Exploring Coffees From Central & South America

Latin America has dominated global coffee production for centuries thanks to its rich soils, ideal temperatures and mixed sunshine and rain. Since the coffee plant’s introduction to the Caribbean in the early 18th century, the plant spread rapidly throughout Central and South America and turned those countries into top global producers within decades.

The Caribbean

The Dutch initially introduced coffee to Suriname in 1718 by way of a single plant that had been transported from their coffee plantations on Java island in Indonesia. The French followed several years later by introducing descendants of their plant to the island of Martinique. The Caribbean became the first coffee producing region in the Americas via large plantation farms run by those colonial superpowers.

Etching of the ‘Rust-en-Werk’ Dutch coffee plantation in Paramaribo, Suriname

The coffee produced here was sun-grown, meaning that it required large areas to be deforested and production locations were constantly moved due to soil erosion. The plant was then spread to other countries as they too began developing commercial production during the following decades, but not before the Caribbean became a short-lived powerhouse in the global coffee market. This massive output would soon be dwarfed though by new leaders rising up from South and Central America.


Coffee spread like wildfire through Latin America and the Caribbean was quickly overtaken by giants like Brazil, who used their expansive countrysides to become the world’s largest single producer of coffee by the mid-19th century. The coffee produced here used to be quantity over quality focused, using sun-grown cultivation and dry-method processing as seen in the Caribbean.

Photograph of coffee being harvested in Brazil circa 1914

Much of the coffee grown in Brazil remains sun grown in large areas where rain forest has long since been removed, but a lot has changed since their early days of coffee cultivation. Brazil has invested heavily in its coffee industry and today there is a lot of great coffee produced in Brazil. Their crop makes up a majority of commercial grade Arabica coffee sold worldwide. Brazil still remains the world’s largest single producer of coffee, cultivating over 3,000 metric tons per year which makes up about 40% of the world’s total output globally.

The Cordillera

From Peru to Mexico there is a collection of tropical climate zones spanning nine major producing countries unofficially termed the “Cordillera.” This coffee producing zone encompasses the traditional categories of Mexican, Central and South American coffee regions. Competing with the massive production output of Brazil was not possible for the smaller countries of the Cordillera. Instead they used supreme quality in lower volumes to create a more desirable product for more discerning coffee drinkers.

Coffee Farms in Pijáo, Colombia

Coffees produced here use less ecologically damaging cultivation methods like shade-growing, different processing methods such as wet-method and semi-wet method and rely on hand picking versus machine picking. These smaller producing countries used and continue to use these differences in their production process to create extremely high end, specialty coffee to compete in the market.

What you can expect from Central and South American Coffees? Generally speaking these will be classic, medium to full-bodied coffees characterized by their origin notes of cocoa, nut and spice. They vary in acidity but are generally smooth and well rounded, with wet-processed coffees having a cleaner and slightly brighter taste. Next, we will dive a little deeper into the stories and flavor profiles of our Passport coffees from these regions. 

Mexican Chiapas:

Coffee plants were brought to Mexico in the late 1700’s from Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Chiapas and Oaxaca are the two states that produce the most amount of coffee in Mexico. The cool weather and high elevation in these Southern parts of the country provide the ideal environment for arabica plants. 

Chiapas and Oacca are located in the very south of Mexico

Café con leche, or “coffee with milk” is a staple in Mexican cafes. This drink is made by pouring a large amount of hot frothy milk over an espresso shot or small amount of coffee concentrate. Café de olla, a traditional coffee drink, is brewed in individual pots with cinnamon sticks and sometimes added orange slices. The cinnamon flavor lends itself well to the flavor profile of the bean. Our Café Mexicana is a unique take on this drink, which is a combination of cocoa powder and cinnamon on the coffee beans. 

Profile: low-acidity, heavy body, deep notes of chocolate, earth, and spice.

Featured in blends with a lighter and brighter taste such as Kona Blend.

Organic Guatemalan:

The majority of coffee in Guatemala is grown in the western region, where active volcanoes provide diverse nutrients to the soil. However, coffee is grown in different regions where the soil ranges from soft to clay, and the weather from rainy to dry (there are actually 300 micro climates in Guatemala, and 14 eco-regions!). Known for its unique flavors depending on the area, Guatemalan coffee is a favorite of coffee lovers all over the world. Though the country produces much less coffee than its neighbors, the quality of Guatemalan beans is extremely high. 

Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala

Over the past 10 years, Guatemalans themselves have increased their consumption of the coffee they produce. This spike is a direct result of the opening of more coffee shops across the country. These shops tend to be independently-owned, specialize in artisanal methods, and hold a lot of pride in supporting local farmers.

We source our Guatemalan beans from Frijanes, where Pacaya, an active volcano, supplies the Fraijanes region with a light deposit of ash every so often, giving the soil an important mineral boost. The region of Fraijanes is located north of Lake Amatitlan in the mountains surrounding the Valley of Ermita where Guatemala City is located.

Profile: crisp acidity, noticeable sweetness, lighter body; notes of red apple, citrus, spice, earth, and rich floral aromas.

El Salvador:

Coffee arrived in El Salvador in the late 1700’s, and by 1970 made up 50% of the country’s GDP. The civil war in the 1980’s destroyed most of the industry, but resulted in the preservation of some of the “old varieties” of coffee plants that are unused by neighboring countries.

We source our beans from El Borbollon coffee mill. The mill is committed to developing sustainable practices to preserve the environment. Their brand of coffees that have been hand-picked at their customers farms, where they provide agronomic support and advisory. Coffees are hand-picked to select only the ripest cherries, then separated by farm and quality at the mill.

Coffee beans drying on patios at the El Borbollon coffee mill

They are then pulped and naturally fermented, washed, then dried in clay patios or raised beds. After they are dry, the beans are stored in wooden silos or bags where they rest until they are hulled. Once the beans are hulled, they are washed once more before they are bagged and shipped out.

Profile: medium acidity, medium body; notes of red fruit, earth, chocolate, almond, and citrus


Honduras began large-scale commercial growing of coffee in 1804. Honduran coffee growers trafficked their beans into Guatemala; where they would sell for a higher price, because of Guatemala’s coffee reputation. After government tax on coffee exports started to play a role in the coffee business, the country boosted production and dramatically improved their coffee quality. Since then, demand has increased and selling coffee across the border has become unnecessary.

Presently, coffee producers and the Honduras government have made it a mission to improve the quality of coffee. Now, the country is the largest producer of coffee in Central America, and ranked as one of the highest coffee producing countries in the world.

These specialty beans are high-quality and sure to inspire your tastebuds. Trying one cup will help you understand why the country’s coffee is such a hot commodity!

Profile: crisp acidity, medium body, sweet notes of sugarcane, orange, caramel, and spice


Brazil produces the most amount of coffee in the world, due to the size of the country. The rich and diverse landscape provides a wide variety of flavor profiles. The Brazilian people typically take their coffee black, very hot, and with an ample amount of sugar, and call it cafezinho (“small coffee”). The trend of making coffee sweet comes from the natural bitterness of the beans, a result of coffee growing at lower altitudes. Far from a disadvantage, this slight bitterness actually adds to the delicious flavor profile of the coffee. Our Brazil coffee beans are selected from a more mild variety, which is not known for a sharp or bitter taste.

Advertising print by Jean d’Ylen 1931

We source our Brazil coffee from Fazenda Da Lagoa (farm by the lake), which can be traced back to the 18th century when it was established by Portuguese settlers. Today, Joaqui’m Paiva, a direct descendant and a managing director, honors its 200 year old coffee tradition. Only arabica varieties such as Catuai’ Mundo Nova, and Acaya have been selected to and are grown on the farm. By protecting healthy soils and rivers and producing sustainable coffee, Fazenda da Lagoa aims to be an inspiring partner to neighboring rural communities.

Profile: medium acidity, medium body, sweet, soft nutty notes, chocolate notes


Coffee is Colombia’s biggest export. The country is home to 560,000 coffee farms, and has developed a rich and interesting coffee culture as a result. Coffee is often enjoyed in the late afternoon or evening. Juan Valdez, the face of Colombian coffee developed by a marketing firm in the 50’s, is one of the country’s most famous symbols. A different actor takes the place of Juan every few years and poses at events; so far, there have been about 57 Juan Valdezes!

One of the many Juan Valdezes throughout history

 Though each region produces a slightly different flavor, Colombian coffee in general can be described as medium bodied with a citrus-like acidity and a rich taste. Tinto, or “inky water”, is the name used for the coffee sold on the street and in most cafes. It is made thick and concentrated through a pour-over brewing process. 

We source our Colombian Supremo coffee from Jose Fierro in Huila, one of the very few farms where a majority of the trees are of the highly prized Typica varietal. The Typica cherries are mixed with Caturra, and as usual the results from this blend produce an excellent cup.  Jose’s unique blend and careful production process has led him to be finalist in several coffee quality contests organized by the FNC.

Profile: medium acidity, medium body; sweet, soft nutty notes, chocolate

Costa Rican:

The flavor of Costa Rican coffee can be attributed to the high altitudes, mineral-rich volcanic soils, and cool climates with steady rainfall. A traditional form of brewing coffee in Costa Rica is through the use of a chorreador, which is a cloth bag and a stand. This is basically a pour over brewing method, but the chorreadors are a source of cultural identity and can be purchased in markets around the country. 

Traditional brewing method using the ‘chorreador

In 1928, brother and sister Manuel and Romelia Rojas were among the first families to plant coffee in Tarrazú. From the region near the Palmichal rainforest comes the Costa Rica Tarazu coffee that we purchase. It is a great example of the cooperative coffee system at work in terms of fair prices, environmental concerns, and coffee quality. The rich volcanic soil and dry cool nights of Costa Rica gives this coffee a smooth taste. Developing a sustainable coffee culture by protecting and improving the environment, maintaining a high-quality, and positive economic impact the community

Profile: full-bodied, lively acidity, milk chocolate, citrus, caramel, tropical fruit

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