As well as producing the most celebrated blends of coffee in the world, these four countries are among the most beautiful on the planet.
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Ethiopia is the spiritual home of coffee. It’s where the coffee plant, Coffea arabica, originates and it produces some of the best cups in the world.
Legend has it that a Sufi goatherd named Kaldi discovered the drink when he noticed his goats becoming energetic and dancing whenever they ate the cherries of the Coffea arabica plant. Intrigued, Kaldi brought the cherries to some Islamic monks at a Sufi monastery. A pious bunch: the monks branded the beans the work of the devil and cast them into the fire.
However, the rich aroma of the roasting beans caused the monks to reconsider. The beans were raked and crushed to put out the embers, before being added to a jug of warm water for preservation. Later, the monks consumed the brew, discovering that it helped them stay alert while performing their nightly devotions.
"Legend has it that a goatherd discovered the drink when he noticed his goats becoming energetic and dancing"
This story is contested by some, but Ethiopia’s position as the world’s best coffee growing nation is accepted by many. As the genetic birthplace of Coffea arabica, Ethiopia doesn’t suffer from the kind of climate-related diseases that other nations, where coffee is not native but introduced, have to contend with.
Some coffee connoisseurs consider Ethiopian coffee the true taste of coffee, unsullied by genetic drift or changing climates.
In addition to visiting the home of coffee, highlights of an Abyssinian adventure include the monolithic rock-cut churches of Lalibela, the epic rolling landscapes of the Simien mountains, the source of the Blue Nile and the walled city of Harar, where locals live in harmony with hyenas.
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Columbia is the second most biodiverse nation in the world. There are over 56,000 species of flora and fauna to be found in this enticing country, but perhaps none more famous than the coffee plant. Colombia’s varied microclimates lend its coffee many unique flavour profiles, but one enduring note is the tropical taste of fruit.
Colombian coffee is famous around the world thanks, in part, to the work of Juan Valdez–the fictional, white sombrero wearing spokesperson for the National Confederation of Coffee Growers.
The Federation is a cooperative of over 500,000 farmers formed in 1927 to promote Colombian coffee as a product of excellence. And the fictional character Juan Valdez, typically pictured carrying sacks of freshly harvested beans alongside his mule Conchita, was created in 1958 to help develop the nation’s special brand.
In between trips to the coffee fincas there are colonial Caribbean cities such as Cartagena to visit, breathtaking Amazon adventures to be had, thrilling treks through the tropical Andes to complete and thriving metropolises such as Bogotá and Medellin to explore.
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Coffee was introduced to Indonesia by the Dutch in the 17th century and has contributed significantly to the growth of the country.
These days Indonesia produces around 540,000 metric tonnes of coffee a year, of which around a third is consumed domestically. As the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, coffee is found at the heart of social life.
Although most Indonesians drink cheaper blends of instant robusta coffee, in recent years hip, affluent citizens have taken to drinking and learning about Indonesia’s revered arabica beans.
"The curious traveller will never cease to be amazed by the outstanding natural and cultural bounties that Indonesia has to offer"
It’s seen as cool to be able to identify the complex flavour profiles of different coffees and give information about the region of the country they are from.
For example, an Indonesian Arabica addict may tell you that Balinese coffee is often sweet and soft with citrus notes. But a real aficionado will tell you about the volcanic island’s specialist coffee farmers who practise the Hindu philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, which teaches that there are three causes of happiness: good relations with God, other people and the environment. In order to maintain good relations with the environment, these smallholder farmers always employ organic production.
With over 17,000 islands to explore and 500 languages to learn, the curious traveller will never cease to be amazed by the outstanding natural and cultural bounties that Indonesia has to offer.
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This small Central American country has made a massive mark on the global coffee scene. Many of the world’s finest and most distinctive coffees are farmed in the highlands of Guatemala.
Fincas sloped on the volcanic hills surrounding the colonial city of Antigua exhibit smoky, spicy, flowery notes with hints of chocolate. While smallholder farms in the basin of the impossibly picturesque Lake Atitlán are renowned for running in exquisite harmony with the earth.
Guatemala is another country of immense natural splendour, and some of its organic coffee farmers make use of dense forestry, rather than construct artificial awnings, to shade their crops.
For those who’ve tasted Guatemalan coffee in Guatemala, the rich smoky notes conjure images of ancient Maya pyramid sites, the emerald swimming pools of Semuc Champey and the colourful markets of Chichicastenango and Sololá every time.
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