Did you know that the world consumes approximately two billion cups of coffee every day? Despite the whopping numbers, very few of us know about the origin and source from where coffee hails.
Besides, the geography and its changing features make the Coffee Belt an even more exciting topic to learn. So, without any further ado, let us delve into the story of our favorite beverage!
Coffee Belt: Regions
In short, the world has four broad regions where coffee can be grown. For the time being, you could even imagine the coffee belt map as an imaginary region spread across approximately 3200 miles.
However, given that the world is a massive ball of space, there are only distinct areas in these regions. Even out of 70 countries capable of growing coffee, only 44 contribute to the quality coffee that we use commercially. It is time we looked at these regions closely
Did you know that coffee in Asia began to be grown as a part of a crime?
It was back in the 1600s when a pilgrim taped six coffee beans to his stomach, smuggling them out of Mocha. He planted those beans in Chikmagalur in Karnataka, in the country of India, and by the 19th century, it had become a commercial crop.
With the colonization, coffee spread to the islands of Java, Bali, Timor, Sulawesi, and Sumatra. Sooner than later, both the regions started exporting coffee to Europe and other parts of the world.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, a Spanish Franciscan monk introduced these coffee beans. Unfortunately, coffee rust spread vastly across the land. To aid the situation, the Americans introduced a more resistant variety of coffee.
As of now, the Asia part of the Coffee Belt is booming as a popular coffee hub and as a coffee industry as well. In it, the regions of India, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan, and Vietnam are the most influential contributors to the Coffee Belt.
If there is anything else that is as American as jeans, it is the coffee craze. The chains of Starbucks and other coffee shop outlets have contributed to the revolutionizing of it too. Best known for the balanced and clean taste, American coffees are sweet but lively acidic, and crisp too.
Narrowing down this region of the Coffee Belt, Nicaragua is the prime contributor in Central America. It was also the largest producer of the finest coffee once. However, given the multiple years of political instability and unrest, it is trying to get back in the game.
You will also find coffee tree and coffee production houses in Costa Rica and other Central American countries.
Meanwhile, in South America, Colombia and Brazil are two of the most popular contributors to the Bean Belt. Other regions like Venezuela, Peru, and Ecuador are known for the smaller variant of coffee. Amongst these, Peruvian coffee is most popularly being exported. Colombian coffee also has its following.
Africa might just have the most interesting story as a coffee-producing continent.
Not only is it rich in the history of it, but also variety and quality. A dozen of these African countries now contribute to a whopping 12% of the Coffee Belt production.
Ethiopia, where African coffee (also the original coffee) was born, has had a variety of uncatalogued coffee of different qualities for over a millennium now. Meanwhile, its neighbor Kenya has 6 million employees dedicated to the industry. Tanzania is known for its own kind of medium-bodied beans that are bright and clean.
Lastly, but just as importantly, you have the Island Regions of the Coffee Belt. As touched upon before, Indonesia is amongst the most prominent producers of coffee. The islands of Java, Bali, East Timor, Sulawesi, and Flores have contributed immensely to it.
This part of the Coffee Belt is especially known for the acidity and denseness of the coffee it produces.
Sumatra, for example, has a slightly spicy and complex tasting coffee. Java, on the other hand, produces a less acidic type of coffee, which is cleaner and sweeter in comparison.
The smoothest and cleanest variety of coffee is known to hail from Sulawesi, which was previously known as Celebes. Just as interestingly, Bali is known for its sweet coffee that also has a chocolatey aftertaste!
Coffee Belt Features
You just read a bit about the different variants of coffee grown in the different regions of the Coffee Belt. However, now it is time to think about why the taste changes from place to place.
To state in short, the different climatic conditions and such lead to the difference in cultivation. But that would be too general an answer. So, to break down the concept further, let us see how every condition affects the production of coffee.
So far, the world has figured out that coffee needs a moist and tropical climate with dry and wet distinctions. Many of the cultivators solely rely on rainfall for the water needed at the time of cultivation.
The dry season helps in harvesting the coffee cherry fruits. This lasts up to three months. Meanwhile, the wet season aids the cultivation process before it.
Rainfall covered coffee needs a stable temperature because they are sensitive to that extreme in coldness and heat. Coffee typically needs 59 to 86°F (15 to 30°C ) as the year-round temperature.
That said, extreme exposure to sunlight might harm the growth of the beans. To protect the plants from the same, many use tall forest trees for the shade. Moreover, this kind of coffee also takes a bit longer to ripen.
Since the Coffee Belt focuses on the area around the equator, it requires a hot climate. However, its cultivation is the best at higher altitudes because of a more stable climate. Most of the Coffee Belt is productive from 1000 to 2000m above sea level.
Besides, altitude is also significant for low-level caffeinated varieties. That is because the chances of an infestation are low. The taste of coffee changes with the altitude as well. It has been found that coffee at higher altitudes tends to have the kind of acidity desired by most.
Needless to say that one of the most determining factors of cultivation of any crop is the soil. The same is the case with the cultivation of coffee. A rich soil provides the basis of its survival and nutritional value.
The type of soil most suitable for coffee is fertile volcanic red earth, also known as deep sandy loam. Did you know that most of the Coffee Belt countries are included in the Ring of Fire? It is the volcanic activity that aids the nutritional richness of the soil, ideal for the growth of coffee.
Another factor just as important is the ability of the soil to drain-down water. Moreover, the soil’s capacity to absorb atmospheric nitrogen is crucial to the coffee cultivation. It is one of the factors that help with the process of photosynthesis.
Needs For Arabica and Robusta Coffee
Did you know that more than 98 percent of the coffee consumed by us comprises of just two species?
Without a doubt, they are the Coffea arabica (also known in the market as Kona Coffee) and Coffea canephora. You might know them by the names of Arabica and robusta. Interestingly, both of these species are very far apart from each other. This difference essentially arises from the botanical and chemical aspects of each.
Did you know that the caffeine content of the coffee plant acts as its own pesticide?
Arabica coffee requires a particular condition range for survival. It is also much more delicate than the other. That is why it grows at higher altitudes, to avoid pests. Robusta, on the other hand, is hard and can withstand extremes temperatures and climatical aspects. Broadly, these include the altitude at which it is cultivated and the present rainfall.
While it is ideally grown from 200 to 600m, the type can grow at sea level as well. That is very much unlike the ability of the arabica plant.
Moving on, you will find that the Arabica has twice the number of chromosomes as robusta. This leads for the species to be much more flavourful and complex. No wonder people find it as a refreshing drink and also tastier than any other type of coffee.
Coffee Belt – Wrap up
Coffee is no longer just a popular beverage.
Ever since its discovery, it has come a long way in the history of human civilization. It is now used as a form of expression and art too. With the ever-growing popularity of the coffee bean, its background gains importance as well.
As a coffee lover, understanding the tradition and commerce of the coffee culture through the Coffee Bean Belt is more relevant than you might think. After all, there is a reason you will not find New York grown specialty coffee!