After arriving from French Guiana in the early 18th century, coffee quickly spread and thrived in Brazil. Today Brazil is responsible for about a third of all coffee production, making it by far the heavyweight champion of the coffee-producing world. Though many connoisseurs believe that Brazil’s emphasis on quantity takes a toll on quality, many also praise the country’s finer varieties. Brazil is the only high-volume producer subject to frost. The devastating 1975 frost, in particular, was a boon to other coffee-growing countries. Two 1994 frosts raised prices worldwide.
Popular Varietals: Mundo Novo, Caturra, Catuai, Maragojipe, Santos, Bahia
2. Vietnam (27.5 million bags)
French missionaries first brought coffee to Vietnam in the mid-1860s, but production remained negligible as late as 1980. In the 1990s, however, Vietnamese coffee production has been ratcheted up at a furious pace. At least one trader worries that the industry is growing too quickly for its own good. “The crop’s growing so fast that there’s not an equivalent growth in processing, so you’re looking at quality problems,” he said from Daklak, Vietnam’s main coffee-growing region.
Popular Varietals: Robusta (world's largest producer)
3. Colombia (11.6 million bags)
Colombia is the only South American country with both Atlantic and Pacific ports—an invaluable aid to shipping. The crop’s economic importance is such that all cars entering Colombia are sprayed for harmful bacteria. Colombia’s coffee grows in the moist, temperate foothills of the Andes, where the combination of high altitude and moist climate makes for an especially mild cup.
Popular Varietals: Mendellin, Colombian, Supremo, Bogota
4. Indonesia (6.85 million bags)
The Dutch unwittingly gave coffee a nickname in the late 17th century, when they began the first successful European coffee plantation on their island colony of Java (now part of Indonesia). Top-grade arabicas are still produced on Java as well as on Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Flores, but the Indonesian archipelago is most notable as the world’s largest producer of Robusta beans.
Popular Varietals: Java, Sumatra S795, Mandheling, Lintong
5. Ethiopia (6.5 million bags)
The natural home of the arabica tree and the setting for most of coffee’sorigin legends, Ethiopia is Africa’s top arabica exporter and leads the continent in domestic consumption. About 12 million Ethiopians make their living from coffee, whose name is said to be a derivation of “Kaffa,” the name of an Ethiopian province.
Popular Varietals: Harrar, Sidamo, Yirgacheffe
6. India (5 million bags)
According to legend, India is the birthplace of coffee cultivation east of Arabia. Today coffee production is under the strict control of the Indian Coffee Board, which some say reduces economic incentive and thereby lowers quality.
Popular Varietals: Mysore, Monsooned Malabar, Sarchimor
7. Mexico (4.5 million bags)
Coffee came to Mexico from Antilles at the end of the 18th century, but was not exported in great quantities until the 1870s. Today approximately 100,000 small farms generate most Mexican coffee, and most of the beans come from the south. Mexico is the largest source of U.S. coffee imports.
Popular Varietals: Altura, Liquidambar MS, Pluma Coixtepec/Hidalgo
8. Guatemala (4 million bags)
German immigrants initiated serious coffee cultivation in Guatemala in the 19th century. Today the country’s high-grown beans, particularly those grown on the southern volcanic slopes, are among the world’s best.
Popular Varietals: Atitlan, Pache Comom
9. Peru (3.5 million bags)
Coffee production came to Peru in the 1700s. After two centuries, the heirloom typica variety still comprises 60% of the country's exports. There are more than 110,000 coffee growers in Peru, most of whom are indigenous to these landscapes and speak Spanish as a second language. The average land-holding farmer lives on two or three hectares, hours away from the comforts of electricity and running water. Peru’s coffee exports account for two percent of both the national economy and the global coffee supply, Peru is quickly building a global reputation for producing traditionally cultivated, shade grown, high quality Arabica beans.
Popular Varietals: Gesha/Geisha, Pache Comom
10. Honduras (2.7 million bags)
Honduras is the second largest coffee producer in Central America (after Guatemala). Over a million Hondurans work in the coffee industry, representing 22% of rural employment. Hurricane Mitch fairly destroyed the infrastructure of Honduras, leaving much of the 1998 coffee crop unharvested. But the tragedy allowed Honduran farmers to reinvent their coffee for the specialty coffee scene in recent years, improving their crop quality & utilizing specialty, organic & fair trade premiums. Now Honduran coffee shines among the best in the industry.
Popular Varietals: Miramundo
Ref. 1999 National Geographic Society