Coffee spanning from Mexico to Panama describes the Central and South American coffees as balanced, bright, and clean.
These countries sit in the heartland of the equator and are often called the “Bean Belt”.
A Perfect Geography for Coffee
It has soaring mountains, rich volcanic soils, and old-growth forests (few are left in the world) and many mini microclimates. Most are single-origin coffees with key distinguishing characteristics.
Although, there are 8 popular countries with well-known coffees; in total there are almost two dozen producing countries in these regions, many are very small farms, many are trying to be sustainable, organic, and environmentally friendly.
Descriptions of Coffee Characteristics to Look For
- Acidity- not too bitter, and not too acid, but all coffee needs some acidity or dryness. A mellow description means low acidity.
- Body- refers to the texture, the feel in the mouth, rich, heavy, or light. Most of these coffees above are well rounded, medium to full-bodied. This could be in direct proportion to how much oil is released from the bean.
- Aroma - the sensation when the aroma hits the nasal passages a result of the interaction with the aromatic oils. Inhale fully to describe the aroma; nutty, winey, musty, smoky or earthy.
- Prominent Flavors- The overall effect felt by our tongue mainly bitterness, sweetness, or saltiness. Terms used are sweet, fruity, floral to nutty, spicy, grassy, buttery, caramelly, wild or mild.
- Roast -light, medium to dark to extra dark.
Methods of Coffee Processing
Most coffee beans are natural or washed; this is where the fruit and skin must be removed from the pit and then dried before sent for roasting.
- The dry method or “natural is the most traditional. Drying the bean in the sun to dry the skin and fruit, then the covering is removed from the pit, all done by hand! This type is full-bodied, deep flavor, lower acidity than other methods. It is more sustainable and gives more jobs to native people.
- The wet method is when beans are washed and are pushed through screens to remove fruit and skin; soaked in water for 24 hours to remove extra mucilage from the pit, and then dried either mechanically or by hand.
The wet method uses a lot of water, which may be harder to come by in some villages, and then the water used is put back into the water supply; not good for the environment. It could do more damage to the bean itself also.
This produces a clean, brighter profile, less earthy, and less body.
Today they are experimenting with newer methods like pulped, semi-washed, or honey processed.
There are many flavors and roasts from Mexico to Central to South America to excite your taste buds. Some of these are quite unique in flavor and aroma.
Try a different variety every month. Don’t be stuck on one type all the time, variety is the spice of life!
Cindy Burrows, B.S., M.T., Herbalist and is a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant helping individuals with health programs to improve life and happiness. She is a writer, speaker and owner of several businesses.