Emerald Travels: Café


Sean Jansen
Travel Columnist


What is a café? By direct definition from the Webster’s dictionary, a café is: a restaurant, usually small and pretentious. To us in the states, a café is a place you generally go in the morning or early afternoon to get yourself a coffee or tea, and most serve breakfast or brunch. They are places you can go with friends or family to dine and talk, and some bring computers to work and drink. However, funnily enough, the direct translation of ‘café’ is coffee, translated from Spanish, French, and Portuguese, all with the same word and meaning.

In fact, many countries around the world use the word ‘café’ with similar spelling and pronunciation. In Italian, for example, it’s spelled ‘caffe’.  In Germany the word for coffee is ‘kaffee’. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark say ‘kaffe’. In Indonesia it’s ‘kopi’. And lastly, in Latin it’s simply ‘coffee’.

Now, people all over the world drink coffee, but interestingly enough many do not know where coffee comes from.  Coffee is grown all over the world, and on virtually every continent. However, coffee is a very picky and frustrating plant to grow. It needs special climate, time, elevation, and temperatures. And while I mentioned it is grown on almost every continent, within those continents only certain areas and countries can grow it with abundance and quality. The temperature needs to be between 60 and 90 degrees, the elevation needs to be around 3,000 to 6,000 feet, and it needs to be a somewhat tropical climate to allow for
significant year-round rainfall.

So with the specifics narrowed down, you can imagine that only a few countries in the world can grow coffee and grow it with impressive numbers and quality. The top ten producers of coffee around the world (the U.S. is the largest importer of coffee) are, in this order, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, Ethiopia, India, Guatemala, Cote D’Ivoire, and Uganda. Two in South America, three in Asia, two in Central America, and three in Africa, all with special climates, variables, and flavors. Other producers of coffee with equal value and flavor are Italy, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Peru, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

One can literally grow coffee anywhere and everywhere, but the best flavor, quality, and boldness of the cup is grown at the specifications listed above. So the next time you go to buy your bag of coffee and have never given any thought to where your coffee comes from, take a longer look at the bag. Who knows, maybe you will find a coffee from a certain part of the world more favorable than others. Taste away and enjoy as I have. And perhaps you will one day go to one of these countries and do a coffee tour, and really enjoy and appreciate where your coffee comes from.

Emerald contributor since March 2012


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