, despite that coffee is grown on small farms rather than large plantations. Costa Rica produces coffee that has been exclusively processed using wet production. Small farms have a focus on quality and have created a coffee of perfect reputation. By the end of the 19th century, Puerto Rico was one of the most important coffee producers but due to the economic hurricane and strict competition, they have recently struggled. Nowadays a resurgence has begun with its Yauco Selecto coffee, which is considered one of the best in the world.

South America

Meka Coffee, Colombia, is one of world’s most prolific coffee exporters. With its immense production (the third greatest in the world) and high standards, it beats everybody. Brazil is the first in the world for coffee production. Its plantations produce both Arabica and Robusta and occupy a huge amount of Colombian soil.

Africa

The cradle of humanity and coffee. Ethiopia is one the countries where coffee is exported in bulk. Plantations from Sidamo, HarrarKaffa are the main producers. Kenya cultivates it coffee in the rich soil at the foot of Mt. Kenya. Qualitatively, we would consider Kenyan coffee at the very top of the chain, it is even carefully controlled by its own rating systems. Cote d’Ivoire is one of the largest exporters of Robusta in the world. It’s unmistakably strong, yet delicate, flavour is often blended with Arabica coffee.

Arabian Peninsula

Yemen is the first country to start cultivating coffee for business purposes. Coffee is cultivated here in the spirit of tradition from centuries before. Grains are smaller and rather irregular I shape due to less precipitation. The lack of water also indicates it is produced using a dry process.

Asia

Indonesia is made up of hundreds of islands and islets, the most famous of which are the larger ones: Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi. In the 17th century, Dutch colonists introduced the seedlings to Indonesia. Good coffee is worth the wait. At least that is what traders think with profits in mind and can sometimes store saplings for many-a-year. Surprisingly, this is, in fact, not a bad thing and the coffee usually possesses a unique flavour. Coffee arrived to Vietnam with French missionaries who brought the plant with them. Today, Vietnam holds second place in the world, in terms of coffee production. This is mainly thanks to Robusta, which is cultivated to mix with Arabica coffee. The Philippines boasts the most expensive coffee in the world – civet coffee, which passes through the digestive tract of the civet.

Which coffee should I choose?

How do you find out which coffee is best suited to you? Other than tasting it, nothing will work. There are services which preselect a coffee rota, a simple subscription will have coffee sent to your home every month. Another option is to order a tasting pack which includes a variety of coffee depending on the place of origin and flavour profile. Or, for those who are a fan of the extreme, you can quite easily grow coffee at home, so give it a try.