The coffees produced in this growing region are distinguished by their light body, simplicity and sharp acidity. They are typically thought of as having bright flavours with a clean, crisp finish.

Brazil Colombia Costa Rica
Dominican Republic Ecuador El Salvador
Guatemala Honduras Jamaica
Mexico Nicaragua Panama
Peru Venezuela  

The coffee industry in Brazil was started in the early 1720s with seedlings obtained from French Guiana. The coffee industry thrived, mainy due to the fact that one-third of its landscape is suitable for coffee cultivation. By 1845 Brazilian coffee already accounted for the largest portion of world production.

Nowadays, Brazil grows approximately 35% of the world's coffee, but only Santos is considered important by the speciality coffee industry. Another coffee, Rio, is also well known for it's medicinal taste, and is often used in New Orleans coffee with the addition of chicory. Bourbon Santos is Brazil's finest grade of coffee, and the beans from the arabica trees that produce this coffee are small and curly for the first three or four years of production. During this time, the coffee is called Bourbon Santos. As the trees age, the beans become larger and lose quality. They are then referred to as flat bean Santos. Bandeirante is a popular estate grown Brazilian coffee that is often found in the United States. Brazilian coffee is generally produced using the dry-process.

Brazil is the only high-volume producer subject to frost - being subject to it between the 1st June until 15th August. The devastating frost in 1975 was, in particular, a boon to other coffee-growing countries. Two 1994 frosts raised prices worldwide.

The first coffee seedlings were brought to Colombia in 1808 via the French Antilles by Jesuit Missionaries. A popular legend claims that one of the missionaries, father Romero, encouraged his congregation to plant coffee beans as a form of penance. Colombia now produces approximately 12% of the world's coffee supply, and is second only to Brazil in world coffee production. The crop's economic importance is such that all cars entering Colombia are sprayed for harmful bacteria.

The bulk of Colombian coffee is of high quality but unfortunately, they've increasingly gone the route of higher-yield varieties so the overall quality is not nearlly as high as it once was. Peasants grow coffee at high altitudes, and it is processed using the wet method. Three mountain ranges, called cordilleras, trisect Colombia from North to South. The central and eastern cordilleras produce the best coffee. The most famous coffees in the central cordillera are: Medellin, Armenia, and Manizales, named after cities where they are marketed. Medellin is the most famous, and has heavy body, rich flavour and balanced acidity. Armenia and Manizales have less body and acidity. The three are often exported together under the acronym "MAM". In the Eastern cordillera, Bogota and Bucaramanga are the most famous coffees. Bogota is considered one of Colombia's finest coffees, and contains less acid than medellin, but is equally rich and flavourful. Bucaramanga has a low level of acid, but is rich in body and flavour.

Costa Rica:
The ninth largest coffee producer in the world, the tiny republic of Costa Rica received it's first seedlings from Cuba in 1779. Only Arabica is grown there on account of a law banning the cultivation of Robusta. The cultivators are mainly small farmers organised into co-operatives which form a federation which is resposible for exports. Due to use of very up-to-date technology the yield obtained is extremely high.

Costa Rican coffee is grown primarily around the capital of San Jose. The altitude and temperate climate are similar to Guatemala's, although the landscape is not quite as spectacular. The most famous of these coffees are San Marcos di Tarrazu, Tres Rios, Heredia, and Alajuela. These coffees are wet-processed, and are full bodied and sweet, with a hearty richness and lively acidity. In Costa Rica, coffee grown above 3,900 feet is called strictly hard bean, while coffee grown below an altitude of between 3,300 and 3,900 feet is called good hard bean. Costa Rican coffees are usually identified by the estate, cooperative, or facility where they are processed. One of the most famous of these estate coffees is La Minita.

Dominican Republic:
Coffees from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and Puerto Rico are grown at moderate altitudes and are full-bodied with moderate acidity and uncomplicated flavours. These wet-processed coffees are best suited for dark-roasted espresso blends. Cibao, Bani, Ocoa, and Barahona are the four main market names for coffees from the Dominican Republic.

Ecuador produces a large amount of coffee - currently being ranked twelfth in the world. Ecuador produces as much robusta as arabic but other than that the coffees are undistinguished, with light to medium body and mild acidity.

El Salvador:
Volcanic peaks account for much of this Central American country's landscape creating a good environment for growing coffee. Almost 60% of Salvador's exports come from coffee and 25% of the workforce is employed in the coffee industry - this figure can rise, however, to up to 80% during harvesting.

Coffee was introduced here in the mid-1800s from British Honduras and Cuba. The flavour of Salvadorian coffee is mild, with good balance, medium body, sharp acidity and a hint of sweetness. The best grade of Salvadorian coffee is called strictly high grown. All coffees are produced using the wet-process.

Coffee was introduced into Guatemala in 1750 by Jesuit missionaries. The industry was further developed after 1860 when the Germans immigrated here. A quarter of the population of Guatemala make a living from coffee. Not so long ago, coffee represented 70% of the country's exports, but this has fallen to only 32% today.

Guatemala is still in sixth position in the ranking of coffee producers in the world, however, and some of the world's greatest coffee is produced in the central Highlands of Guatemala. The high altitude and the rich, volcanic soil from the area's many volcanoes create conditions which are ideal for the production of top-quality coffee. The temperate climate, with sunny days and cool nights, allows the coffee to mature slowly, which seems to concentrate the flavours. The most famous regional marketing names are: Antigua, Coban and Huehuetenango. High quality Guatemalan coffees are produced using the wet-process and are of high acidity and medium body, with smoky, spicy and chocolate flavours. Guatemalan coffee is often marketed by grade, with the highest grade being strictly hard bean, which indicates coffees grown at 4,500 feet or above. A secondary grade is hard bean, designating coffees grown between 4,000 and 4,500 feet.

Honduran coffee is wet-processed and mainly used as a cheap blending coffee. It is ranked eighth in world production and aims to increase that ranking and become the most important coffee producer in Central America. Honduras received it's arabica coffee trees from neighbouring El Salvador as well as other countries such as Brazil, Costa Rica and Ethiopia. Some excellent coffees are grown here, but they are often blended with inferior beans before they are exported and are difficult to find.

The coffee industry on this Caribbean island began in 1725 when its governor brought seedlings from Martinique and planted them on his Estate. About 60,000 Jamaican farmers now grow coffee, some producing as little as five pounds of green beans each year.

Mountains cover four-fifths of the country, with the Blue Mountains, in the east, reaching a height of 7,400 feet. The coffee is planted on terraces between 1,500 to 5,000 feet above sea level and is often shaded by avocado and banana trees. It is the home of Jamaican Blue Mountain, one of the world's most controversial coffees. Once a superb coffee characterised by a nutty aroma, bright acidty and a unique beel-boullion like flavour. Recent overproduction, lack of attention to quality and profiteering have led to a mediocre, over-priced product. Some confusion exists about where the boundaries for growing this product actually lie, and often coffees of lesser quality are packaged under its name. Jamaican High Mountain is a term that applies to coffees of lesser quality that are grown at a lower altitude than Jamaican Blue Mountain. Both coffees are produced using the wet-process.

Not all coffee produced on the island is exported. Jamaicans drink a fair amount of coffee and also use part of their production to make their local speciality, a liqueur called Tia Maria.

Coffee trees from the Caribbean were introduced into Mexico at the end of the 18th century. Today, coffee represents one third of the country's agricultural exports, and it is ranked fourth in the world for coffee production.

Mexico produces large quantities of unremarkable coffee that is often used for dark roasts and blending. The state of Vera Cruz produces many of these average coffees in its low lying regions, but in its mountains near the city of Coatepec an excellent coffee called Altura Coatepec is produced. These high grown, or altura, coffees are light bodied, nutty, with a chocolate tang and acidic snap. Altura Orizaba and Altura Huatusco are other fine coffees produced in Vera Cruz. The state of Oaxaca in the central mountains also produces some good coffees, referred to as either Oaxaca or Oaxaca Pluma. Chiapas, near the Guatemalan border, produces coffee under the market name Tapachula and is also gaining a reputation for its above average organic coffees. Coffees are produced using the wet-process.

The best known Nicaraguan coffees are produced by the wet-process in the Jinotega and Matagalpa regions and are light to medium bodied and fairly acidic. Nicaraguan coffee trees produce large beans that contain salty acidity and heavy body when brewed.

Panama is a relatively small coffee-producing country, but it has two very different growing regions which produce distinct coffees. Coffee produced in Panama is sweet, bright and balanced, and similar to coffee from the Tres Rios region of Costa Rica. This wet-processed coffee is often used for blending, but is excellent served as a breakfast brew.

Because of its mild character, Peruvian coffee is used for blending, French roasts, and as a flavoured-coffee base. Some good coffee can be found high in the Andes in the Chanchamayo and Urubamba Valleys, and northern Peru is developing a reputation as a producer of good quality, certified organic coffees.

The majority of Venezuala's coffee grows between 1,000 and 5,000 feet in the areas bordering Colombia. It produces approximately 1 million bags per year but exports much less because of high internal consumption.

The highest quality Venezuelan coffee is grown in the western part of the country near the Colombian border. Maraciabos, as this coffee is known, refers to the port from which the coffee is shipped. The most famous Maraciabos are Cucuta, Merida, Trujillo, and Tachira. Coffee grown in the eastern mountains is called Caracas, after the capital city. Venezuelan coffees differ from other coffees grown in the region in that they are much lower acidity.