While some of the world’s top coffee-producing nations are well-known, others may come as a surprise. More than 70 countries produce coffee, but the majority of global output comes from the top five producers: Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia.
The production of coffee has played a pivotal role in the development of Brazil and continues to be a driving force in the country’s economy. The plant was first brought to Brazil in the early 18th century by French settlers. With the rise in popularity of coffee among Europeans, Brazil became the world’s largest producer in the 1840s and has been ever since. Some 300,000 coffee farms are spread over the Brazilian landscape.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Brazil is expected to produce 58 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee in the 2019-20 marketing year, accounting for more than a third of the world’s production.
Relatively new to the international coffee trade, Vietnam has quickly become one of the largest producers. In the 1980s, the Communist Party made a big bet on coffee, and production increased by 20% to 30% every year during the 1990s, completely transforming the nation’s economy. Vietnam is expected to produce 32.2 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee in 2019–2020, according to the USDA.
Vietnam found a niche in the international market by focusing primarily on the less-expensive robusta bean. Robusta beans can have up to twice the caffeine as Arabica beans, giving the coffee a more bitter taste. Vietnam is the No. 1 producer of robusta coffee in the world, accounting for more than 40% of global output in the 2019–2020 marketing year.
A popular advertising campaign featuring a fictional coffee farmer named Juan Valdez helped brand Colombia as one of the most famous coffee-producing nations. Colombia is renowned for its quality coffee and is expected to produce 14.3 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee in 2019-20.
For several years beginning in 2008, Colombian coffee crops were hit by a leaf disease known as coffee rust. Output plummeted but has since rebounded as the country replaced trees with rust-resistant varieties. Colombia ranks second in arabica production, and millions worldwide prefer their mild, well-balanced flavor.
Indonesia’s location and climate have helped it become the third-largest producer of robusta beans in the world. Total production, including robusta and arabica, is 10.7 million 60-kilogram bags in the 2019–2020 marketing year. In Indonesia, there are 1.2 million hectares of coffee crops; small, independent farms account for the vast majority of output, each owning one to two hectares.
Indonesia produces several types of highly sought-after specialty coffees, the most interesting of which is Kopi Luwak. Harvested from the feces of Asian palm civets, the beans have a distinctive and understandably unique flavor. The process of collecting and harvesting the beans is rather intensive, and the result is one of the most expensive coffee beans in the world.
Ethiopia regained the No. 5 spot in the 2018–2019 year and is expected to produce 7.3 million 60-kilogram bags in the 2019–2020 marketing year, just edging out Honduras, which had captured position from Ethiopia in the 2016–2017 marketing year.
Ethiopia is the largest coffee producer in Africa and is expected to export a record amount in the 2019–2020 marketing year, according to the USDA.