Are you a coffee enthusiast searching for the best coffee in the world? With its rich history and diverse bean varieties, coffee is more than just a morning beverage—it’s an experience.
Our guide will take you on an international journey exploring the finest beans, notable production regions, optimal brewing methods, and most loved types of coffee beverages. Ready for an exhilarating caffeine-induced adventure? Continue reading!
Key Takeaways – Best Coffee in the World Demystified
- Coffee originated in Ethiopia, according to legend, when a goatherd named Kaldi discovered his goats acting energetic after eating coffee berries.
- Coffee spread from Ethiopia to Arabia in the 16th century, where it was first extensively cultivated and traded globally. Coffeehouses also emerged in the Arab world.
- By the 17th century, the popularity of coffee had spread worldwide along trade routes, despite attempts to ban it. Coffee culture flourished with the rise of coffeehouses globally.
- Exceptional quality, complex flavor profiles and meticulous production standards define specialty coffee, which accounts for 37% of coffee worldwide.
- Renowned coffee regions like Costa Rica, Colombia, Jamaica, and Ethiopia produce some of the most prized and expensive coffees.
- Key factors that set the best coffees apart include flavor profile, quality, origin, processing method, sourcing, roasting technique, and brewing method.
- Top specialty coffee bean varieties include Tanzania Peaberry, Hawaii Kona, Nicaraguan, Sulawesi Toraja, and Panama Geisha.
- The optimal pairing of coffee beans and brewing methods enhances flavors, whether cold brewing, espresso, drip, pour over, French press, or Turkish coffee.
From Obscure Berry to Global Obsession: The Fascinating History Behind the Best Coffee in the World
Kaldi and the Dancing Goats: The Surprising Ethiopian Tale of How Coffee Was Discovered
The history of coffee began in the highlands of Ethiopia. According to legend, a goatherd named Kaldi noticed his goats acting very energetic after eating the berries from a particular bush. Kaldi tried the berries and soon discovered the plant was causing this energetic effect.
Kaldi discovered the coffee plant, which grows bright red berries containing two seeds. While the pulp surrounding the seeds is sweet and delicious, the beans inside really pack a punch. The beans contain caffeine, a naturally occurring stimulant in tea leaves, cocoa beans, and other plants.
The Monks’ First Brew: How Discarded Beans Became the World’s First Coffee Drink
Kaldi brought the coffee berries to a nearby monastery, but the monks found the bitter taste of the beans unpleasant and threw them into the fire. As the beans heated up, they released an enticing aroma, prompting the monks to rake the beans out of the fire, grind them up, and dissolve them in hot water to create an early version of the brewed coffee in the world we enjoy today.
From Arabia to the World: How Coffee Spread Across the Globe
As knowledge of the stimulating properties of the coffee plant grew, so too did demand for the beans. Coffee plants were first cultivated extensively in Arabia during the 16th century, particularly in the Yemeni district. The Arabs began growing coffee plants on a large scale and marketing the beans globally by the 17th century. The first coffeehouses appeared in the Arab world as well, providing a crucial gathering place for men to socialize. From its origins in Arabia, the popularity of coffee cultivation, trade, and culture spread far beyond to meet rising demand worldwide.
Sufi circles initially used coffee to stay awake during late nights of prayer. The beverage became popular with Islamic scholars and students for its energizing properties. As the coffee trade expanded into Europe and Indonesia, coffeehouses and caffeine culture spread worldwide.
Coffee has become an integral part of many people’s daily routines, with over 500 billion cups consumed worldwide yearly. While some see coffee as a commodity, others view it as a specialty product with unique flavor characteristics. So what makes coffee the best in the world? To answer this question, we must look at what defines specialty coffee.
Exceptional quality, complex flavor profiles, and high sourcing, roasting, and brewing standards characterize specialty coffee. Specialty coffee accounts for approximately 37% of the coffee produced worldwide. It is often compared to gourmet food and wine, with meticulous attention to factors like origin, processing method, and taste profile. This emphasis on quality creates a higher price point than traditional coffee, but for many, the nuanced experience is worth the premium.
The Key Characteristics That Set the Best Coffee in the World Apart
When it comes to identifying what makes a coffee exceptional, there are several vital elements to consider:
|A coffee’s taste and aroma depend on the variety of beans, processing method, roast profile, and brewing technique. This allows for distinct flavor profiles ranging from bright and floral to earthy and herbal. Acidity, sweetness, and mouthfeel also impact the complexity of flavors.
|The grade of the unroasted beans, the altitude grown, and the precision in processing and roasting all affect the final quality of the cup. Standards like the SCA’s coffee grading system help quantify aspects like size, moisture content, and number of defects.
|Where the coffee is grown has an enormous influence. Factors like soil, altitude, microclimate, and biodiversity contribute to the coffee’s sensory qualities. Specific origins like Jamaica Blue Mountain and Hawaii Kona are prized for their unique terrain.
|How the raw coffee cherry is processed after harvesting determines the flavor. Methods like natural, honey, and washed processing create different effects. Mastering processing is key for specialty coffee producers.
|Specialty coffee often comes directly from small independent farms rather than commoditized commercial channels. Farms may focus on sustainable practices, quality control, and ethical treatment of workers.
|The roasting process is leveraged to optimize and enhance the inherent flavors of the beans. Specialty roasters meticulously profile roast batches based on origin, variety, and desired flavor outcomes.
Exemplary Coffees Setting the Bar for Quality
To truly demonstrate what makes an exceptional coffee, let’s look at two particular coffees revered for their quality:
Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is renowned for its exceptional quality and unique flavor profile, making it one of the most sought-after and expensive coffees in the world. Here are some key factors that contribute to its high quality:
- Growing Conditions: Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is cultivated in the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica, where the combination of high altitude (ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level), rich volcanic soil, cool temperatures, and frequent mist and rain create ideal growing conditions for coffee beans. These factors slow down the maturation process, resulting in a dense and flavorful bean.
- Varietals: The coffee cultivated in the Blue Mountain region primarily consists of Arabica varietals, with the most common being Typica and Blue Mountain Typica. These varietals are known for producing superior flavor profiles and complex taste notes.
- Handpicked Selection: Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee beans are carefully handpicked to ensure that only the ripest cherries are harvested. This labor-intensive process helps maintain the high quality of the beans and minimizes defects.
- Stringent Regulations: The Jamaican government has strict regulations governing the cultivation and processing of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. Only beans grown in designated areas within the Blue Mountain range can be labeled as such, ensuring authenticity and quality.
- Limited Production: The overall production of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is relatively small due to the limited land available for cultivation in the Blue Mountain region. This rarity contributes to its exclusivity and high price.
- Wet Processing: After harvesting, the coffee beans undergo a meticulous wet processing method that involves fermenting, washing, and drying the beans carefully. This process helps enhance the coffee’s flavor and aroma.
- Screen Size Grading: Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee beans are graded by size using a specific screen size classification system. The largest beans, known as “peaberry,” are considered the highest grade and often have a more intense flavor.
- Unique Flavor Profile: Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is celebrated for its mild and smooth flavor, with a well-balanced acidity and low bitterness. It typically exhibits notes of chocolate, nuts, floral undertones, and hints of fruitiness.
Due to its outstanding quality and limited availability, Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is highly regarded by coffee enthusiasts and is often considered a luxurious treat for coffee connoisseurs around the world. If you have the opportunity to try it, be prepared for a unique and memorable coffee experience.
Gesha coffee from Panama is widely regarded as one of the highest-quality and most sought-after coffees in the world. It is renowned for its unique and exquisite flavor profile, which sets it apart from other coffees. Here are some key points about Gesha coffee from Panama:
- Origin: Gesha coffee originally hails from Ethiopia, specifically the Gesha village in the Bench Maji Zone. In the 1930s, it was introduced to Panama in an effort to combat coffee leaf rust, a devastating disease that affected coffee crops.
- Location and Growing Conditions: The most famous Gesha coffee is grown in the Boquete region of Panama, particularly on the slopes of the Baru Volcano. The combination of high altitude, volcanic soil, and the unique microclimate in this region contributes to the exceptional quality of Gesha beans.
- Flavor Profile: Gesha coffee is celebrated for its complex and aromatic flavor profile. It often exhibits floral notes, such as jasmine and bergamot, with hints of tropical fruits and a tea-like sweetness. The coffee is known for its delicate and nuanced flavors that are both vibrant and refined.
- Rarity and Limited Production: Due to the specific growing conditions required for Gesha coffee and the meticulous processing it undergoes, the production of Gesha beans is limited. As a result, it is considered a rare and exclusive coffee, making it highly coveted by coffee enthusiasts and specialty coffee connoisseurs.
- Specialty Coffee Industry: Gesha coffee has played a significant role in the specialty coffee movement, where there is a strong focus on highlighting unique and exceptional coffees with distinct flavor profiles. In specialty coffee auctions and competitions, Gesha beans have fetched record-breaking prices, further cementing its status as a premium coffee.
- High Prices: The rarity and demand for Gesha coffee contribute to its premium price tag. In specialty coffee markets, Gesha beans can be sold at significantly higher prices compared to other coffee varieties.
It’s worth noting that the coffee industry is dynamic, and the availability and quality of specific coffees can vary from year to year due to factors like weather conditions, farming practices, and changes in demand.
Ultimately, genuinely exceptional coffee is more than just a commodity – it is an artisanal product shaped by a matrix of factors from seed to cup. By paying attention to details like variety, origin, processing, roasting, and brewing, specialty coffee producers can create some of the world’s most distinctive, nuanced, and balanced coffees. The very best possess an intricacy of flavors that cannot be replicated on a mass scale.
Specialty Coffee’s Quest to Produce the Best Coffee in the World
Specialty coffee is made from the highest quality coffee beans and is crafted to achieve exceptional flavor, aroma, and experience in the cup. Specialty coffee utilizes more meticulous cultivation, harvesting, and processing methods than mass-produced commodity coffee, resulting in a complex and refined taste profile.
Specialty coffees typically come directly from small independent farms with greater control over production. Many specialty producers place a strong focus on sustainable, ethical practices.
Certification Key Facts of Specialty Coffee
|Organic Coffee -19% of specialty coffee is certified organic Grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers Requires protection of biodiversity and ecosystems Prevents soil erosion and water contamination
|Fair-Trade Coffee– Over 60% of US specialty coffee imports are Fair-Trade certified Ensures fair wages and safe working conditions for producers Focuses on community development and empowerment Transparent trade process
|Organic coffee is grown without the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers, which can have a detrimental impact on the environment and the people involved in coffee production. Organic coffee beans are also grown in shaded areas, which helps to preserve local ecosystems and biodiversity.
|Fair-trade coffee ensures that coffee producers receive a fair price for their products and that their working conditions are safe and sustainable. Fair-trade certification also focuses on the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality in coffee-producing communities.
The majority of high quality specialty coffee comes from Arabica beans, valued for their intricate flavor profiles compared to the harsher Robusta. Arabica thrives at high altitudes in cool subtropical climates with mineral-rich volcanic soil. Regions like Tarrazu, Costa Rica, Antigua, and Guatemala are renowned for phenomenal Arabica coffee.
Unveiling the Best Coffee Beans in the World
One of the most critical factors in producing exceptional coffee is the quality of the beans. The best coffee beans have a unique flavor profile, aroma, and texture that set them apart from regular beans. Understanding which beans make the best specialty coffee is key.
Best Specialty Coffee Bean Varieties
|Bright citrus notes like grapefruit and lemon, floral tones like jasmine and honeysuckle, sparkling acidity, juicy mouthfeel
|Da Lat, Vietnam
|Bold, earthy depth with tobacco and cedar wood tones, rich hazelnut and almond notes, low acidity, thick syrupy body
|Intensely sweet with dried fruit and brown sugar notes, delicate jasmine and bergamot aromas, crisp acidity, silky mouthfeel with long finish
Coffee connoisseurs worldwide seek the highest quality coffee beans for a sublime tasting experience. Here are some of the most exquisite and flavorful coffee bean varieties that are considered among the best in the world:
The Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia produces distinctive Arabica beans with citrusy brightness and floral aromatics. Robusta from Vietnam’s Da Lat region offers earthy depth with nutty undertones. Panama Geisha is intensely sweet with distinct jasmine and bergamot notes.
By understanding the flavor profile and characteristics of exquisite bean varieties, coffee lovers can better appreciate and experience the complexity and richness of exceptional coffees.
Top Arabica Coffee Bean Varieties
|Grown at altitudes over 5,000 feet near Mt. Kilimanjaro, these rare peaberry beans have a rich, wine-like acidity with black cherry, plum, and cocoa notes. The single peaberry structure allows for even and intense flavor development. Less than 5% of world coffee is peaberry, making Tanzanian peaberry highly prized.
|Cultivated on the fertile volcanic slopes of the Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanoes, Kona coffee cherries are hand-picked at peak ripeness and sun-dried. The microclimate and mineral-rich soil produce smooth, balanced coffee with aromatic floral notes, heavenly sweetness, and subtle spice. Shaded Kona varieties like Brazen Hazen fetch extremely high premiums for their rarity.
|Grown by smallholder farmers in the highlands of South Sulawesi, these heirloom beans offer an earthy profile with rich spices, tobacco sweetness, and chocolate. The area’s cool temperatures allow the beans to develop intensely. Toraja coffee has a smooth, syrupy mouthfeel that is perfect for cold brew.
Arabica coffee cultivated at high altitudes in volcanic soil results in the most exquisite beans. Meticulous hand-picking and processing enhances the inherent flavors of these exclusive coffee bean varieties, creating exemplary aroma, acidity and balance.
Smooth Full-Bodied Beans
|Grown near Lake Toba in northern Sumatra, these beans have an exceptionally smooth body with almost no acidity. The rich volcanic soil and wet hulling process lend dark chocolate, caramel, and cedar notes. Mandheling coffee is bold yet refined.
|Cultivated in the mountainous Antigua valley, these plump beans offer brown sugar, ripe berry, and toasted almond aromas. The relatively low moisture content creates a syrupy, velvety mouthfeel with subtle chocolate sweetness. Antigua coffee is round and complex.
|Kenya AA denotes the largest, highest quality beans hand-picked across Kenya’s central highlands. Cool nights and abundant rainfall produce stellar acidity and fruit flavors. These bold, acidic beans have notes of blackcurrant, pineapple, and wine, with a smooth finish.
The largest, ripest beans from ideal growing conditions produce these full-bodied coffees revered for their balanced flavor and utter lack of bitterness. Their rich, smooth profiles appeal to coffee lovers worldwide.
Classic Flavorful Blends
- Mocha Java: Bright, fruity Ethiopian Harar coffee blended with the chocolatey richness of Indonesian Java coffee.
- Nicaraguan: Grown in fertile volcanic soil, Nicaraguan coffee offers a sweet, chocolaty flavor with citrus notes.
Discovering your perfect coffee is a rewarding journey. With thousands of varieties and blends to try, coffee lovers can immerse themselves in a world of complex flavors. and, cultivated in optimal conditions and carefully roasted, make exceptional specialty coffee. The bean itself is critical.
Finding Your Perfect Blend: Tasting the Diverse Flavors that Make the Best Coffee in the World
Now that we’ve explored what makes exceptional coffee, here are some of the top coffee blends from around the world. Whether you prefer bold, rich flavors or lighter, sweeter notes, there’s a coffee blend for every palate.
Classic Blends from Top Roasters
|Central & South America
|Medium -Roasted between 426-440°F
|Milk chocolate, baked apple, almond
|Latin America, East Africa, Indonesia
|Medium-dark – Roasted between 446-464°F
|Dark cocoa, strawberry, cinnamon
|Latin America, East Africa
|Medium – Roasted between 430-442°F
|Cherry, milk chocolate, orange zest
|Black Cat Espresso.
|Africa, Latin America
|Medium-dark – Roasted between 446-458°F
|Molasses, candied almond, dried cherry
Trying new and local roasters can uncover unique flavor experiences to suit any taste. Don’t be afraid to branch out and discover your perfect cup!
Top 10 Coffee Producing Countries in The World (2022)
Coffee is among the most valuable traded commodities globally, with over 169 million 60kg bags produced worldwide in 2021/22. Brazil and Vietnam lead global production, followed by Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia, comprising the top five coffee-producing nations.
Brazil produced an estimated 55.7 million 60kg bags in 2021/22, primarily exporting Arabica beans grown in Minas Gerais and São Paulo. Vietnam made around 30.4 million bags, focusing heavily on Robusta bean cultivation suited to their climate.
Other significant producers include Colombia, with 13.4 million bags, Indonesia, with 9.8 million; and Ethiopia, with 8.1 million. Colombia and Ethiopia specialize in high quality washed Arabica, while Indonesia exports Arabica and Robusta varieties.
The top ten coffee producers collectively account for over 80% of global output. While Brazil and Vietnam lead in volume, countries like Colombia and Ethiopia are renowned for superior coffee quality from well-established coffee regions. As one of the world’s most loved beverages, coffee production, led by these significant exporting nations, continues to thrive.
|Production (000 60kg bags)
|Key Coffee Regions
|Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo, Parana
|Central Highlands, Lam Dong Province
|Altiplano Caucano, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
|Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi
|Limu, Sidamo, Harrar
|Copán, Ocotepeque, Santa Barbara
|Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu
|Mount Elgon, Lake Victoria
|Chiapas, Veracruz, Oaxaca
|Huehuetenango, San Marcos, Antigua
Notable Coffee-Growing Regions: Special Areas Producing Exceptional Brews
Africa produces some of the most exceptional coffees, offering complex flavors influenced by terroir.
|Floral, citrusy notes. Yirgacheffe, Sidamo
|Bright acidity, sweet fruit notes. SL varieties like SL28, SL34
Central American coffees are renowned for their balanced, juicy flavors.
|Medium body, high acidity. Tarrazu, Tres Rios
|Chocolate, caramel notes. Antigua, Atitlan
Optimal Coffee Beans to Maximize Your Brew: Pairing Beans and Methods for the Best Cup of Joe
The slow steeping process of cold brewing produces a naturally sweet, smooth coffee that highlights subtle flavors.
Use a coarse grind to allow room for water to permeate the beans. A finer grind can lead to over-extraction.
Steep the grounds at room temperature or cool water for 12-24 hours. Time allows fuller flavor extraction.
Try Brazilian beans like Yellow Bourbon for their nutty, chocolatey notes. Ethiopian natural process beans also shine with fruit and floral tones.
Dilute the concentrated brew with water or milk for an incredibly smooth cold brew.
The high pressure espresso extraction concentrates the bean’s oils and soluble solids, resulting in thick crema and bold flavors.
Lighter roasts like Ethiopian Yirgacheffe provide delicate fruit tones like berry, lemon, and stone fruit, ideal for espresso.
Darker roasts like Sumatra Mandheling offer more decadent chocolate and caramel flavors with a syrupy body.
Use an excellent, powdery grind to provide the proper resistance for espresso extraction.
Pulling the perfect shot involves optimizing grind size, dose, tamp pressure, and water temperature.
Start with exceptional beans and optimize the brewing process for exemplary drip coffee.
Use freshly roasted beans within two weeks of the roast date to ensure peak flavor.
Grind beans to a medium consistency to extract oils while preventing over-extraction fully.
Bloom the grounds first to liberate carbon dioxide and enhance extraction.
Maintain proper water temperature of 195-205°F and flow rate to highlight flavors.
Try acidic and fruit-toned beans like Kenya AA or Tanzania Peaberry for a complex cup.
The manual pour over allows excellent control over brewing for a personalized cup.
Use a medium-fine grind to get the right balance of flavor extraction.
Bloom the grounds first to release gases and prep for extraction.
Pour heated water (195-205°F) in circular motions over the grounds.
Flow rate control highlights flavors – slower for light roasts, and faster for darker roasts.
Great for fruity beans like Ethiopian Yirgacheffe to accentuate floral, citrus notes.
The full immersion brewing of the French press brings out oils and intense flavor.
Use a coarse grind to prevent over-extraction or gritty texture.
Steep grounds in heated water (195-205°F) for 3-4 minutes.
Press the plunger slowly to separate the grounds from the full-bodied brew.
Nutty, chocolatey beans like Brazilian Bourbon complement the brewer’s bold profile well.
Moka pot brewing utilizes steam pressure for an intense, concentrated brew.
Use a finer grind to prevent the grounds from being forced up through the filter.
Insert coffee in the base, fill the bottom chamber with water, and apply heat.
As pressure forces water through the grounds, coffee releases through the top chamber.
Beans like Sumatra Mandheling add chocolate depth to balance the concentrated brew.
Ultra-fine grind and near-boiling water produce Turkish coffee’s signature thickness.
Pulverize beans into a powder-like consistency.
Heat water just shy of boiling and slowly mix in the grounds.
Simmer briefly until a foamy head appears. Serve in small cups.
Use Arabica beans like Ethiopian Yirgacheffe for acidity to cut the thickness.
So, What is the Best Coffee in the World?
There is no definitive answer to the question of the “best coffee in the world.” Taste is highly subjective and individualized based on a matrix of genetic, environmental, and personal factors. What may seem like the epitome of coffee for one person could be unenjoyable to another.
Rather than getting caught up in the hype over branded “best coffees,” exploring various origins, varieties, processing methods, and brewing techniques yourself is better. Try coffees from renowned regions like Costa Rica, Jamaica, Colombia, and Ethiopia to experience different flavor profiles. Experiment with brewing methods from pour-over to French press to find what you enjoy most. Discover beans and blends across the coffee-producing world and keep an open mind.
The actual “best coffee” is not a universal truth but one that aligns with your tastes and brings you joy. It’s a flavor profile and experience that you find for yourself. The key is to indulge in the delightful process of exploration and discovery, savoring every sip along the way. By immersing yourself in the diversity of the coffee world, you’ll be able to determine your own “best coffee” based on your unique preferences.
So rather than seeking out branded “bests,” embark on your exciting coffee journey. Keep tasting, learning, and trying new coffees; your perfect brew will reveal itself. The exploration alone is sure to be rewarding for any coffee lover.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some of the critical factors that contribute to exceptional coffee quality?
Some key factors are the variety of beans, origin/terroir, processing method, roasting technique, and brewing method. Elements like flavor profile, bean grade, altitude growth, and precision in production all affect quality.
What makes Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee so highly prized?
Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is renowned for its cool growing climate, strict cultivation regulations, hand-picking, thorough processing methods, grading system, and unique smooth yet complex flavor profile with mild acidity.
Why is Gesha coffee from Panama so expensive?
Gesha coffee from Panama is costly due to its limited supply, high demand, specific growing requirements, meticulous processing, and exceptionally floral, fruity, and sweet flavor.
What percentage of coffee worldwide is considered specialty coffee?
Approximately 37% of the coffee produced worldwide meets the criteria to be considered specialty coffee.
What are some critical differences between specialty and commodity coffee?
Specialty coffee focuses on quality, flavor complexity, ethical sourcing, and production standards, whereas commodity coffee emphasizes mass production and lower costs.
What are some top specialty coffee bean varieties?
Some top specialty coffee bean varieties include Yirgacheffe, Panama Geisha, Tanzania Peaberry, Sulawesi Toraja, Hawaii Kona, and Jamaican Blue Mountain.
How can you find your perfect coffee blend or flavor profile?
Trying various beans, origins, roasts, and brewing methods; staying open-minded; comparing flavor notes; and identifying preferences through tasting experience help determine an ideal coffee blend/profile.
What are some optimal techniques for cold brew coffee?
Use a coarse grind, water at room temperature, a long immersion time of 12-24 hours, occasional agitation, and dilute to taste. Brazilian and Ethiopian beans work well.
What are some tips for brewing better Pour Over coffee?
Use a medium-fine grind, bloom the grounds, maintain water at 195-205°F, pour in circular motions, adjust the flow rate, and use fruity beans like Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.
How can you make a balanced Moka pot coffee?
Use a fine grind, tightly pack the basket, fill the chamber just below the valve, use low heat, and use chocolatey beans like Mandheling to complement the potent brew.