Despite graduating from East Carolina University four short months ago, Reid and myself recently found ourselves in the classroom setting once again, only this time, not as Pirates of ECU, but as students of Stockton Graham & Co.’s Coffee College. With so much to learn about in the world of coffee, we started class with the very basics, beginning with where exactly the beans are grown. Although coffee can be grown just about anywhere with a tropical climate, we learned that there are three main regions that provide the world with a majority of the coffee that we drink. For the next three weeks, I am going to attempt to learn all there is to know about each of these three regions and explain to the best of my (new and rising) knowledge, the specific affects that these regions have on the beans that they produce.
This week’s region is Latin America, and without a doubt it is the largest coffee distribution region in the world. Latin American coffee is grown from southern Mexico, all the way through Central and South America to Peru. It is also very common in the plateaus of Brazil, as well as some Caribbean Islands. In this region there are more than a dozen major countries that contribute to the coffee distribution industry including Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and more. The tropical climate and mountainous landscape of Latin America is ideal for growing all types of coffee plants. Ranging from standard-grade Robusta coffee beans to high quality gourmet Arabica coffee beans, this part of the world produces it all.
With the amount of counties in this region that produce coffee, there are some differences and similarities when it comes to growing and harvesting coffee. Central American countries grow their coffee in soil with high amounts of volcanic sediment in it, while traditional South American counties are grown in more of a rainforest environment. Though there are two main growing environments that are very different, the coffee beans are related in the fact that they are all typically grown at a high altitude. With the exception of Brazil, many parts of Central and South American grow coffee beans in the mountains, at highs of 5,000 feet or higher, which give the beans high amounts of acidity and citrus to their flavoring.
Another common characteristic that Latin American coffee beans share is the process that the beans undergo after they are harvested. This process is called wet processing, and it is the process of removing the cherry from the bean, soaking the stripped bean in a ceramic pool for fermenting purposes, and then leaving to dry before removing the thin membrane remaining around the bean. Wet processing also contributes to the amount of acidity and citrus that these beans commonly contain.
Brazil, on the other hand, is a bit unique from the rest of the region when it comes to growing coffee. They tend to grow their coffee at a much lower elevation due to the shorter mountains in the Brazilian landscape. Brazil also typically uses dry processing, which mean they dry the cherries without stripping or soaking the beans. Once the cherry is in a raisin form, the beans from inside the cherry are then collected. The drying processes, as well as the lack of elevation, produce a low acidic and citrus content in Brazilian beans.
Here at Stockton Graham & Co., we distribute coffee beans from five different Latin American counties, and with those beans, we produce dozens of different coffees, ranging from single origins, to organics, decafs, swiss water processed, and blends. The classic coffee of Latin-America is typically, a bright, lively acidic and a straightforward cup. They provide what for a North American is a “typical” good coffee experience, one that has now come to be a favorite of many all around the world.
Stockton Graham & Co.