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Where Is Coffee Grown? Origin, Types, Growth Process & More!

Think for a minute what life would be like without coffee! Let's face it, nothing else comes close to what it does to our mornings and days. It's the best medicine, no doubt, but only a few of us ever pause to ask ourselves: Where are coffee beans grown? 

I know this may not sound like a big deal because your coffee tastes great and does magic, and that’s all that matters, right? 

Well, you could be wrong. As a cafeholic, this is exactly the kind of information you could use to level up your coffee drinking experience. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to know a little bit more about quality coffee beans.

What areas is it grown in? Where does it grow best? What varieties of coffee beans are available? How about the growing process? 

I answer these and many other questions about the origin of coffee beans. 

Let's get started!

Where Do Coffee Beans Come From? 

It’s simple, coffee beans come from coffee bean plants, but I know that's not the answer you're looking for. So let’s talk about the origin of coffee beans. 

man takes a heap of roasted coffee beans from a bag

Legends and reports about coffee drinking trace back to 850 AD, but it wasn't until the 13th century that humans began to roast coffee beans. It's believed that the ancestors of modern Oromo people in Ethiopia were the first to cultivate the coffee plant and notice the superior energizing effect coffee had. 

From here, coffee spread to Southeast Asia and parts of Central and South America. Well over 70 countries now grow and produce coffee, but the majority of it comes from the top five major producers: Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. 

Now, the question of “Where are coffee beans grown?” doesn’t end there. You may want to know where they grow best.

Where Do Coffee Beans Grow Best? 

Areas where coffee grows best have come to be known as the coffee bean belt. Basically, this is the equatorial zone between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, specifically 30 degrees south of the equator and 25 degrees north. 

person holding coffee beans on a tree

Remember the coffee capitals I mentioned above? All of them lie in the same region. Actually, the bean belt runs right from Central, North, and South America, cuts across the Caribbean and Africa, and winds up in the Middle East and Asia. 

Generally, optimal conditions for growing coffee include rich soils and cool to warm climates, and the equatorial regions tick these, among other boxes. 

An interesting fact about the coffee bean belt is that the coffee beans don't all carry the same taste. This can be attributed to things such as soil type, climate, and elevation, all of which have an effect on the flavor. 

Taste aside, coffee beans differ in other ways. Let's look at that briefly. 

What Are the Different Types of Coffee Beans? 

various kinds of coffee bean in box

There's an astonishing number of coffee plants grown globally, but the two main species that people consume the most are Robusta and Arabica. It's not just the taste that distinguishes the two; other areas where they differ include: 

  • Caffeine content
  • Shape
  • Price
  • Location
  • Growing conditions 

I'll take a brief look at each. 

Arabica 

Latin America is the biggest supplier of Arabica coffee beans. When it comes to popularity, they dominate the rest of the varieties, mostly because of the taste. The aromas and flavors are pleasing to the palate, with notes of sugar, fruit, and berries. 

As for the coffee bean's nature and shape, they are way softer and larger than Robusta beans and have a lower coffee content. 

Now, expect to fork out more cash for these beans. This is because the growth and cultivation process is delicate.

Robusta 

Common regions where Robusta coffee beans originate include Africa, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Unlike Arabica beans, this species holds fewer sugar compounds and has lower acidity. You can already guess that's the reason they're less sweet and filled with earthy, bitter flavors. 

That said, there's one area where they do well, and that is price. Because of the easy cultivating process and their low vulnerability to pests and diseases, they cost a little less. 

One other thing to bear in mind about these coffee beans is that they are full of caffeine content. 

The Growing Process From Seed to Cup 

Coffee plants, particularly the newly planted ones, take two to four years before yielding coffee beans that are ripe and ready for harvest. With time, the coffee plant grows into a tree that is way taller than you and me. Most have an average height of about 20 feet and 2 to 4 kilos of coffee cherries on average. 

Back to harvesting—it's only after the coffee cherries turn red that they are selectively picked or stripped off the coffee tree. 

It's a labor-intensive process done by hand since coffee is mostly grown in mountainous areas. Brazil is an exception though as the landscape is quite flat, allowing the harvesting to be done by machines. 

After harvesting, the seeds are separated from the fruit and dried. Two methods are used here.

The Dry Method 

Coffee cherries are first sorted and carefully cleaned and then spread out in the sun to dry. The drying takes up to four weeks. Sometimes machines are used to speed up the process. 

The Wet Method 

Just like with the dry method, the cherries are first sorted and thoroughly cleaned before being pulped by a machine that effectively squizzes the cherries to separate the beans from the skin and flesh. 

Afterward, the beans are further cleaned and then placed in massive tanks where natural enzymes break down the mucilage and wash it away. Further washing is done with clean water, and since the moisture is still higher, drying is done under the sun or with the help of a mechanical dryer. 

Once each of these processes is complete, the beans are stored until they're ready to be taken for hulling. Here, the dried-out layer is removed from the cherry, and then the coffee is graded. 

At this point, the coffee beans are ready for use. Coffee tasters can then test them to check if the beans match the desired quality. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Admittedly, these are the most frequently asked questions about coffee beans origin:

  • Where does coffee come from? 
  • Where is it grown?

I believe the answers have been satisfactory so far. Let’s look at a few more.

Can coffee beans be grown anywhere? 

Yes, you could grow coffee anywhere, even right inside your apartment. But the process is not as straightforward as it sounds. Let's not forget that the conditions have to be similar to those of the equatorial zones. 

If you're doing it outdoors, first you have to make sure the conditions are optimal for the growth of coffee plants. Set aside enough space and check the weather, humidity levels, and temperatures to make sure they are perfect for growing coffee. 

If the conditions aren't friendly, you could do it indoors, say in your apartment, backyard, or a greenhouse, where it’s easier to control such factors. 

How hard is it to grow coffee beans? 

Growing coffee isn't as tough as it sounds, provided you have a good idea of what you're doing. 

To begin with, you'll need to find cherries, green coffee beans, or seedlings. If you go for a roasted bean, chances are high your plant won't grow. 

Make sure the conditions are optimal for their growth, and after planting, follow the coffee plant care routine to ensure they grow into healthy trees that can produce quality cherries. 

That said, keep in mind that this is a time-consuming process that you're less likely to succeed if you're doing it alone — unless, of course, you're cultivating fewer than ten plants. 

Which Country Has the Best Coffee Beans in the World? 

Many cafeholics will tell you that Central America has the best coffee beans because the specific countries where they’re grown are well-established and have the optimal conditions for cultivating it. 

However, there are a few countries that are less known but produce coffee beans with quality that is second to none. Columbia tops the list with high-grade Arabica coffee beans. Most of it is grown in small family farms where the farmers maintain high standards and cultivate the plants with pride and ultimate care. 

Other countries known for coffee include Guatemala, Costa Rica, the Arabian Peninsula, Ethiopia, and Jamaica. 

How can you tell a good coffee bean? 

Here's a trusted rule of thumb you could use to tell if coffee beans are high-quality: if the beans taste good, smell good, and look good, then you can count on them to yield a delicious brew. 

Don't forget to check the origin, size, and shape as well. And keep in mind that unroasted and roasted coffee beans smell, look, and taste differently. 

Last Word on Coffee Bean Origin 

Once again, where did coffee beans come from? I believe you have the answer to this, and all the other questions about coffee bean origin. 

Just to remind you again, coffee beans were first cultivated in Ethiopia before spreading to the rest of the world. Today, the coffee bean belt is where the plants are massively grown because of the optimal conditions. 

You'll come across so many varieties of coffee beans, and it’s up to you to decide which one suits you best based on your taste and preferences. 

Avatar for Krista Haws

Known among her friends as 'the caffeine fiend', Krista loves all things coffee. From an extremely short, strong espresso to a 3 day cold brew, Krista loves them all.

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