Where Do Coffee Beans Come From 

 March 9, 2016

By  Enda McLarnon

Coffee beans grow on trees right? Well they are beans right? I always remember when I looked to find out where coffee beans came from and discovered that they were not actually beans at all.

The reality is that coffee is really a fruit, and in some cases some coffee beans actually come from poop. Now that may be the first time you have ever heard that. If it is then you will probably be thinking the person writing this article is mad.

It is however true, coffee beans are really cherries, that grow on a large shrub. The poop coffee we will explain later.

Where Are Coffee Beans Grown?

There is around the world what is known a coffee belt, and it is within certain regions of these countries that the coffee plant or shrub is grown. The coffee belt as such runs either side of the equator. 

In other words this coffee belt sits between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Each country region makes coffee with unique characteristics.

Relatively speaking there are not that many areas where coffee can be grown on an industrial scale.

The shrubs that the sherries grow on actually look like mini Christmas trees and they grow a cherry style of flower. Within these flowers is a seed, and it is this seed that is the actual coffee bean.

Where Does Coffee Come From in the World? - Top 10 Coffee Producing Countries

coffee countries of the world

Brazil is the largest coffee-producing nation in the world. Just below we have included the top 10 coffee producing countries in the world in terms of the average production of coffee in a year.

  1. Brazil produces about 3,000,000,000 kilograms of coffee beans a year.
  2. Vietnam produces 1,500,000,000 kilograms of coffee beans a year.
  3. Colombia does about 750,000,000 kilograms of coffee beans a year.
  4. Indonesia does about 540,000,000 kilograms of coffee beans a year.
  5. Ethiopia does about 400,000,000 kilograms of coffee beans a year.
  6. India does about 350,000,000 kilograms of coffee beans a year.
  7. Honduras does about 280,000,000 kilograms of coffee beans a year.
  8. Mexico does about 250,000,000 kilograms of coffee beans a year.
  9. Uganda does about 240,000,000 kilograms of coffee beans a year.
  10. Guatemala does about 210,000,000 kilograms of coffee beans a year

The video below shows the production trail of coffee.

According to the Roasterie dot com website:

"There are 102 varieties of Arabica coffee (a high-grown, better tasting coffee) and just 2 species of Robusta coffee (a cheaper coffee bean that is used in a majority of Folgers and Maxwell House products). The first ever Arabica coffee bean plant was discovered in Ethiopia, which is where half of the world’s coffee production comes from."

Beans are grown in all of the following countries:

  1. Indonesia
  2. Vietnam
  3. India
  4. Ethiopia
  5. Rwanda
  6. Burundi
  7. Brazil
  8. Colombia
  9. Costa Rica
  10. Jamaica
  11. Mexico
  12. Guatemala
  13. El Salvador
  14. Panama
  15. Peru

What Does the Coffee Plant Look Like?

In the image below, you can see what the coffee plant or shrub looks like. People also refer to this as a coffee tree given that it can grow to a considerable height. Arabica coffee accounts for about 75-80% of the world's production, and it is a better quality coffee than the Robusta coffee.

When a new coffee plant is planted, it takes about 3-4 years for the flowers to grow and they have a nice sweet smell. As you can see in the image below the coffee cherry appears and is initially a green colour, but that turns red eventually.

The leaves of the coffee tree are elliptical in shape and are shiny, waxy and a dark green colour. They also produce a lot of oxygen up into the air.

The seeds are eventually cultivated. If you would like to read about the coffee production process, then check out my article called from the bean to the cup.

the coffee plant with cherries

According to Wikipedia

Coffea is a genus of flowering plants whose seeds, called coffee beans, are used to make coffee. It is a member of the family Rubiaceae. They are shrubs or small trees native to tropical and southern Africa and tropical Asia. Coffee ranks as one of the world's most valuable and widely traded commodity crops and is an important export product of several countries, including those in Central and South America, the Caribbean and Africa.

Some Coffee Drinks from around the World

In the short video below you can have a quick look at some original coffee drinks from around the world. Some of those are very interesting.

Do Coffee Beans Come from Poop?

Well some coffee actually does believe it or not. The best known of these is kopi luwak, often called "cat poop coffee." An Indonesian cat, known as the civet cat eats and digest the berries and seeds from the coffee tree. They then digest those and clearly then do a poo. The actual faeces of this cat is collected, finished and sold as coffee beans.

Some people love this and many people will simply say no thanks. If you want to see this process in action, then feel free to have a look for yourself in the video below.

So as you can see coffee comes from countries based in and around the earth's equator. For many countries this is one of their key farming outputs. It is a commodity that is always in great demand. So the next time you sit down to your favourite brew, spare a though for all those trees and the hard working farmers who produce the splendid beans.

Mexico Coffee Beans

Mexico was introduced to Mexico from Jamaica at some stage in the 1800s. They export most of their coffee beans to America. There are two main coffee growing regions in Mexico called Oaxaca and Chiapas.

Their harvesting season is from November to March. Mexico produces around 4 million bags of coffee per year. They mainly grow Arabica coffee which is of average quality, and mainly used for making a dark roast espresso.

Around half a million small farmers rely on coffee production to make their money. Although the flavours will vary, they are generally considered to be bright and fruity.

Guatemala Coffee Beans

In this South American country around 3.5 million bags of coffee are produced each year. It is also this country's primary export, and they are known to produce very high quality coffee beans.

The Jesuits first brought coffee to Guatemala but it wan't until 1860 that the Germans arrived and started to develop the growing process. This country has the perfect weather for growing coffee, and they create the most wonderful Arabica beans.

Panama Coffee Beans

Another very small country with ideal climate conditions for growing coffee. They produce around 100,000 bags of coffee each year. The best known region in Panama is Chiriqui and they create most of the world's specialist coffees.

There are two main areas in Chiriqui known as Boquete and Volcan-Candela and coffee from these regions is much sought after.

Colombia Coffee Beans

Again the Jesuits brought coffee growing to Colombia. These days they produce around 14 million bags of coffee every year. They are the third largest producing country in the world, beaten only by Vietnam and Brazil.

They do have a reputation for growing very high quality coffee. It always has a consistent balance, brightness and body. Most of their coffee is grown on the Andean slopes.

The vast majority of coffee is grown by small farmers. They are however controlled by the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation. That ensures those farmers get good value for their produce and also maintain the high quality of their coffee.

El Salvador Coffee Beans

This is another small American country who produce around 750,000 bags of coffee per year. Once they were a very big producer of coffee but political issues in the country caused problems. In recent years though those problems have diminished, and the country now produces better coffee.

The coffee industry in El Salvador employs a lot of people, and they all produce Arabica beans.

Peru Coffee Beans

Peru produce just over 3 million bags per year. There are three main growing regions which are Chancamayo, Norte and Cuzco. In recent years they have gone through a rebranding and now focus on organic and Fairtrade.

There is now a Peruvian National Coffee Board which was established in 1993. Fairtrade is their main focus right now. They are one of the largest leading suppliers of organic coffee.

One thing we want to point out is that Fairtrade does not always mean high quality coffee. The coffee from the Chancamayo is the best rated from this region.

Costa Rica Coffee Beans

Coffee growing is a leading industry in the small country of Costa Rica. They produce about 1.5 million bags of coffee each year. They harvest between October through to March. Their best known coffee regions are the West Valley, Central Valley, San Jose and Tarrazu.

They grow high quality Arabica coffee plants thanks to the volcanic nature of their rich soil. The beans are considered to be well balanced and smooth with low acidity.

Jamaica Coffee Beans

They are really well known for their Blue Mountain Coffee, and are a small coffee producing country making around 21,000 bags of coffee per year. The coffee beans are grown on the island's Blue Mountain, hence the name of their most produced coffee.

Their harvest season is from March to June so a short season for Jamaica. According to folklore, King Louis XV of France sent just 3 coffee plants to a colony in Jamaica.

Two plants dies on route and only one plant made it all the way to Jamaica. About 100 years later there were over 600 plantations on the island. As well as the Blue Mountain coffee they also produce Jamaican Prime.

All their coffee is very mild and has no sense of bitterness.

Ethiopia Coffee Beans

Ethiopia, an African country produces around 6.5 million bags of coffee a year. There are two main growing regions known as Yirgacheffe and Harar. Their harvest season is from October to April.

According to all the knowledge that we have Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. The story goes that the goat herd Kaldi discovered coffee growing plants there in the 9th Century.

Coffee is the biggest export in Ethiopia. They are also one of the main suppliers of specialty beans to the world. In certain regions the quality of coffee is very high standard, but as so much is grown, the quality can vary.

Rwanda Coffee Beans

A small country in East Africa and they only produce 250,000 bags of coffee a year. This is a relatively new country to coffee production. In the early days of their coffee production the government of that time, made farmers produce low grade commodity coffee, to boost the country's economy.

They had names for their coffee called Rwanda Ordinary and Rwanda Standard. Recently though Rwanda have moved away from those mundane names and now produce a lot of specialty coffee.

Burundi Coffee Beans

Another small East African country that produces around 200,000 bags a year. They have two main growing regions which are Sogestal Ngozi and Sogestal Kirimiro.

The country has gone through tremendous political struggle which only got resolved around 2003.

India Coffee Beans

India produce around 6 million bags of coffee per year. Their regions are Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Their harvest season lasts from October to February.

Coffee from India dates back to the 17th Century. Folklore has it that a saint known as Baba Budan smuggled coffee seeds out of Yemen, on his return from a pilgrimage in Mecca.

Indian coffee today is grown in the south of the country in lush green mountainous areas, with most of their coffee plants grown in the shade.

Vietnam Coffee Beans

They produce around 27.5 million bags of coffee per year. Their harvest season is short between December and January, and their coffee has a bitter burnt taste that many people enjoy.

The regions are Buon Ma Thuot and Bien Hoa. This is a relatively new crop to Vietnam.  They have however quickly become the second biggest producer of coffee in the world. This is quite exceptional when you consider the intervention of the long Vietnam war.

They mainly produce Robusta coffee and this is considered to be inferior coffee when compared to Arabica. Most of this type of coffee is used for instant coffees or used for blending.

Vietnam also produces the strange Ca phe chon (Civet Cat Coffee) which is very expensive and much sought after. These cats eat the coffee beans and then pass them, mainly undigested. The enzymes produced by this process then add a remarkable change to the flavour of the coffee.

Indonesia Coffee Beans

Indonesia produce around 11 million bags of coffee per year. Their main regions are Gajah Aceh in Sumatra, Ijen in Java and Kalosi in Suiwesi. They harvet their crop from June to December.

Coffee was introduced to Indonesia by the Dutch in 1696. They are the 4th largest producer of coffee in the world. Most of their coffee is Robusta. They have however recently started to produce some Arabica coffee.

Enda McLarnon

Enda McLarnon has a Business Management Honour's Degree and applies his professional insight, to analyse and write helpful product reviews with tips and useful advice. I am also a coffee lover and enjoy tasting all of the coffee types the world has to offer.

Enda McLarnon

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