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What makes a coffee growing nation best

Here at DRWakefield, we are committed to supplying our customers with the right coffee at the best possible price. We source from almost all producing origins all over the world and each is unique in its quality of beans, its export service and romantic charms, making it nigh on impossible to say whether one country is 'better' than another when it comes to growing green coffee.

However, there are a number of positive attributes that one looks for when assessing a nation’s performance, from consistency in quality and cupping profile to efficiency in exporting, logistics and service.

There are innumerable reports available from a plethora of organisations, traders, connoisseurs and coffee stakeholders purporting to suggest which country might be the best when it comes to coffee growing, with Thrillist to name but one, citing Ethiopia as the top nation in its list of the ten most successful producers.

The East African nation was commended for its exquisite cupping profiles, with one of the judges of the Thrillist poll Lorenzo Perkins commenting: "Every time, I drink coffee from Ethiopia, I can't help but feel that this is how coffee is supposed to taste and everything else is an imitation."

Ethiopian coffee might win in the taste poll, but how does it shape up in comparison to the world's other major bean-growing nations?

In a recent interview, our coffee trader Priscilla Daniel provided her opinion on the specific factors that a coffee-producing country could have to make them the 'best', or to simply stand out in the market.

To begin with, Priscilla explained the complexity and extremely subjective nature of the question, and to what the term ‘best’ even refers to.

Despite this, she cited Kenya as one stand-out country, due to its quality cupping profiles and ideal cultivating conditions.

Priscilla explained: "Kenya produces some outstanding, high-quality and specialty coffees, mainly because of its high-altitude growing regions."The country also has excellent, nutrient-rich volcanic soils that allow it to produce good varietals with consistent cupping profiles, and its proximity to the equator – the equatorial line crosses through the heartland of Kenya Coffee growing – enables the trees to thrive in the perfect climate."

Ethiopia was also commended by Priscilla as a strong coffee-producing country in East Africa, as she said: "Arguably, you get some of the best flavours from here because of the wide variety of coffee the country produces."

But does this mean that Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee itself, is the best coffee producing country?“Not necessarily,” Priscilla went on to say. “The country faces some significant logistical challenges, with a slow export system, traceability concerns, contract negotiation risks and transport infrastructure issues."

In terms of being the 'best' with regard to volume, Brazil certainly leads here. As the world's largest coffee-producing and exporting country, there are several coveted qualities the nation possesses when it comes to successfully growing beans.

"Brazil has the highest export volumes, its beans have good diversity of flavour, its processing techniques are strong and there are good quality control measures in place.

"The government in Brazil offers a high level of support to the coffee industry and the country's infrastructure is well developed to enable efficient and effective exports." In fact, Brazil exports more coffee in one month than Ethiopia does in one year.

Priscilla also highlighted the botanical cross-breeding work that goes on in the South American nation as a plus point for the country's coffee, with large-scale labs allowing disease and weather-resistant hybrids to be developed.Some argue that the cup profile of Brazil's crop is not necessarily the most flavoursome, certainly when compared to origins such as Ethiopia, but the increased investment in new varietals and specialist farming methods is changing all that, with the specialty segment now accounting for five per cent of Brazil’s total output – that's more than the total production of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi combined.

When asked what the ideal situation for a coffee-growing country would be, Priscilla suggested that combining aspects of the market in Ethiopia and Brazil together could potentially create the best example of a successful producing nation.

"If you take all the different varieties, soils, altitude and climate that you have in Ethiopia and combine them with the productivity, logistics systems and government support that Brazil has, then you'd have a coffee-growing nation that would be very hard to compete with." Photo credit: Thinkstock/superoke