“This coffee has notes of lemon-lime, and is bright with a tea like body…” “What do you mean?” I often get confused looks from people when describing the flavors and aromas you can find in coffee.
Coffee is a very complex beverage, and there are many factors that go into how it tastes, or “cups”. One of the biggest is the coffee’s origin, or where it is grown. The countries that produce coffee are very diverse. The growing conditions in each country contributes to how the coffee tastes. The elevation, the soil content, and the amount of rain and sun the trees get are all factors. Whether the coffee is washed vs. natural process also plays a role. Washed means the coffee is dried after the fruit of the coffee cherry is removed, while natural process means the coffee bean is dried with the fruit still intact. I will give some examples.
The coffee I was talking about above comes from Ethiopia, this is one of my favorite origins. Coffees from Ethiopia have two main cup profiles, both are fruity, but the fruit is different depending on how the coffee is processed after it is picked. The washed process coffees from Ethiopia have citrus notes – this can be lemon, lime, orange, or tangerine. They tend to be bright with a tea-like body. Natural process coffees, on the other hand, have more berry notes – blueberry, cherry, or black cherry. They have a deeper body and are not as bright. I have cupped naturals from Ethiopia that smelled and tasted like blueberry pie.
Indonesia produces some very interesting coffees, probably the most well known are from the island of Sumatra. Coffees from Sumatra are natural process. They tend to be pretty complex, earthy, fruity (berry), sweet, wild, big bodied coffees, with a mild acidity.
Colombia & Brazil
South America has two of the largest coffee producers in the world, Colombia and Brazil. The majority of Brazilian coffee is natural process. The coffees are sweet, nutty, mild, medium bodied with a gentle acidity. I had a Brazil on the table not long ago where the flavor notes reminded me of eating a nutter-butter cookie. In contrast to the coffees from Brazil, Colombian coffees are almost all washed process. Colombian coffee is known for being a well rounded/balanced coffee. They tend to be fruity, floral, have a medium acidity, with a buttery/milky body.
Next we head for Guatemala in Central America. Coffee from Guatemala is usually washed process. They tend to be medium bodied, bright, with hints of floral, fruit, and have a milk chocolate sweetness.
These are just a few of the many different flavors and aromas that you can experience in coffees from different origins. Experiment and taste coffees from origins you may not typically drink, you might find a new favorite. Enjoy!