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Central American Coffee: An Expert's Guide

Read time: 4 mins
Hand going through an assortment of coffee cherries and coffee beans.
John H. Feb 06, 2024

Central America boasts a rich coffee culture, offering a diverse array of specialty brews. As coffee connoisseurs, we're excited to share insights into the main coffee-producing countries in the region, their unique histories, and the exceptional beans they cultivate. Join us on a journey through the heart of Central American coffee excellence.

What is Central American coffee?

Central American coffee refers to coffee beans cultivated in the countries located in the Central American region, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua. These countries boast fertile soil, ideal climate conditions, and rich coffee-growing traditions, resulting in a diverse range of high-quality coffee beans.

What is the best coffee in Central America?

The best coffee in Central America is subjective and can vary depending on personal preferences. However, some of the most highly regarded coffees from the region include Costa Rican Tarrazu, Guatemalan Huehuetenango, and Salvadoran Finca Hungria. These coffees are renowned for their exceptional quality, distinct flavor profiles, and aromatic characteristics.

What is the difference between Central and South American coffee?

The main difference between Central and South American coffee lies in their flavor profiles, growing conditions, and processing methods. Central American coffees, including those from Costa Rica, Guatemala, and El Salvador, are often characterized by their bright acidity, medium body, and nuanced flavors. They tend to have cleaner, more balanced profiles compared to South American coffees and are typically described as slightly less sweet with a more subtle chocolatey aroma.

On the other hand, South American coffees, such as those from Colombia, Brazil, and Peru, are known for their fuller bodies, lower acidity, and rich, chocolatey flavors. These coffees often undergo different processing techniques, such as the washed process in Central America and the natural or pulped natural process in South America, contributing to variations in taste and aroma.

Which Central American Countries Produce Coffee?

Costa Rica Coffee

Costa Rica, blessed with nutrient-rich volcanic soil, holds the distinction of being the first Central American country to cultivate coffee on a commercial scale. Coffee, alongside bananas, dominates its export industry.

Coffee cultivation in Costa Rica traces back to 1729, when it was introduced from Cuba. Today, the country boasts approximately 400 million coffee trees, yielding about 1,700 kilograms per hectare. This thriving industry contributes significantly to Costa Rica's economy, comprising around 25% of its earnings.

Renowned for its exceptional quality, Costa Rican coffee, particularly from the Tarrazu region, delights with its light, clean flavor profile and captivating aroma. Only Arabica beans grace Costa Rican soil, with the cultivation of Robusta strictly prohibited.

The finest beans thrive at altitudes exceeding 1,500 meters above sea level, earning the designation "SHB" or Strictly Hard Bean. This label signifies a slower maturation process due to cooler air, resulting in intensified flavors.

El Salvador Coffee

Despite being one of Central America's smallest nations, El Salvador boasts a vibrant coffee culture. Its coffee, characterized by its light body, aromatic essence, and subtle acidity, mirrors the region's quintessential flavor profile.

Similar to Guatemala and Costa Rica, El Salvador categorizes its coffee based on altitude, with higher altitude beans often associated with superior quality. Notably, El Salvador is celebrated for producing the Finca Hungria variety, a roast known for its full-bodied yet balanced cup.

Guatemala Coffee

Introduced by Jesuit priests in 1750, coffee cultivation flourished in Guatemala, particularly in the southern regions surrounding the Sierra Madre mountain range. This fertile terrain yields coffees revered for their vibrant, spicy notes and intricate flavor profiles.

Guatemala's SHB coffee, renowned worldwide for its full-bodied richness and harmonious acidity, captivates the palates of coffee aficionados. Noteworthy is the "Elephant" bean, prized for its substantial size and exceptional quality.

Prime coffee-growing regions, such as Antigua near Lake Atitlan and Huehuetenango, produce beans of unparalleled excellence. Volcanic eruptions in these areas, occurring roughly every three decades, enrich the soil, further enhancing coffee quality.

Honduras Coffee

Honduras, influenced by neighboring El Salvador, boasts a burgeoning coffee industry renowned for its notable acidity and commendable quality. Like its Central American counterparts, Honduras classifies its coffee based on altitude, with higher altitudes yielding superior beans.

Despite challenges posed by coffee rust, Honduras continues to prioritize innovation in disease-resistant cultivation techniques to safeguard its coffee crops.

Mexico Coffee

As the fourth largest coffee producer globally, Mexico's coffee industry thrives, primarily driven by smallholder farmers. While single estates are less prevalent than in the past, Mexico remains a prominent player in the coffee market.

Chiapas, situated in southern Mexico, stands out as a coffee-growing region, alongside Oaxaca, renowned for its exceptional beans.

Mexican coffees tend to lean towards sweetness, offering hints of citrus, vanilla, berries, and caramel, attributes enhanced by their elevated growing conditions. We take our Organic Mexican to both a medium roast to highlight its inherent flavors of pear and nuts, and a dark roast for a bolder profile that is complemented with subtle undertones of brown sugar for added depth.

Nicaragua Coffee

Despite facing political upheavals, Nicaragua's coffee industry perseveres, producing noteworthy beans prized for their quality. The regions of Matagalpa, Jinotega, and Nuevo Segovia yield some of Nicaragua's finest coffees, showcasing the country's resilience amidst adversity.

Explore Central American Coffee

Central America's rich coffee heritage offers a myriad of flavors and experiences for discerning coffee enthusiasts like ourselves! From the lush plantations of Costa Rica to the volcanic slopes of Guatemala, each cup tells a story of passion, tradition, and unparalleled quality. Embrace the journey and savor the essence of Central American coffee excellence here at Fresh Roasted Coffee.

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