Know Your World Coffees

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Between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, a “coffee belt” encircles the globe. Here, abundant sunshine, moderate rainfall and year-round warm temperatures nurture coffee trees.


At harvest time, those trees are laden with bright red coffee cherries (right). Encased in a thin layer of fruit is a coffee bean, the seed of the coffee cherry.

Coffee is harvested primarily in three areas: Latin America, the Pacific region and Africa. Soil, climate, altitude and surrounding plants, as well as the method by which the bean is extracted from the fruit, affect its flavor. In the tasting room at Starbucks, coffee experts refer to this as “the taste of the place.”

Tasters expect certain characteristics from any coffee they try, depending on its origins:

  • Coffees from Latin America are generally light- to medium-bodied, with clean, lively flavors.
  • Pacific coffees, like Indonesian Java and Sumatra, are on the opposite end of the taste spectrum: typically full- bodied, smooth and earthy, with very low acidity and occasional herbal flavor notes. They’re excellent dessert coffees because they complement rich desserts.
  • Coffees from East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula often combine the crisp, clean acidity found in Latin American coffees with intense floral aroma and enticing fruit or wine flavors.

The next time you pick up a bag of organic coffee, take a look at where it was grown. When you drink it, see if you can recognize the taste of the place! 

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Photo courtesy of Starbucks Coffee Co.

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