Best coffee in the world: The best coffee countries with the highest quality beans

There are two varieties of people in the world; those who drink coffee to wake up and those who wake up to drink coffee (tea drinkers don’t count!). The latter group are lucky that there are thousands of varieties of coffee bean, making for a fresh brew experience every morning, wherever you are on the planet. Some destinations are more bountiful in beans than others and we’ve made it our mission to find them and list them here so that everyone knows where to go to find the best coffee beans in the world. See our rundown of the best coffee countries from South America to Asia, with a brief sip stop in the Caribbean.

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The best coffee in the world

The history of coffee starts in the 10th century, going from the highlands of Ethiopia and mountains of Yemen before gradually making its way into Europe, Asia and the Americas, one trade boat at a time. Banned in both Mecca and Cairo in the 14th century for its stimulating effects, coffee has since gone global to become the most widely traded commodity in the world (after oil), with over 2.25 billion cups consumed daily. As many as seventy countries produce their own beans, cultivated from the cherry fruits of trees in exotic regions.

In answer to the question ‘which country produces the most coffee?’ We must look to South America where more or less every nation exports coffee. Of these, the top exporters are Brazil (5.7 billion pounds!), Colombia (1.7 billion), Honduras (767 million) and Mexico (515 million). Panama, a relatively lightweight exporter has fast become home to one of the world’s hottest gourmet coffee markets after discovery of the Geisha variety, originally found in Ethiopia. On that note, we must too mention Africa, the birthplace of arabica and home to eight of the world’s top 25 coffee-exporting nations, including Ethiopia (846 million pounds), Uganda (634 million), Ivory Coast (238 million) and Kenya (110 million). Kenya is known among coffee connoisseurs for its trifecta of fertile soil, moderate climate and elevation, upon which flavourful trees are tended.

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Coffee tourists looking for their hit of robusta or arabica in Brazil could do worse than to base themselves in São Paulo, a cosmopolitan city packed with speciality cafés and roasters, both traditional and innovative

1. Brazil

The world’s largest producer of coffee for 150 years in a row, Brazil is the reigning champion of the bean, offering a perfect climate for creamy, low acidity coffee with rich and subtle caramel notes craved across the world. Coffee tourists looking for their hit of robusta or arabica in Brazil could do worse than to base themselves in São Paulo, a cosmopolitan city packed with speciality cafés and roasters, both traditional and innovative. For traditional experiences, head to Sofá Café, Café Floresta or The Little Coffee Shop, while, for a more modern approach, try Beluga and Octavio. Serious coffee critics meanwhile will want to visit Coffee Lab, a café that doubles up as a microbrewery and coffee academy. If a farm-to-cup experience is what you’re seeking, however, Isso é Caffè near São Paulo’s Museum of Art presents a perfect dark-roasted cafézinho to savour.

After a buzzing urban experience, consider building an itinerary on the coffee routes of either Minas Gerais or Paraná, along which you’ll get to visit heritage farms and stay in rural properties a world away from the city. Want to experience a Brazilian carnival? Explore gay Brazil today!

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2. Vietnam

Asia’s number one for its coffee export volume of 3.6 billion pounds, Vietnam is more than just a nation of rice (its most exported commodity). Introduced to the Buôn Ma Thuột region by the French in the 1800s, coffee is still grown here in the central highlands to this day to produce 40 per cent of the world’s robusta beans, low acidity and smooth, at competitive prices. While Vietnam’s beans are largely used for instant and blended coffee, when travelling the country you’ll quickly learn Vietnamese coffee is something special, packing quite a punch. The thick texture and strong hit of Vietnamese coffee are owed to the unique ‘phin filter’ brewing process (like a hybrid between a pour-over and a French press) used in coffee shops and by vendors across the nation. Combine this with a generous glug of condensed milk and you’re sure to have a wide-eyed morning ahead of you!

Tap into French-Vietnamese café culture in Hanoi, a city filled to the brim with bars, cafés and street-side restaurants, all serving up Cà phê den (black) and Cà phê sữa (sweet and white) alongside the local speciality of Cà phê trứng (coffee topped with a creamy blend of egg yolk and condensed milk!). Vietnam’s capital of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) meanwhile may also delight you, a city that has long held a no-nonsense, street-side approach to coffee but more recently has evolved Ito showcase a trendy café culture. Try the best coffee in old Saigon at Shin Coffee, otherwise boarding The Coffee Ship for a floating experience on the Kenh Te Canal. Alternatively, try Du Mien Garden Coffee for natural views with your caffeine hit, or the modern treasures of The Workshop Specialty Coffee, The Snap Café and Yoko Café. Stay in Vietnam for longer with our Vietnam two-week itinerary.

Vietnam | Photo: Giau Tran

3. Colombia

South America’s second-biggest coffee exporter, Colombia is another great destination for travellers on the hunt for the best coffee in the world. This once dangerous nation, known for a wholly different kind of export during the Escobar era, is now on the radar for its vibrant culture and mild and fruity arabica varieties. Whether you prefer a strong hit of caffeine or a softer sip, Colombia can provide, starting in the capital city of Bogotá. Here the industry continues its rise, with artisanal cafés and cool bars popping up on the daily. Outside of the capital however is where coffee really gets exciting, allowing for trips to the National Coffee Park in Quindio, a theme park and museum dedicated to all things coffee, with a cable car riding high above proceedings. Nearby, the related PANACA theme park underscores the agriculture and ecology of the country, hosting some 4,500 domestic animals on site, including livestock, horse and dogs, as well as a number of eco and canopy walks.

The non-profit organisation Café de Colombia is a great example of how the coffee trade nurtures coffee-growing communities in Colombia, reinvesting profits back into the farms and towns surrounding. See its impact on your tour of Colombia’s coffee zone, visiting Calarca’s Mariposario, a coffee region also known for its myriad butterfly species and botanical gardens, as well as the neighbouring Recorrido de la Culture Cafeteria (RECUCA) which offers a coffee plantation tour featuring traditionally dressed coffee pickers and guides who take visitors through the whole production process, from harvesting to drinking. Other highlights in the country include the Parque Los Arrieros (Horseman’s Park) in Quindiano for its traditional mule-focused attractions and the 50-hectare Ukumari Biopark near Periera which showcases the various bioregions of Colombia (and the produce grown in each) alongside the Matecana Zoo and botanical gardens. Get to know the country’s coffee, beaches and beautiful people further with our guide to the complete Colombian experience.

Colombia | Photo: Chris Rodriguez

Photo: Brent Gorwin

4. Indonesia

Exporting a grand total of 1.4 billion pounds of coffee in 2019 alone, Indonesia is second only to Vietnam for coffee production in Asia. Coffee became a thing in Indonesia as early as the 1600s when Dutch colonisers began to cultivate it in Java. Since then, java coffee has become famous the world over for its earthy flavour and full body, while Sumatran and Sulawesi varieties follow closely with their equally full and smoky complexities. The capital city of Jakarta has a very exciting coffee culture but travellers seeking a more laid-back introduction to the country coffee may wish to try the Western-influenced café scene on Bali island. Other scenes to sample, include that of the young city of Yogyakarta on Java Island. The speciality here is the ember-heated Kopi Joss, served up by street stalls across the city.

One of Indonesia’s weirder coffee offerings — similarly produced across southeast Asia — is the gourmet bean known as Kopi Luwak (AKA civet coffee) which, despite being non too eco-friendly, is considered the height of coffee luxury in some circles. These beans are harvested by palm civets which feed on the coffee cherries then poop them out undigested for processing. After moving through the civet’s digestive tract and fermenting in the stomach, the proteins in the beans are broken down, resulting in a less bitter taste when brewed. Prices of Kopi Luwak are genuinely insane, starting at around $100 (USD) per pound! A serious note of caution for animal lovers, however, is that civet coffee is very rarely ethically sourced and may involve inhumane practices that threaten the wild civet population. If you’d like to taste Kopi Luwak for yourself, look for a certified company such as Gayo Kopi which claims its civets live freely in the Gayo Mountains and are not force-fed or caged as some unregulated companies are guilty of doing.

Discover more of the nation with our guide to the best places to enjoy gay Indonesia.

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The capital city of Jakarta has a very exciting coffee culture but travellers seeking a more laid-back introduction to the country coffee may wish to try the Western-influenced café scene on Bali island

5. Jamaica

An unexpected addition to our list of best coffee countries is Jamaica for its beautiful javas. The only two Caribbean countries ranking among the top 30 coffee-producing nations are the Dominican Republic and Haiti, but Jamaica makes a play for quality over quantity! Jamaica’s Blue Mountain Coffee is the most sought after java variety in the country, grown atop one of the highest mountain ranges in the Caribbean. It’s here where the perfect climate, soil and drainage makes for a mild and sweet coffee bean, beloved around the world. Just 2.7 million pounds of Jamaica’s Blue Mountain Coffee is produced each year, and one pound of it will cost you around $45-$50 (USD). Moreover, eighty per cent of the annual output is sold to Japan, meaning that if you want to sample some, your best bet is to head straight to the Blue Mountain. Discover gay Jamaica in one week, starting a tour of the mountain region from either Portland or Kingston.

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6. Africa

Growing esteemed beans across the entire continent, Africa is well established on the global coffee trail. A few countries, in particular, earn our focus, starting with Ethiopia, the so-called birthplace of coffee. African folk legend accords the discovery of arabica to a goat herder who found his goats dancing erratically having eaten berries from an unfamiliar bush. After the herder discovered what the beans could do for him, coffee in Africa was born and a nationalised industry exploded, leading to the farming of thousands of distinct varieties across Ethiopia. Many of the country’s best varieties are purely for domestic consumption, allowing visitors to enjoy a wholly rare experience. Of the best local beans, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe holds a light to medium body with a sweet and spicy flavour palate and complex floral notes followed by a slightly nutty aftertaste. In contrast, the heavier bodied Ethiopian Harrar is processed naturally (dry) to create a fruity wine-like flavour combined with complex spice tones.

African countries also on our coffee radar include Uganda for its indigenous robusta beans found deep within the rainforest (most notably the western regions of Kasese and Mbarara for their high quality). Alongside the more bitter-tasting robusta variety, speciality arabica is becoming a hit in the country with its sweeter and smoother taste. Tanzania is our final mention for now, where artful coffee farming comes in regions of incredible scenery. Visit a local coffee farm or stop by a market, learning of the rare variety known as Peaberry Beans, a double-beaned fruit that roasts better due to its shape and density.

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Photo: Brooke Lewis

7. Central America

With Colombia and Brazil already accounted for above, it’s clear to see how South America fares in the best coffee in the world ranking. Central America also has good standing, particularly the nations of Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras. We’ll start with the latter, a nation largely overlooked until now. As infrastructure and the export industry has developed, so too has the world’s passion for Honduran beans. Where does coffee come from in Honduras? The answer is from small mountain farms known as ‘fincas’, often located in areas with a unique micro-climate that allows for a huge range of flavour and aroma, from hazelnut to vanilla.

As for Costa Rican beans, more and more they come from eco-plantations that allow tourists to visit with a minimal footprint. The beans here are considered sweet and mild, easily sampled in San José at specialty coffee shops and cafés all over. Then, Guatemalan beans (almost exclusively arabica varieties), grow across high-elevation regions, including Antigua, Acatenango, Cobán and San Marcos. Guatemala Coban is known for its dark chocolate flavour and rich hazelnut top notes, while Antigua boasts full-bodied premium beans, richer and heavier than most Central American offerings. Interested in a coffee tour of Central America? See our relevant writings on how to plan your dream Costa Rica vacation and our ultimate gay Guatemala itinerary.

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8. Hawaii

Some countries get all the good luck; rugged beauty, exceptional beaches, laid-back culture, and also the best coffee in America according to Forbes? If we didn’t love the Hawaiian island chain so much, we might be jealous. In truth, Hawaiian coffee is only grown on Kona, on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Kea volcanos since the 1800s. Its rarity makes it something of a treasure, delicately flavoured, hand-picked, and therefore set at a higher price than other beans of the same origin. Kona coffee was originally made of Brazilian tree cuttings, though, today, the time-consuming harvesting techniques and the fertile soil make it something wholly Hawaiian, medium-bodied and bright with winey undertones. When buying Kona coffee, make sure to buy ‘Extra Fancy’ (the grade), avoiding blends to ensure you’re getting the best of the best. Want to savour the sweetness of Hawaii some more? See our guide — Hawaii vacations: a great Big Island itinerary.

Hawaii | Photo: Braden Jarvis

9. India

More commonly known as a tea-producing country, India has in fact been a coffee-loving nation since the 16th century Mughal empire, 200 years before tea came to town. Many years on and a coffee rust epidemic later, coffee production in India once again thrives, most notably in the regions of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Both arabica and robusta are big in India, with most of the crops blended and exported to Europe. Visit India to enjoy special unblended varieties such as Monsoon Malabar which is unique in that its beans are exposed to monsoon conditions for a unique depth of flavour. Away from the plantations, coffee is also widely available in Mumbai, where ornate cafés and bars serve up local brews. Go the traditional way with a ‘filter kaapi’, a strong mix of 80% coffee and 20% chicory, filtered and prepared with milk and sugar. This method is also popular in Chennai where it’s known as Madras Coffee. Learn more about the best destinations with our list of dream places to visit in India.

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Photo: Jonathan Borba

10. Turkey

Last on our list of the world’s best coffee beans, we take you to where east meets west. Coffee has been beloved in Turkey since the Ottoman Empire and continues to satisfy Turks countrywide. Istanbul is a great place to start your coffee tour, packed as the city is with speciality Turkish coffee shops that serve up thick, sweetened traditional brews on vibrant streets. Good Turkish coffee (Türk kahve) is made using dark-roast beans and a copper pot (cezve), inside which finely ground coffee and water simmer to produce a thick consistency. Instead of being strained as you might assume, the mixture is served straight in porcelain cups (kahve finkanı) and stirred while drinking for the best taste. In true Turkish style, you can tip the leftover sludge onto your saucer and have a friend read your fortune. This is what is called ‘caffeomancy’ and is an art practised across the nation, for a little lira of course. Authentic establishments keeping things traditional in Istanbul include Pierre Loti Café and Fazil Bey’s Turkish coffee House but for more modern styles, try The House Café, Java Studio Istanbul and Midpoint Café. Then, Galata Konak Café is the place to go for a coffee break with unrivalled views. Discover the nation beyond Istanbul with our guide to gay Turkey.

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Photo: Jonathan Borba

More destinations for coffee lovers

Not done judging the best world coffee? Consider other European destinations such as Portugal and Italy, where espresso reigns supreme and in Milan especially you’ll find trendy coffee bars such as Pavé and Bar Luce competing with longstanding institutions like Orsonero and Caffé Napoli. Or how about Austria where pastries are brought into the equation at traditional cafés such as Vienna’s 19th-century Café Schwarzenberg or more modern additions such as Fürth Kaffee and Sassmünd Kaffeebar.

The US is a country bean coffee destination we also can’t ignore, where coffee culture has grown into something both impressive and unrecognisable! The top cities for coffee include Portland, New York City and Seattle. The latter, as well as being the birthplace of Starbucks, has a number of other independent options. Try Elm Coffee Roasters, Lighthouse Roasters and Analog Coffee for sophistication or perhaps Moore Coffee Shop for latte art to admire.

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