1st October 2019
What makes the world go around? Before money, before love, it’s got to be coffee. The official sponsor of Monday mornings, we owe a lot to that little bean and the people around the world working hard to fuel the planet with the 2.25+ billion cups of coffee we consume every day.
Here at Wild Frontiers, we’re huge fans of both the world and coffee, so in order to celebrate World Coffee Day, we recruited some staff for a little coffee-off with brews from the some of the highest coffee producing countries around the world. Although we are far from being coffee connoisseurs, some of us seem to have more refined palettes than others (which will probably become apparent), we each score our favourites out of ten to decide the winner:
Brazil's tropical climate provides ideal conditions for growing but at its low elevation, as is the case for most of the coffee coming out of the country, it tends to sway more towards the mild side with low acidity. Whilst not known for its high quality (higher elevations produce better coffee, while low elevations yield more coffee in a shorter space of time) it’s often used as a ‘base’, paired with more intense beans to balance it out.
Our verdict: We all mentioned the coffee tasting sour with grassy/citrusy notes. Amit and Mike thought it tasted under-ripe and Nardia got a taste of green vegetables. Hayley suggests it tastes earthy.
Producing 11.5 million bags annually, Colombia exclusively grows Arabica beans, known to be higher quality than Robusta. Frequently hailed as being medium-bodied and rich in flavour, with higher acidity, this is owed to almost perfect growing conditions; high elevation with a good blend of high rainfall and a tropical climate.
Our verdict: This was a popular blend with most of us remarking on its sweeter flavour with treacle, raisin, chocolaty impressions. We agree that it’s a good go-to coffee that’s easy to drink.
Despite boasting the most expensive coffee in the world, Kopi Luwak (harvested from civet poop) most Indonesia’s coffee exports are made up of (sneer) Robusta coffee. But like Brazil, it’s just what this climate is more suited to producing. Their Arabica coffees are more popular thanks to low acidity and strong body. However, the flavour will vary throughout the islands.
Our verdict: As this was in the first round of coffee-tasting, it had a good chance to make an impression but unfortunately, it didn’t prove too popular, mostly coming across thin-bodied and ashy with no depth. Rachel detected some floral hints and Amit commented that it tasted roasted. Hayley, once again, think’s it tastes earthy. Quite the sophisticated palette.
It’s believed that Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee so naturally, the country has a rich, centuries-old coffee culture. It’s so much a part of life here that they even have their own coffee ceremony. Though the taste does, of course, vary from region to region, Ethiopian coffees are often described as full-bodied, fruity and rich with winey tones.
Our verdict: Most taste berries or fruity notes apart from Amit who picks up on more of a nutty, spicy, chocolatey taste. Mike notes a herby flavour. Mixing it up ever so slightly, Hayley suggests a ‘woody’ taste. Groundbreaking.
Often used within coffee blends, Honduras’ coffee hasn’t always been well-known for having a distinct flavour of its own until more recently. With a medium body and a softer acidity, which makes it so easy to blend, the more prominent flavours to be noted usually include caramel, chocolate and nutty hints.
Our verdict: Almost everyone detects a more earthy flavour to this coffee, to Hayley’s vigorous agreement. Amit goes one step further saying it tastes woody, cardboard and hay-like, whereas Nardia detects a malty flavour. Rachel remarks that it’s similar to the Guatemalan coffee, which is interesting as she doesn’t know they’re both from the same region.
Guatemala traditionally grows Arabica, so it’s known for its high-quality beans which are said to be well-balanced: strong but sweet, full-bodied but with gentle acidity and a mix of flavours including more chocolatey notes. Again, this is down to the ideal climate and altitude conditions for growing coffee.
Our verdict: Lots of comments on its sweetness with most tasting dark chocolate but also a few mentions of syrup, molasses and brown sugar. Rachel notes a transition from sweet to sour but all agree, it’s strong and smooth so it gets a great reception.
With a milder acidity than what you typically find with Central American coffees, Nicaraguan coffee is known to be of high quality, again, due to being grown at high altitudes. 95% of their coffee is considered ‘shade-grown’ meaning it’s grown in natural conditions under the shade, which is also considered to produce a better taste. Its flavour is known to be diverse, from floral and citrus to chocolatey notes.
Our verdict: Amit noted a hint of tobacco, and everyone remarked on a bitter aftertaste. Nardia thought it was more full-bodied than the Brazilian coffee and Rachel suggested it might be nicer with milk.
Finally, Costa Rica has a reputation for great flavoured coffee with nice acidity, thanks to those high elevations for growing. Noted flavours include tropical fruit and brown sugar. However, it should be noted that some reviews advise against buying any Costa Rican coffee that hasn’t come directly from the coffee roasters themselves as it can go stale and lack flavour if it’s sat in a warehouse, like Amazon, like the one we’re tasting.
Our verdict: This coffee has the most mixed reviews but none particularly good. Bitter, weak, and wait for it…earthy, are the overwhelming observations. Nardia suggested smoky and ashy. Amit likes it best, detecting hints of brown spice, cloves and dried fruit.
First place: Guatemala 40/50
Second place: Colombia 39.5/50
Joint third place: Ethiopia and Nicaragua 31/50
Fourth: Honduras 30.5/50
Fifth: Brazil 30/50
Sixth: Indonesia 28/30
Seventh: Costa Rica 22.5/50
Having tried coffees from all over the world within the regions they come from, we can say with confidence that the coffee directly from the source will always be of better quality than that brought from supermarkets in the UK and Amazon, where it probably doesn't come fresh and therefore, affects the taste. However, it was interesting to see how each coffee suited each palette and to hear the different reactions.