Reading a Coffee Label: Region

In Part 1, we discussed the grade of a coffee bean and how the grade can indicate how well the coffee was harvested based upon different scales. In Part 2, it is all about the region! Every coffee is a result of how and where it has been harvested, which is one of the reasons why region is important to list on the label. Another reason region is listed is to show how traceable the coffee is, all the way from farm to your cup. And lastly, there are patterns of taste in regions as well.

The region listed on a coffee bag is pretty simple to understand on the surface, but a lot more can be known by simply knowing where the coffee came from. The country/region, the farming methods, processing, and the different coffee plant varieties grown in a specific region will bring out certain flavors. For example, some countries may have more access to water than others, making it easier to process their coffee by the washed process, which utilizes a lot of water, where another country that might not have access to much water would find it more practical to use the natural process for their coffee, which uses very little water. These two ways can alter taste profiles in the coffee.   And we will explore in another post what the washed and natural process is all about.

The region listed also enables us to know how traceable the coffee is through its entire journey. This is important because the more traceable the coffee is, the better we can feel about how ethical our cup of coffee is! More specifically, if the coffee is from a micro-lot, meaning it comes from one small section of a farm, we can feel very good about the relationship between the farmer and roaster. Specialty coffee in particular should always be able to list a region, because with the classification as “specialty”, one of the stipulations is that we know exactly what region (or even what mountain!) the coffee came from.

Another thing we can predict from region are taste profiles. As mentioned above, different processing methods will have an affect on taste, but so will crops grown around the coffee plants, altitude, and soil. That is why many times there will be patterns in taste depending on what region the coffee is from. For example, coffee from the Americas are typically chocolatey, nutty, and can have mild acidic flavors. The coffees harvested in Asia are earthier, can have spice flavors to them, or even zesty features. Whereas, the coffees from Africa can have strong chocolate notes and fruit flavors.

As we can see, we can learn a lot from a region on a coffee label. Region is a good way to begin knowing the coffees story, and our next discussion on elevation will tell us even more about the coffee we brew for our morning cup of joe!

Catherine Bieri