Central American Coffees

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Coffee originated, it has been determined with certainty, in Ethiopia. Since then, during the 16th and 17th centuries, it has spread to southern Arabia, the Indian archipelago, and the Americas and flourished. Thanks to differences in climates and soils, different areas are known for different types of coffee. Generally speaking, however, coffee wants a cool, moist climate and no frost. While it can and does grow at low elevations, it does best at about 1,500 feet above sea level. Shade is ideal.

Two species of coffee bean predominate. The Robustas--whose scientific name is Coffea canephora--are grown primarily in Africa. The Arabicas--scientific name Coffea arabica--are grown in Indonesia and South and Central America. Brazil is rightly renowned for its beans. The countries of Central America are also famous--the best known for their crops being perhaps Columbia, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.

Central American Coffee Characteristics

More aromatic and flavorful, the Arabica beans grown in the Caribbean, the Honduras, Jamaica, Brazil, and Central America are also generally smoother and milder. They're often described as being lively, slightly acidic, and consistent. The hilly and mountainous terrain in the region has the fertile, rich, volcanic soil that coffee plants love. The climate is also ideal--with about 50 inches of rainfall, a short dry growing season, and average annual temperatures of about 24° Centigrade (75° F).

It's worth a bit of study on the varieties as you shop for Central American coffees. One you'll see often is Costa Rican Peaberry, described as having lower acidity, full body, and a mild flavor. Guatemalan Antigua is another common Central American coffee. It's a high altitude bean, grown in decidedly volcanic soil and plenty of sun. It boasts a heavy body, a floral aroma, and a long smooth aftertaste.

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