Central American Coffee

Costa Rican

Flavor Characteristics (see Coffee Taste Terms):

  • Complexity: Simple and balanced
  • Acidity: High
  • Body: Heavy mouthfeel, like cream

Facts about Costa Rican coffee

  • Facts: The area's best coffee is identified by the Strictly Hard Bean designation.
  • Region: Central America, south of Nicaragua, west of Panama
  • Main growing areas: Tarrazu, Tres Rios, HerediĆ”, and Alajuela
  • Setting the standards: While not necessarily the most sought after coffee in the world, it is among the standards of Latin American coffee. The La Minita estate is the most sought after Costa Rican coffee. Coffee from this single estate boasts of some of the strictest standards and fairest worker conditions in the area. That it is single-estate means there is a consistency to the coffee, as opposed to being a blend of beans from different growing areas.

If you like Costa Rican coffee, you might like...

  • Colombian coffee: These two coffees are very similar. Both are simple and balanced in complexity, both are very bright coffees in acidity, and both have a heavier body or consistency akin to cream. The only major difference is that Costa Rican coffee is missing the floral aroma that many enjoy in Colombian coffee.
  • Brazilian coffee: Costa Rican is high in acidity, which means it will be much brighter than Brazilian coffee. It is also somewhat thicker in mouthfeel than Brazilian coffee. Despite that, both are very simple and balanced in complexity.
  • Peruvian coffee: This coffee has a thickness similar to Brazilian coffee, but an acidity or brightness closer to Costa Rican coffee than Brazilian. It also has a simple and balanced complexity.
  • Hawaiian coffee: This recommendation has nothing to do with cost, since Hawaiian Kona coffee is one of the two most expensive coffees in the world. If cost is an issue, go with a Kona blend, often sold as a 10% Kona blend. Like Costa Rican coffee, Hawaiian Kona coffee is simple and balanced in complexity and high in acidity. One major difference is that the body or mouthfeel of Hawaiian coffee is not as rich as Costa Rican coffee so it will sit a little lighter in the mouth. If you find Costa Rican coffee to be rich or heavy, this last point will appeal to you.

Guatemalan

Flavor Characteristics (see Coffee Taste Terms):

  • Complexity: Complex - a "busy" flavor
  • Acidity: High
  • Body: Medium-high mouthfeel, like whole milk
  • Aroma: Floral, spicy

Facts about Guatemalan coffee

  • Facts: For what it's worth, Guatemalan Coffee is MakeGoodCoffee.com's favorite coffee of the world.
  • Region: Latin America, east of Mexico, west of Honduras
  • Main growing areas: Antigua, Fraijines, Huehuetenago
  • The expert recognizes seven distinct kinds of Guatemalan coffee based on the climatically diverse soil, rainfall, and altitude in what is a relatively small country.
  • Antigua is the most celebrated region cultivating coffee in Guatemala today. It is located in a valley between three volcanoes and has near-perfect conditions for growing coffee. Humidity is high and constant. The altitude is high, and annual rainfall is heavy.
  • Quality Control: While private estates cultivate this coffee, a state-run board maintains quality and controlled use of the esteemed, Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) designation.

If you like Guatemalan coffee, you might like...

  • Sumatran coffee: The two coffees both have very complex flavor and both have high acidity for a bright flavor. They differ somewhat in body, with Sumatran coffee being a little lighter in mouthfeel than Guatemalan, but still medium in body. Sumatran coffee will also have a different aroma; while still complex in flavor, Sumatran will have an earthier aroma and not the spicyness of a Guatemalan coffee.
  • Kenyan coffee: Kenyan coffee will be closer to Sumatran coffee than Guatemalan in that it is high in acidity and medium in body. Kenyan coffee does not have as much aromatic quality as either Guatemalan or Sumatran, but it found to be more balanced in its complex flavor so that it still features many different coffee nuances but that are more in balance in the cup.
  • Jamaican coffee: Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world, so you might consider a blend that uses Blue Moutain beans rather than pure. The two coffees are very similar in that they have a complex and balanced flavor combined with a medium brightness. The difference is that Blue Moutain coffee can have an earthy (or "dirty") aroma to it while Ethiopian coffee, particularly from Yirgacheffe, is considered to have a more floral aroma.

Jamaican Blue Mountain

Flavor Characteristics (see Coffee Taste Terms):

  • Complexity: Complex and balanced
  • Acidity: Medium
  • Body: Heavy mouthfeel, like cream
  • Aroma: Earthy

Facts about Jamaican coffee...

  • Facts: The most expensive coffee in the world.
  • Region: Caribbean island, south of Cuba, east of Dominican Republic
  • Main growing areas: central Blue Mountains
  • Coffee from the Blue Mountains of Jamaica is considered by many to be the best coffee in the world. It is also the most expensive coffee in the world, moreso even than Hawaiian Kona. It is so expensive in fact that many coffee sources do not offer it, knowing it is out of price range of the typical consumer.
  • From an online store, expect to pay approximately $50 for a pound, and from a retail store, do not expect to find a 100% Blue Mountain blend. From a retail store, expect instead to find a cleverly named blend that likely has little real Blue Mountain beans in it.
  • The government of Jamaica is so intent on protecting the good name of its coffee that the production and quality control is state-run. Feel free to dabble in any of the Blue Mountain blends made available at a reasonable price, but the day you really want to try Blue Mountain, buy 100% Blue Mountain from a reputable vendor that will not try to deceive you with words in the coffee name that indicate it isn't 100%.

If you like Jamaican coffee, you might like...

  • Ethiopian coffee: Both of these coffees have a complex flavor but with both sides of the flavor spectrum covered so that it is complex but balanced. They also both have a medium acidity. That's where the similarities end. From there, Ethiopian coffee has a lighter body than the thick Jamaican coffee. Both coffees boast of aromatic qualities that make the flavor even more complex, but the aromas are different. Jamaican coffee has an earthier aroma, while Ethiopian coffee has a more floral aroma.
  • Yemeni coffee: Yemeni Mocha coffee is probably closer in taste to Ethiopian coffee than Jamaican coffee, but they are still comparable. Yemeni coffee has a higher acidity than Jamaican coffee, but a complex and balanced flavor. Yemeni coffee also has a lighter body than Jamaican coffee, though not has light in mouthfeel as Ethiopian coffee. Like Ethiopian coffee, Yemeni coffee has strong aromatic qualities, but they are more floral than Jamaican's earthy-aroma coffee.

Check out Marc's posts on Coffees of the World