Costa Rican Coffee Vs. Ethiopian Coffee, Compared and Explained

coffee trees growing in costa rica

by Matt Gibson

When shopping for some of the best single origin coffees you can find, you will doubtlessly come across several choice single origin roasts from Costa Rica and Ethiopia that demand consideration. Costa Rica is not one of the world’s biggest coffee producers, but the coffee that they make in Costa Rica is amongst the best coffees in the world. Costa Rican coffee is produced by many small farms all around the country, and the country is obsessed with producing the highest quality coffee beans possible. In fact, there is even a law in place in Costa Rica which bans local farmers from growing or selling robusta beans, for they are considered inferior to arabica beans.

Ethiopia naturally has ideal coffee growing conditions in many parts of their country, with high elevations and rich, volcanic soils. Considering the country has been producing coffee since around 700 A.D., there is little wonder that Ethiopian grown coffee is considered some of the best coffee in the world. 

Before we dive into each country’s various types of coffee, what are the main differences between the coffees that are produced in Costa Rica and Ethiopia? For starters, Costa Rican coffee usually has a light to medium body, it typically contains sweet, or floral notes, and is usually mild in acidity. Ethiopian coffee, on the other hand, usually has a full or heavy body, and can have a wide range of complex notes, from fruity and floral, to mocha, to spicy, or even wine-like characteristics. Ethiopian coffee is usually high in acidity as well, making it rather different from most Costa Rican roasts. 

Costa Rican Coffee 

Coffee is not one of Costa Rica’s biggest exports. In fact, the country is only responsible for around 1% of the world’s coffee production. But what Costa Rican coffee lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. Costa Rica is the only country in the entire coffee producing world, which has a law against growing the inferior robusta coffee bean. That’s right, for Costa Rican coffee farmers, it’s arabica beans or it’s an actual crime. 

The Costa Rican climates are ideal for coffee production, and their coffee crops enjoy both a rainy, and a dry season. The southern highlands, as well as the central rainforest area of Costa Rica, are both excellent locations for coffee farming, and each climate produces a distinctly different type of coffee cherry. 

Depending on what region of Costa Rica the coffee was grown in, as well as the processing method used to wash the beans, you can get quite a bit of diversity when trying out different Costa Rican coffees. Coffee beans grown in the Tarrazu are known for their multilayered aroma, while coffees grown in the West Central Valley region are loved for their fruity notes and buttery aftertaste. 

The processing also has a major effect on the final taste of Costa Rican coffees. Washed coffees from Costa Rica are known for their chocolatey and fruity flavors, and naturally-processed Costa Rican beans are known for their syrupy notes, as well as hints of citrus and grape. Honey-processed beans from Costa Rica are known for their sweeter notes, as well as hints of honey and molasses. 

Ethiopian Coffee

Ethiopia is known as the birthplace of coffee. The coffee cherry was largely ignored until a goat farmer named Kaldi noticed his goats acting strange after consuming the red berries. Some versions of the legend claim that Kaldi brewed a tea out of the coffee cherries and was happy to find something that gave him a little bit of extra energy while he carried out his chores. Other versions of the legend claim that he didn’t care for the coffee cherries, and tossed them into the fire, only to fall in love with the scent that was created by the roasting cherries. 

Whether Kaldi was a big coffee drinker or not, his discovery led to the popularization of coffee, which is now one of the world’s most widely consumed beverages. It is not hard to believe that the birthplace of coffee is also responsible for producing some of the world’s best coffee beans. For coffee drinkers looking for single origin coffee beans with a unique and remarkable flavor, trying Ethiopian coffee is a must. 

Though there are thousands of different kinds of Ethiopian coffee beans, the three most popular types are Yirgacheffe, Harrar, and Lima. The Yirgacheffe coffee beans are produced in high altitudes ranging from 5,800 to 7,600 feet above sea level. The result is a smooth, fruity, rich and complex tasting coffee, with more floral notes than other popular Ethiopian varieties. The pour over method is recommended for Yirgacheffe coffee, to bring out it’s brighter, more complex notes. 

Harrar coffee is known for its natural mocha flavor and aroma. It is grown at lower elevations than Yirgacheffe coffee beans, but is still grown in the mountains. Harrar is grown in the northeastern highlands of Ethiopia, and it lends itself well to cold brew and french press coffee. 

From the central area of Ethiopia, grown in the lands near the country’s capital city, Lima coffee beans are known for their bright, acidic notes, and sharp, almost wine-like flavors. Lima coffee also has some floral notes and spicy undertones. 

The Final Verdict

When it comes to which country produces the best single origin coffee, it’s all about trying them all! It’s really hard to say that one country is better than another when it comes to coffee, as everyone’s palate is different. One thing is for sure, you’ll enjoy trying out all of the different coffees that come from Costa Rica and Ethiopia, and deciding for yourself which ones you like the best. 

Learn More About Costa Rican and Ethiopian Coffees

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