If you’re a big fan of coffee, then you probably already know about the different varieties out there.
So what’s the best coffee in the world?
This can be a contentious question. Even the most experienced coffee experts have their personal preferences.
However, if you’ve never tried some of the top-rated varieties, you might not know what you are missing out on.
While all varieties of coffee can produce a flavourful and aromatic brew, there are some that stand above the rest.
Below, we take a look at the varieties of coffee beans that are widely considered to be the cream of the crop.
Yirgacheffe coffee, considered to be one of the best single-origin beans in the world, is grown near the town of Yirgacheffe, a historic area located in Southern Ethiopia in the Sidamo region.
The area is known for its washing stations, as most of the coffee is wet-processed and sun-dried. Also, the farmers in this area are members of a cooperative union.
This Ethiopian coffee is well-balanced with fruit, lemon, tea and floral notes.
Yirgachefe coffee is also known as Strictly High Grown, growing at over two thousand meters above sea level.
Similar in taste to the Yirgacheffe above, Geisha (or Gesha) coffee originated in Ethiopia’s Gori Gesha forest, but is now grown in other parts of Africa, Asia, and Central and South America.
Geisha is known for its sweet flavour and soft floral aroma, with jasmine, chocolate, and honey aromas.
But this coffee variety is most well known for its high price tag. In 2020, a Geisha from Panama fetched $1300 per pound (450g).
The high price is simply due to the supply not being able to keep up with demand for this popular bean, although you may still be lucky enough to pick up some Geisha from your local specialty coffee shop or roaster.
Kona coffee is cultivated on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa in the Kona Districts of the Big Island of Hawaii.
This coffee is sweet with notes of fruit, spice or nuts.
The Kona region of Hawaii is perfect for coffee growing. It gets an average of 60+ inches of rain per year and has volcanic soil that drains well, which makes for great coffee trees.
The area has very small temperature changes from day to night, along with wind-protected slopes.
Volcanica Kenya AA Coffee
Kenyan coffee beans are typically described as having a sweet flavour with hints of wine and fruit. They are well-known for their bold, intense flavours.
Kenya AA Coffee from Volcanica is a top-quality coffee known for its rich body, vibrant acidity, fragrant aroma, and winey aftertaste.
This single origin bean comes from the Nyeri Hill Estate, which uses a sun-drying process.
Ethiopian Harrar is a high elevation, Arabica coffee bean variety.
It has a fruity aroma and taste, which is typical for Ethiopian coffee beans. You can expect flavours of berries with a hint of chocolate and citrus. It is known for its distinctive fruit finish and lingering aftertaste.
This single origin coffee is dry, or natural processed, meaning the beans are dried inside the fruits rather than after the fruits have been removed, as is the case with wet-processed or “washed” coffees.
Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee
Another very expensive variety, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is a rare coffee bean with a complex but smooth taste that is full bodied and well balanced. It is also often described as having sweet, floral notes.
Uniquely, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is very low in bitterness.
Blue Mountain coffee comes from the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, and it is one of the highest altitude coffees in the world, grown at elevations over 7,000 feet (2,134 metres).
The only coffee blend on our list, Mocha Java is a blend of Mocha coffee from Yemen and Java Arabica coffee from Indonesia.
It is generally a dark roast with low acidity. The body is full and there are notes of chocolate and cinnamon, with a lingering finish.
The original Mocha Java blend is said to date back to 1708 when the first shipment of Yemeni beans made its way to Europe on a ship from the port of Mocha.
Mocha coffee comes from the southwestern highlands of Yemen where it has been grown for more than 500 years. “Mocha” was the name of the trading town in Yemen through which almost all coffee trade occurred.
One of the earliest known coffees, Mocha was exported to Europe as early as 1615.
In the 19th century, Mocha became such an important export from Yemen that many began referring to all coffee as “mocha.”
Java Arabica is a very old variety that originated in Indonesia. It is one of the parents of modern Arabica varieties and is still grown on the Ijen Plateau in East Java and on several islands off the southern coast of Sumatra.
The term “Java” refers not only to this particular region but also to any type of dark-roasted Arabic coffee that may or may not have actually been grown on the island of Java.
Sumatra Mandheling Coffee
The name “Mandheling” is used to describe all Arabica coffee beans produced in a specific area of Sumatra, Indonesia.
This coffee is known for its full body and low acidity. In terms of taste and aroma, Sumatra Mandheling is sweet, earthy, and complex.
It is well-balanced and has subtle undertones of spice and cocoa.
Mandheling coffee is wet-hulled processed and sun-dried.
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Pacamara Coffee Beans
Pacamara is a combination of two already existing types of coffee plants: the Maragogipe (a mutation of the Bourbon varietal) and the Pacas. The varietal was created in 1958 by the Salvadoran Institute for Coffee Research (ISIC).
Pacamaras are usually medium to full-bodied and sweet. They have a creamy texture and flavours ranging. from chocolate to fruit to spice.
The two plants that were crossed to produce Pacamara have distinct differences. Pacas plants are a dwarf variety, so are small in size. Maragogype plants are taller trees and produce larger seeds, but fewer of them.
The idea with the hybrid variety is to get the best out of both original varieties, so the smaller trees can be planted close together while still taking advantage of the large seeds from the Maragogype.
In the shadow of two volcanoes, Antigua in Guatemala receives frequent rainfall, ideal for growing coffee beans.
Antigua coffee offers an exquisite, smooth taste. Antigua coffee brings about a rich and bold taste, with notes of chocolate and spicy and smoky undertones. Add to this the nutty flavours typical of other coffees from this region, and you have an ideal base for many forms of brewing.
These beans are known as Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) and include the Arabica varietals Catuai, Caturra, and Bourbon.
Tanzania Peaberry Beans
The cherry fruit of the coffee plant normally contains two seeds, which become coffee beans. However, sometimes only one of the seeds develops into a peaberry. Approximately 5% of all coffee beans harvested are peaberries.
Peaberry coffee beans are often associated with coffee grown in Tanzania despite the fact that these beans can grow anywhere in the world.
It is believed that peaberry coffee beans have more space and nutrients to develop fuller, richer flavour when compared to the regular two beans per coffee cherry.
This, peaberry enthusiasts say, can lead to the resulting brew tasting sweeter and more flavourful than regular coffee, even when compared to beans taken from the same harvest.
However, the taste of each peaberry coffee bean will be mostly determined by the usual factors, such as variety, location, growing conditions etc.
Tanzanian peaberry beans are full of deep, rich chocolate flavours with hints of dark fruits.
Sulawesi Toraja Coffee
Sulawesi Toraja Coffee is grown in the southeastern highlands of the island Sulawesi in Indonesia. The coffee is medium-full bodied with a hint of sweetness and a smooth finish.
The coffee is shade-grown at an altitude of 1200-1500 meters above sea level and is one of Indonesia’s most sought after coffees. The beans are dry-processed, which means they are dried in their fruit rather than after being shelled.
Coffee lovers say this method produces a smooth, clean cup that brings out the natural characteristics of the coffee. The beans are medium roasted to preserve their character while bringing out their best flavour and aroma qualities.
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Nicaragua’s rich volcanic soil and ideal growing conditions have always produced a great product, but now there is finally a market more willing to pay for that product and they can now be found at specialty coffee shops around the world.
Nicaraguan beans are grown at high altitudes in the mountainous regions of this Central American nation, producing a dense and flavourful bean. The best Nicaraguan coffee beans are grown on farms that meet the Strictly High Grown coffee specs, growing at around 1,000m – 1,600m above sea level.
The coffee found in this country is described as complex with a rich flavour of caramel that follows with a touch of citrus.
Nicaraguan coffee plants primarily consist of Arabica varieties. The best known, Caturra, is actually a dwarf mutation of Bourbon, which lends its name to several other countries’ coffees (e.g., Burundian Bourbon) that derive from it.
Other common varietals include Catuai and Maragogype (both developed in Brazil), Pacamara (a hybrid of Pacas and Maragogype), and Sarchimor (a hybrid developed in Costa Rica). All are considered high-quality Arabica varieties.