Though many countries produce coffee, data from International Coffee Organization shows that the lion’s share comes from Brazil, Vietnam, Columbia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. As we’ll see, these countries dominate the industry, and each of them brings something unique to the table.
Since most coffee comes from one of two major commercially produced beans, it’s safe to assume that your morning cup was brewed with either Arabica or Robusta beans. Arabica beans are the more expensive of the two, a product of the increased time, labor, and care required to produce them. Still, seventy-percent of all coffee comes from these beans. On the other hand, Robusta beans are cheaper and are often considered to be of a lower quality than Arabica. They’re also easier and faster to produce, and farmers can harvest more per branch.
We’ll start with the number one producer and work our way down. According to the International Coffee Organization, Brazil tops out the list, producing a whopping 5.7 billion pounds of coffee in a year. This should come as no surprise; Brazil has topped these charts for upwards of 150 years. Their production tends to concentrate in the southeastern states of Minas Gerais, Parana, and Sao Paulo, which host ideal climates for the beans that have become a staple of the Brazilian economy.
Vietnam takes second place, producing over 3.6 billion pounds annually. Surprisingly, it’s a fairly new player in the coffee industry. It was only a few decades back, in the 1980s, that the nation’s coffee production experienced explosive growth under the Communist Party. Today, its coffee production is second only to rice, and it continues to be foundational to its economy.
Coming up in third is Colombia which produced 1.8 billion pounds of coffee. Despite a changing climate (conditions are becoming less conducive to coffee production), Colombia is still the number one producer of Arabica beans, and Colombian coffee is one of the most popular types around the world.
Indonesia ranks fourth, having produced just under 1.5 billion pounds of coffee. The Indonesian climate is well-suited for Robusta beans, which make up roughly eighty-percent of its exports. And though it specializes in producing the “cheaper” beans, it’s also the home to the most expensive coffee in the world: the kopi luwak, a unique coffee brewed using beans that have been digested by the Asian palm civet. Yes, they pick them out of their poop.
Finally, Ethiopia ranks fifth, having exported 850 million pounds of coffee. Seeing that Ethiopia is the home of the Arabica bean ( it was first discovered there by a cattle herder long ago), it should come as no surprise that this country takes its coffee production seriously. In fact, the Ethiopian government has trademarked many popular varieties of the Arabica bean, including the Harar, Sidamo, and Limu bean. Coffee beans make up nearly thirty percent of their annual exports, and the industry has over 15 million people employed.