The first thing you need to know is that it’s delicious. The second is that it’s usually medium-bodied, smooth and easy to drink, often having chocolatey, nutty, spicy flavours.
Other than that, it’s a huge continent with a large range of biodiversity and geographical variety, which means there’s a lot of variety in flavours. South American coffees are often grown at high altitudes, on sloping hillsides that soak up as much sunlight as possible.
Coffees from South America vary in their acidity, but are usually pretty balanced and easy to drink, making them ideal for the casual drinker as well as the demanding barista. You’ll rarely find any overpowering flavours or complex flavour profiles – just delicious, drinkable coffee.
Let’s start with the big one. Brazil is by far the world’s biggest coffee producer, making 29% of all the coffee in the world, exporting 2.6 million metric tons of the stuff each year. It’s been the global leader for over 150 years, and coffee production in the country is mainly located in the southeastern states of Brazil where climate conditions best suit it.
Brazil exports mostly Arabica coffee (our favourite), and you’ll commonly find a distinct chocolate flavour in many of their varieties. Brazilian coffee is typically mild and you’ll often find yourself quaffing a second cup soon after your first of the day. Very drinkable.
Our flagship Brazilian brew is ‘(You gotta) fight for your right (to Latte)’ – a chocolatey, sweet, fruity concoction that’s got all sorts of flavours in it – raisins, plums, dates, and praline. Truly a dessert coffee, it’s comfortable in any brewing method, whether you’re using it for a latte or not.
This tiny country, snugly ensconced between Guatemala, Honduras and the Pacific Ocean, punches well above its weight when it comes to coffee. Its entire economy pretty much runs on coffee, in fact, accounting for over 50% of the country’s exports.
Salvadoran coffee beans typically have a bright, refreshing taste, supported by sweet and citrusy flavours alongside that beautifully South American chocolate zing.
Our Salvadoran superstar is Anything You Can Brew, I Can Brew Better, a distinctly chocolatey and fruity variety with flavours ranging from red grape to jammy dodger. It makes for a pretty indulgent cup, and you’d do best to pair it with a stovetop Moka pot or an espresso gadget of your choice.
One of the most biodiverse nations in the world, this one was always going to be a coffee production powerhouse. Colombia’s ‘Coffee Cultural Landscape’ is a region of fertile coffee production named as a UNESCO World Heritage Area, and the country is the third largest coffee producer in the world.
Colombian coffee has a reputation as a mild and well balanced drink, which accounts for its mass appeal. You’ll often find citrus flavours and caramel aromas, but there’s a huge variety within the nation’s beans.
We love Colombia and its coffee so much that we’ve been there many times – you can read our adventure reports on the blog – and we’ve got five different Colombian brews in our line up. There’s something for everyone here, including brand new superstar A Little Press Conversation, with its bright honeycomb indulgence, and a delicious decaf, (I Can’t Get No) Caffeination.
The north-western neighbour of El Salvador, Guatemala is another small country with big ambitions in the coffee world. Coffee has been a big part of the economy since the 1800s, and it’s grown at high altitudes in this beautiful biodiversity hotspot.
Coffee from Guatemala is rich and full-bodied, with sweet nutty and chocolatey flavours.
Costa Rica is known for extensive mountain ranges, including nutrient-dense volcanoes, meaning there’s plenty of opportunity to grow high quality coffee at high elevations.
It’s also known for heavier-bodied coffee than most other South American nations, with a varied flavour range going from fruity to floral to sweet.
Our Costa Rican champion is Bohemian Frap-sody, a sweet, ‘honey-processed’ variety that’s bursting with peach and mandarin yumminess. Sourced from a range of smallholdings in the Tarrazu region of the country, it’s well suited for pretty much any brewing method and any time of day.