How Location Affects the Flavor of Coffee

Not all coffee is created equal, but why is that? Could it be because of the region in which the coffee beans grow? Or perhaps the way it is brewed? Well, as you may have guessed, it is a mixture of both! Coffee beans like most other foods are vast in flavors, textures, and smells. Most of these factors can be attributed to 3 main elements:
  • Terroir
  • Geographic Location
  • Farming Practices


First, let's start off by answering what is terroir? Terroir is the natural environment from which a substance, in this case coffee, derives from or its origin. Terroir encompasses environmental factors such as soil, climate and altitude. These factors contribute to the overall taste of your coffee, because they develop the coffee beans taste naturally and gradually over time. That is why arabica beans from one region in South America will taste completely different than arabica beans from Central America.


Soil plays a role in this, because depending on the amount of minerals found within soil, it can shape the body and acidity of the grains. This explains why tropical climates such as those found in Brazil or Costa Rica tend to produce “higher quality coffee” as volcanic soil, according to coffee experts, is the most ideal. Why? Volcanic soil is best for growing coffee since it has deeper drainage, allowing for better water retention and directly impacts the nutrients and minerals the soil receives.


Climate’s role is primarily associated with the rainy and dry seasons needed to produce and cultivate the best coffee. It is also important to note that cooler temperatures tend to produce sweeter, more acidic coffees. The cold creates more acidity during the maturation process of the coffee beans.


Altitude goes hand in hand with these other factors since it has been found that the higher the altitude the sweeter the coffee will taste. You guessed it, it’s because of temperature's tendency to be cooler the higher you are from the ground.

Geographic Location

Geographic location plays a crucial role in how your coffee tastes, due to the bean belt’s placement in conjunction to the equator. You may be asking yourself, what is the bean belt? Well, the bean belt or coffee belt as some like to call it, is a tropical band extending 30 degrees north and south of the equator. Within this band you can find the most fertile soil for planting coffee, mild temperatures and extra precipitation along with high elevations providing ideal growing conditions for bean development. Along the bean belt you will find Africa, South America, Central America and Asia. Although these locations are known as “the best” to grow coffee in, it should be noted that they are not the only places coffee grows.


African coffees have a very unique and exciting taste. Since much of Africa falls within the bean belt you can find great varietals ranging from Kenya to Tanzania. Kenyan coffees are known for their bright appearance and acidity. Kenyan coffee appears and tastes in this manner due to its cultivation efforts at the foot of Mt. Kenya, where the richest soil can be found. On the other hand, Tanzania is regarded for their peaberry coffee, a special bean that contains two seeds instead of one.

South America

South America is best known for its Colombian and Brazilian coffees. Colombian coffee is usually strong and contains underlying caramel and nutty tones, with a delightful acidity and balanced, medium body. Brazilian coffees are usually unwashed, and are heavy-bodied coffees characterized by their nuttiness. Brazilian plantations produce both Arabica and Robusta beans and occupy a huge amount of Colombian soil which is why these beans tend to be so rich in flavor.

Central America

Central American countries such as Costa Rica usually produce a reliable, washed Arabica with good balance and some fruity characteristics. Costa Rica produces coffee that has been exclusively processed using wet production, making for a sweet, citrusy experience with pleasant acidity.


Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam are perfectly suited for coffee plants to thrive and make for great coffee. Thailand in particular grows Robusta coffee that has chocolate and floral elements with a kick. This coffee tends to have a medium acidity. The signature bean in Vietnam is the Robusta, a bitter bean that is cheap to produce, resulting in very economical Vietnamese coffees. These coffees have a vanilla taste, with low acidity and a higher bitterness. Another Asian country that produces great coffee is Laos. Laos produces around 20,000 tons of coffee a year that is best known for its mild taste with floral and citrus accents.

Farming Practices

The final, and possibly most crucial factor in determining the flavor of your coffee has to be the farming practices instilled within the growers and cultivators of the coffee in these different regions. After all the work mother nature has put into nurturing the coffee grains, the final flavor is dependent on the capabilities of the farmers to choose the best pesticides to protect the crop versus damage it, picking the ripest beans, and packaging the beans to get to the roaster. The plantation system a farmer has and his overall knowledge of his crop will ultimately determine the quality of the coffee beans. Picking in particular is important as places who choose to and are knowledgeable about hand picking coffee beans, tend to find the ripest ones for harvesting. Unlike farms that use machines, most of the time picking a mix of ripe and unripe coffee beans, which makes for a cost effective but lesser grade coffee taste once it is brewed. Now that you know how location affects the flavor of your coffee, you are all set to try and discover which flavor is best for you!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published