Sudden Coffee

The Complete Guide To Coffee Bean Origins: Asia And The Pacific

Have you enjoyed the deep flavors of coffee grown on the mountainous islands of Indonesia? What about coffee harvested in the shadows of ancient Myanmar temples? Asia and the Pacific islands, including the coffee they produce, are not as well explored as other world regions by Western coffee markets—but it’s time we change that.

Let’s journey through this world regions’ coffee producing countries together. We’ll learn some history, some culture, and a lot about the actual coffee. The world’s a better place when we take the time to learn about far away places, but, more practically, this will also help you buy coffee that’s more suited for your flavor preferences and lifestyle.

It’s disclaimer time: coffee flavor can change dramatically from region to region and farm to farm within a single country. When we make generalizations about a country’s coffee flavor, please keep in mind that the typical flavor profile is certainly not the only flavor profile.

Let’s begin with a country that’s long been shrouded in mystery—but also grows some exotic and delicious coffee.

Myanmar

Coffee arrived to Myanmar (formerly ‘Burma’) around 1815. We know that coffee didn’t take off as a commercial crop until about a century later. Other than that, the history’s a little cloudy. In 2000, the Burmese government even cut off exports to the United States and kicked out many NGO’s. All this to say, our knowledge of Myanmar’s coffee industry before now is fairly limited.

In 2016, the government of new Myanmar re-approved exports to the United States, giving many Americans the chance to try this country’s coffee for the first time—and we instantly fell in love.

Coffee from Myanmar is almost exclusively high-quality arabica coffee. The brewed coffee often has a very complex flavor profile, featuring fruity and floral flavors, a cola-like acidity, and a light body.


Common Flavors:

  • Cola-Like Acidity
  • Light Body
  • Complex, Fruity, Floral

Processing Methods:

  • Washed
  • Natural

India

When Baba Budan, a Muslim pilgrim, left Mecca to return to India in 1600, he wasn’t just carrying clothes. Strapped to his waist were a handful of smuggled coffee beans—and these would become the seeds of the world’s first commercial coffee industry outside of Africa and Arabia.

The coffee industry started to grow with British occupation in the 1840’s, when colonizers established large plantation-like farms. However, the first boom wouldn’t last long.

In the 1860’s, a disease struck India’s coffee farmers, decimating their production for multiple years. In response, farmers uprooted their arabica plants and started growing more robusta coffee, which was far more resilient to disease. India has since recovered and is now the 7th largest coffee producer in the world.

Most of the coffee grown is still of the robusta species, but we’ve actually seen several specialty-grade robustas arise from some areas. They’re rare and still experimental, so we’re not quite sure what they taste like. The few specialty-grade arabicas that are exported tend to have a complex spice-forward flavor profile with a crisp acidity and medium body.

Common Flavors:

  • Crisp Acidity
  • Medium Body
  • Complex Spice, Earthy Flavors

Processing Methods:

  • Natural
  • Washed
  • Monsooned

Thailand

Despite growing a considerable amount of coffee since coffee was introduced commercially in the early 1900’s, most of Thailand’s coffee crop is enjoyed locally or purchased by Asian buyers. Many Americans have no idea that Thailand even grows coffee.

Most farms in Thailand grow robusta coffee—roughly 95%—but the northern area of the country does produce some exceptional arabica as well. The specialty-grade coffees we see come out of Thailand generally have a medium acidity, medium body, and chocolate, spice, and floral flavor notes.

Common Flavors:

  • Medium Acidity
  • Medium Body
  • Chocolate, Floral, Spice Notes

Processing Methods:

  • Washed


Vietnam

Similarly to its neighbors, Vietnam received coffee in the early 1800’s by European settlers—in this case, French settlers. The coffee industry picked up very quickly and, despite political unrest and substandard infrastructure in the more rural regions, it’s stayed up. The only crop that’s exported more than coffee is rice.

Most of the coffee plants are of the robusta species, and, thus, produce very bitter coffee with the occasional pleasant notes of spice, vanilla, and forestry. The Vietnamese government is currently incentivizing farmers to plant more arabica plants, but it’ll be some time before these new plants produce large yields of beans.

Common Flavors:

  • Low Acidity
  • Medium Body
  • Vanilla, Spice, Forestry
  • Rough Bitterness

Processing Methods:

  • Washed


Indonesia

Coffee was first cultivated in Indonesia in the late 1600’s by Dutch traders, and over the next century it would make its way to dozens of Indonesia’s 17,500 islands—most notably Sulawesi, Sumatra, Java, and Bali. For a time in the early-1800’s, several Indonesian islands were among the top coffee producers in the world.

Unfortunately, a particularly bad wave of coffee rust decimated the coffee industry of Indonesia and much of Asia. Understandably, farmers uprooted their arabica plants and replaced them with more resilient robusta plants.

These days, over half of the coffee grown on the Indonesian islands is robusta, but the arabica beans that are exported are classic and well-known around the world. Most tend to have a mild acidity, full body, and flavor notes of earth, spice, chocolate, flowers, and pine.

Common Flavors:

  • Mild Acidity
  • Medium Body
  • Earth, Spice, Chocolate, Flowers, Pine

Processing Methods:

  • Washed
  • Natural
  • Giling Basah

Papua New Guinea

Coffee production launched on the island nation of Papua New Guinea in the early-1900’s with the arrival of British and German colonists, but the crop wasn’t thriving like they had hoped it would. They requested seedlings from Jamaica—of the Jamaican Blue Mountain variety, to be exact—and those plants turned out to be better suited to the island’s climate. By the 30’s, coffee production was really beginning to take off.

Papua New Guinea produces coffee that generally has a crisp citrus acidity, floral aromas, and intricate flavor notes of spices, milk, fruits, and nuts.

Common Flavors:

  • Crisp Acidity
  • Medium Body
  • Spice, Milk, Fruit, Nuts

Processing Methods:

  • Washed

Hawaii

Far away from all the other countries on this list lies the 50th state of the United States, Hawaii. Coffee arrived at the island chain in 1813, but the industry didn’t really begin to thrive until bourbon variety seedlings arrived in the late-1820’s. The volcanic soils, cool climate, high altitude, and frequent rain made several Hawaiian islands ideal for coffee growing.

Backed by the thriving economy and labor laws of the United States, modern Hawaiian coffee is, unsurprisingly, quite expensive compared to coffee from other countries. That hasn’t stopped the origin from succeeding in the global market, however.

Hawaiian coffees frequently feature a crisp acidity, medium body, and deep, complex fruity, floral, and vanilla flavors.

Common Flavors:

  • Crisp Acidity
  • Medium Body
  • Deep, Complex, Fruity, Floral, Vanilla

Processing Methods:

  • Washed
  • Natural

There are a handful of islands located across the Pacific that grow coffee, including East Timor and Vanuatu, but we chose to focus on the more notable and influential producing countries for this blog. Next time you enjoy a mug of coffee from one of these countries, we have a feeling it will be even tastier than normal now that you know some context.

That’s one of the thing we love about Sudden—exploring origins, flavors, and cultures with you. Coffee’s diverse and fascinating, and we’re honored to help you enjoy it. Take a look at our current lineup of coffees and grab yourself a free sample.

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