Ever wondered why you cannot grow your own coffee at home?
Like other plants, coffee beans need specific conditions to grow and ripen properly, and the coffee belt provides everything these caffeine-stuffed fruits could need to grow.
So what is the coffee belt? We have sifted through the data to reveal the facts behind your favorite cup of joe.
The Coffee Belt (What Does This Term Mean?)
The coffee belt, also known as the bean belt, refers to countries that lie around the equator that commonly grow quality beans.
These coffee belt countries can be found between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn or between the 25 degrees north and 30 degrees south strip of the world.
This invisible loop around the world is around 3200 miles long and provides everything Arabica coffee plants and other coffee trees need to grow.
Five different continents are included in this strip, providing a wonderful blend of international trade. In fact, almost all of the world’s supply of Arabica coffee is grown in coffee belt countries around the world.
The coffee belt and coffee industry got its start in Sudan but took off in Ethiopia hundreds of years ago.
By the 1600s, traders were exporting coffee from Ethiopia to Yemen and the Middle East, and Arabian Peninsula, where coffee shops were starting to take off.
Why Does Coffee Grow Better In The Coffee Belt?
As any gardener will tell you, plants need certain light, water, rich soil, and humidity conditions in order to thrive; coffee plants are no exception.
Part of what makes the final product so good in our morning brew is the conditions and even the precise altitude that went into crafting those specific Arabica beans.
What is it about this bean belt that makes growing coffee and coffee producing so good? There are a few reasons, but the location matters when it comes to coffee growing.
The conditions in the coffee belt regions are perfect for ripening coffee beans by carefully balancing various elements, including the following.
Water is necessary for most plants to thrive, including the coffee plant. Coffee grows best in regions that have a rainy season, which applies to the entire coffee belt map - some countries even get multiple rainy seasons a year.
Humidity is also an important factor in avoiding drying out.
Coffee bean plants need between 50 and 70 percent humidity year-round to flourish, which suits the humid nations near the equator perfectly.
However, coffee bean growing also necessitates a dry season with shaded sun to prevent the plants from drowning, burning, or getting root rot over time.
Growing coffee requires a hot tropical climate of around 73 degrees Fahrenheit and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Coffees with a medium body do well in the belt as they enjoy a yearly average of 73 to 88 degrees in equatorial nations.
Frost is a huge killer of coffees, making them ill-suited for cooler climates like Scandinavia and the UK.
For Arabica, high mountainous regions provide the right balance of cloud cover, sun, soil, and water.
Most species tend to thrive in mountain farms sitting around 3,500-5,000 square feet above sea level.
Not all coffee grown at such a high altitude does well, but those strains are outliers rather than the standard.
High altitudes like these provide a perfect temperature variation from morning to night which helps the coffee growing process speed up.
Mountainous regions also experience alternating rainy and dry periods with cloud cover that coffee beans love.
As a rule, the higher the elevation, the higher quality and the more expensive the coffee is. When purchasing high-altitude blends, be prepared to shell out a bit more than usual.
Plant enthusiasts know that soil quality and nutrient density are key to letting your plants thrive. For coffee plants, nitrogen is a key element that needs to be in their soil for a long, healthy life.
In the coffee belt map lies another area known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area with 75 percent of the world’s volcanoes.
Volcanic activity, while potentially devastating, provides fertile, mineral-enriched soil perfect for growing crops like coffee plants.
Guatemala, Peru, and Papua New Guinea are just a few nations in this ring of the belt.
The nutrient density, quality of the soil, and ideal conditions all play a huge factor in how the beans taste, with each region often having a special flavor profile, no matter the brand or strain.
Where Is The Coffee Belt Located? (Regions & Countries)
The coffee belt stretches across five continents and 70 different countries.
While each region is famous for growing certain beans, they each help provide the world with our favorite espressos and frappes. Some of the most famous nations in this belt include:
Africa is home to many coffee belt regions, including Ethiopia, Yemen, Tanzania, and Kenya.
There are various types of coffees grown here, including Bugisu, Harrar, and Sidamo. African-grown coffees tend to be full-bodied, chocolatey, and complex in flavor.
Asia and Southeast Asia
Asia is home to plenty of powerful coffee regions, including India, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.
These coffees tend to be flexible in body and acidity while providing an earthy multi-layered drinking experience.
Many islands produce delicious coffee beans, but we particularly want to highlight the Kona region of Hawaii’s Big Island.
Kona coffee is made along a 30-mile-long stretch of land about 2-3 miles wide.
It has around 700-2,500 feet of elevation with the ideal amount of rainfall, temperatures, and seasonal shifts to create sensational coffee.
Coffee was originally brought to the region in the late 1820s from a Brazilian strain.
Island coffee tastes as diverse as the lands that create it but tends to have a medium body with mellow, sweet layers.
There are plenty of notable beans grown in Central America, including the Bourbon, Caturra, Typica, Altura, and Catuai.
Beans from the Central American region of the belt tend to be medium-bodied, spicy, lively, and fruity.
The beans of South America are flavourful and zesty, with plenty of types available.
From the Bahia to the Supremo to the Bogota, there are so many delicious ways to have your coffee and drink it, too.
South American coffee beans tend to have notes of caramel, chocolate, and a fruity, nutty background.
Frequently Asked Coffee Belt Questions
Does anything else grow in the coffee belt?
Many other crops and plants grow in the coffee belt, including avocados, bananas, pineapples, coconuts, and more.
Can coffee grow outside the coffee belt?
It is incredibly difficult to produce coffee plants elsewhere in the world, particularly in areas that do not have the right balance of soil, temperature, humidity, and so on.
You could maybe grow a single plant to add to your collection with care, but not a whole field.
How is climate change affecting the coffee belt?
Higher temperatures and less bountiful rains are becoming increasing issues for the coffee belt.
These changes are increasing threats to coffee growth, such as coffee rust and borer beetle infestations.
Agricultural scientists are working to combat these changes, but it is theorized that less than half of the current coffee-producing areas will be functional by 2050.
Is Hawaii or Japan in the coffee belt?
Hawaii’s Kona region is in the coffee belt, as are Japan’s Ogasawara Island chain prefectures like Nagasaki, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, and Okinawa.
Each of these areas produces wonderful high-quality coffee.
Coffee plants are a picky sort that requires a delicate balance of elements to grow into the delicious caffeine-boosting drink we all love.
How these elements work together, along with what nutrients the plants consume, affect how your morning brew tastes.
We recommend trying as many different blends from the belt as possible, from medium-body varieties to those with mild acidity, but be prepared to pay a little more for higher-elevation strains grown in mild temperatures.