Why is coffee expensive? Why is coffee complicated? Why is coffee difficult? Why is coffee bitter? What makes specialty coffee special? Coffee is only as complicated as you want it to be, as expensive as you want it to be, as difficult as you want it to be but there are just some things that are because of specific reasons.
Coffee is the 2nd most traded commodity in the world. It is second only because the commodity that comes before coffee is Oil. That bit of information should already start you thinking about how much of a global product coffee is. Coffee is only produced in certain areas of the world where the right climate and elevations are conducive to its growth, the areas right above below the equator. The tropical areas, also known as the coffee belt, as illustrated in the image below.
And as seen on the image above, the coffee belt can be broken down into coffee producing regions, the Americas, Africa, and South East Asia.
The Americas is where the biggest producer of coffee in the world, Brazil can be found. Other notable producers in the area include the only coffee growing part of north america which is Hawaii, Central American producers, Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. While South American producers are Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. The coffees produced in this region tend to be the more well-known and consistent amongst the coffee producing regions. Coffee offerings here are known for balanced characteristics of low acidity, medium to full body, dominant aromas of nuts, and chocolate are the most notable.
In Africa the more popular coffee producers come from the countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nicaragua. This is also supposedly where the first coffees were discovered and is called the birth place of the arabica variety. Known for the diversity of coffees to be found in this region, most notable are the light to medium bodied coffees with fruity aromas and high acidity.
In South East Asia there are Vietnam, Indonesia, and even the Philippines to name just a few. Vietnam which is the second largest producer of coffee in the world can be found in this area. The most common variety produced in this region is Robusta which give a bolder taste and more caffeine is mostly used in the creation of instant coffees and for blending with other arabica beans for a more balanced flavour profile. Coffee from this region is mostly characterised by a full-bodied cup of coffee and tends to lean towards the earthy flavours and sometimes has hints of tropical fruits.
The global nature of coffee has helped open the doors to the better understanding appreciation and cultivation of this mass-produced and widely consumed beverage. Giving rise to the development of palettes, by learning and through a different way of experiencing the brew has made other people aware that there is more to this beverage than just its utility. Peeling off its layers and paying attention to its nuances will actually help further the development of the industry and as the coffee has traveled around the world before ending in you cup, that same cup of coffee will let you experience the place from which it came from and the people who have helped it get to where it is now.