The mountains of Central America have long been the source of some of the world’s finest coffees. Often overshadowed by South American coffee-producing powerhouses like Colombia and Brazil, Central American origins nonetheless produce a sweet, pleasing cup. Coffees from this region are known for notes of caramel, nuts, and ripe fruit, and above all, their balance. Central American coffees have MAJOR balance.
We currently have three awesome Central American coffees, from Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico respectively. We lined them up for a taste test, looking at growing and processing conditions to explore the differences in taste and body.
First, a quick look at each of these coffees:
Nicaragua // La Llamada – This micro-lot was grown on the La Bastilla farm in the Jinotega region of Nicaragua. It nails the traditional Central American taste profile–then takes it to another, fruitier level. Notes: Orange Zest, Red Grape, Almond.
Guatemala // HueHue – This mix of Typica, Caturra, and Bourbon beans comes from a variety of small producers in co-ops across a fairly broad region. This area is only 14 miles from the cooperative that produces Sierra Sur, across the border in Mexico. Though they are close by, the Huehuetenango region provides noticeably different coffees. Slow maturing and stacked drying give this coffee a heavier sweetness than the typical Central American. Notes: Melon, Raisin, Caramel.
The altitude at which beans grow greatly affects the final taste of a coffee. The Nicaragua grows at 1,350-1,450 meters, the perfect altitude for producing a classic, balanced Central American. High enough that floral, fruit notes come through, but low enough for warmer nights to infuse the beans with sweetness.
The Mexico and the Guatemala grow higher up, at 1,700-1900 meters and 1,500 – 1,800 meters, respectively. They grow on two sides of the same mountain range, just across the border from each other. These coffees are great examples of how slight differences in altitude and growing conditions can produce different flavors in the cup. Growing high on the western slopes of the Sierra Madres, the beans on the Mexico side endure cold nights, producing intense floral notes. Growing across the mountain range and slightly lower, the beans on the Guatemala side catch dry, hot winds blowing south from Mexico, and their cherries mature more slowly, taking on the sweetness of ripe fruit.
Most Central American coffees are washed, meaning fully pulped and laid out to dry without any cherry on the bean. It’s a reliable way to get a clean-tasting cup, and helps balance fruit and nut flavors. The Nicaragua exemplifies this with its taste of fresh fruit and light body. All of these coffees are washed, which shows in their shared balance and bright flavors, but the Guatemala is a bit unique. After washing, producers in Huehue leave a little pulp on their beans, then stack them in layers so that they dry more slowly, soaking in more fruit notes. This shows in Huehue’s final cup – a deeper, more syrupy sweetness of caramel and melon than is typically found in a Central American.
All three coffees are unique and excellent examples of Central American coffee’s range and potential. Trying each one on the same brewing method is a great way to explore the difference and similarities for yourself, and you can get all three coffees here. Happy brewing!
Have a question about origin or need a bean recommendation? Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.