Regional coffee profile: South America

Intoxicating, good body, sweet flavor…are words most commonly used to describe South American coffees — and we have to agree! South American coffees are renowned for their aromatics and stunningly smooth, textured bodies. Grown on soaring mountain ranges, in rich volcanic soil, beneath old growth forests, and graced with stabilizing ocean winds, it’s no wonder that South America is a prime supplier for the global coffee market. Alone or part of a blend, we encourage you to explore the rich and diverse world of South American coffee.

Please note that this blog only covers South American countries predominantly growing shade-grown, high-grown, arabicas and only references arabica coffee.

REGIONAL CHARACTERISTICS

  • Acidity: Moderate / Moderate-low
  • Body: Good
  • Mouthfeel: Medium
  • Roast: Medium to Vienna
  • Common identifying words: Sweet, aromatic, smooth, mild
  • Prominent flavor tones: Floral, soft citrus, mild nut
  • Most common varietals*: Catimor, Catuai, Mundo Novo, Typica

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BOLIVIA

  • Growing regions: Caranavi, Cochabamba, El Beni, La Paz, Pando, Santa Cruz, Yungas
  • Harvest: July — October
  • Varietals: Catimor, Catuai, Caturra, Criollo, Typica

  • Acidity: Mild
  • Body: Good
  • Mouthfeel: Medium
  • Dominant flavor notes: Delicate fruit, spice, nut, caramel
  • Takeaway: Clean and smooth with gentle fruit and mild sugar tones

Bolivian coffee is smooth and clean with a moderate mouthfeel, mild acidity, and notes of soft fruit (e.g., peach, plum, nectarine), light sugar, and mild nut. Light roasted Bolivian coffees may also exhibit subtle cinnamon spice upper notes.

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Mount Illimani soaring behind the city of La Paz, Bolivia

BRAZIL

  • Growing regions: Bahia, Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais (including Cerrado Mineiro), Paraná, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo
  • Harvest: April — September
  • Varietals: Bourbon, Catimor, Catuai, Caturra, Mundo Novo, Pacamara, Typica

  • Acidity: Moderate-low
  • Body: Good to heavy
  • Mouthfeel: Medium
  • Dominant flavor notes: Mild nut, sweet spice, melon, flower
  • Takeaway: Balanced with a nutty base and understated melon and floral notes

Brazilian coffee is textured and balanced with a light velvet mouthfeel, smooth nut-toned base, and sparkling upper notes of dewy melon and fruit flower with a touch of dark sugar-spice.

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Brazil’s Atlantic Forest stretches from the south to north along the Atlantic coast.

COLOMBIA

  • Growing regions: Antioquia (including Medellin), Boyacá, Caldas, Caquetá, Casanare, Cesar, Cundinamarca, Guajira, Huila, Magdalena, Meta, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Quindío (including Armenia), Risaralda, Santander (including Bucaramanga), Tolima, Valle del Cauca
  • Harvest: September — January, March — June (fly crop)
  • Varietals: Bourbon, Castillo, Catimor, Caturra, Colombia, Maragogype, Typica

  • Acidity: Moderate
  • Body: Full
  • Mouthfeel: Rich
  • Dominant flavor notes: Milk chocolate, mild nut, wine
  • Takeaway: Rich and balanced with strong notes of chocolate, delicate red wine, and smooth walnut

Colombian coffees are rich with a caramel-like mouthfeel and moderate acidity. Their base notes often have strong hints of walnut supporting solid, balanced upper notes of sweet chocolate and Chianti wine. Colombian coffees are some of the world’s most aromatic.

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Old growth forest creating a canopy on the mountains in the background

ECUADOR

  • Growing regions: Carchi, Chinchipe, El Oro, Galapagos, Guayas, Loja, Manabi, Pichincha, Zamora
  • Harvest: November — March
  • Varietals: Bourbon, Caturra, Sidra, Typica

  • Acidity: Moderate-high
  • Body: Medium
  • Mouthfeel: Medium
  • Dominant flavor notes: Chocolate, delicate spice, herbs, bright citrus
  • Takeaway: Sweet and bright with dominant notes of rich chocolate, caramel spice, and lively orange

Ecuadorian coffee has a velvety mouthful with high acidity and strong base notes of chocolate and caramel. The close is a bright, crisp citrus finish. Ecuadorian coffees produce a sweet, rich aroma.

coffee-163751_1280 2.jpg
Coffee from the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

PERU

  • Growing regions: Amazonas, Cajamarca, Carabaya, Chanchamayo, Cusco, Huánuco, Junín, Lambayeque, Piura, San Martin, Sandia
  • Harvest: March — September
  • Varietals: Bourbon, Catimor, Caturra, Mundo Novo, Pache, Typica, Villa Lobos

  • Acidity: Moderate
  • Body: Full
  • Mouthfeel: Rich
  • Dominant flavor notes: Mellow fruit and citrus, vanilla, rich nut, chocolate
  • Takeaway: Lively but delicate with fresh fruit and citrus notes over a smooth chocolate-nut base

Peruvian coffee has a rich, creamy mouthfeel, moderate acidity, and delicate sweet notes elegantly spread over a nutty dark chocolate base.

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Manchu Picchu and the surrounding mountains of Cusco Region

VENEZUELA

  • Growing regions: Caripe, Duaca, Mérida, Táchira, Trujilo
  • Harvest: October — January
  • Varietals: Bourbon, Caturra, Mundo Novo, Typica

  • Acidity: Moderate
  • Body: Good
  • Mouthfeel: Medium
  • Dominant flavor notes: Mild fruit, clementine / mandarin
  • Takeaway: Balanced and bright with subtle fruit and sweet citrus notes

Venezuelan coffee is clean with a light but rich mouthfeel and good acidity. In general, this is a sweet coffee dominated by subtle, rich fruit and sugary citrus notes.

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Mérida, Venezuela

 

*For more information on varietals and cultivars, click here

To continue exploring coffees of the world, check out our other regional coffee profiles:

Africa

Asia

Central America

 

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