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The ABCs of Coffee

The Search for a Great Cup of Coffee Must Consider the Type of Bean, The Country of Origin and the Roast
Sam Gugino
From the Print Edition:
Jack Nicholson, Summer 95

(continued from page 3)

Jamaica--Home of Jamaican Blue Mountain, alternately (and perhaps concurrently) called the most expensive, most celebrated and most overhyped coffee in the world. Also the most imitated, so watch out for "Blue Mountain-style" coffees that may not have a single Blue Mountain bean. And don't confuse it with the lesser Jamaican High Mountain. If you insist on Blue Mountain, look for the Wallensford or Silver Hill Estates brand.

Dominican Republic and Haiti--Both produce soft-beaned coffees with a mellow sweetness that makes for good dark roasts. Cibao, Bani, Ocoa and Barahona are the best-known Dominican coffees. Haitian coffee may be difficult to obtain due to political strife.

Colombia--The second-largest coffee-producing country. Colombian is noted for its consistency, good acidity, medium body and full aroma. Supremo is the highest grade. When mixed with the next best, the rare grade Extra, it becomes Excelso.

Venezuela--Making a comeback now that its oil industry has plateaued. The best-known variety is Maracaibo, and the best of that is Mérida. More often than not used in blends where its fair-to-medium body can be offset by coffees of higher acidity.

Ecuador and Peru--Both countries produce coffee of moderate acidity with light body suitable for blending. The Peruvian coffees exhibit Mexican-coffee characteristics. Organic coffees are available from northern Peru.

Brazil--Though it produces one-third of the world's coffee, only a fraction of it is good enough to be considered specialty level. Bourbon Santos is the name to look for, but don't expect more than a decent cup of coffee with medium body and moderate acidity.


Yemen--Home of the famous Mocha, which, along with Jamaican Blue Mountain, is one of the most misunderstood and misused names in coffeedom. True Mocha is hard to get and expensive. Much of what is sold as real Mocha is actually Ethiopian (sometimes called Mocca). Of the two familiar types, Mattari and Sanani, the former is the more pronounced, with higher acidity, winier flavors and more chocolate notes. Both are naturally processed.

Ethiopia--The birthplace of the coffee bean and home of some of the world's most exotic coffees, which are the result of wild plants and natural processing. Yirgacheffe has vibrant acidity and a floral aroma. Harrar is earthy and fruity, at its best comparable to real Yemen Mochas. Washed Ethiopian coffees exhibit less intense characteristics of the above and are sold as Sidamo and Ghimbi.

Kenya--Full-bodied and rich with floral aromas and the winy taste characteristic of the region. A great straight coffee with all the flavor you could ask for. Look for AA grade.

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