We are working hard to establish direct relationships with farmers. These relationships are extremely beneficial as they provide insight into their farming practices, socio-economic and other challenges, and more. This provides a deeper understanding and appreciation of the hard work they invest to achieve the exceptional coffees produced. In our first few years, we have established several great relationships in the Americas, and will continue to establish more in all coffee regions of the world. Learn more about Producer-Direct relationships.
North American specialty coffees are typically produced in Mexico and are generally low-toned, round and sweet with complexities depending on the farm's elevation and regional micro-climate.
Mexico's coffee industry has been isolated from the rest of the world until very recently. Since coffee reached the northern land of Mexico, it has been traded and consumed almost entirely within the country's borders. Through the efforts of western importers and direct trade coffee roasters, the amazing coffees grown in the tropical regions of Mexico have become available to the outside world.
Regions such as Huatusco, Veracruz, and Chiapas have been exploding with growth, despite the war against a potentially catastrophic fugus called "Roya" that can decimate an entire harvest depending on the species of coffee plant. Western science is helping to find species that will resist Roya and perpetuate the growth of Mexico's global coffee industry.
Central America houses a wide range of micro-climates, elevations and farming methods that generally offer sweet, clean and crisp coffees. Nuances vary greatly in this part of the world offering a vast flavor spectrum.
The quality of Nicaraguan coffees have been on the rise since the new millenium. After many years of conventional and co-op dominated production, we are seeing more smallholder blends of exquisite quality. A smallholder grows a small amount of coffee beside other cash crops. Several smallholder lots will be blended based on similarities or complimenting flavor profiles.
As more attention to detail is given to growing unique coffee varietals, such as Pacamara Maracaturra and Maragogype, the increase in quality year to year has become undeniable. Investing in these efforts is an integral part of Insight's sourcing department. Working directly with high-quality producers is a practice worth celebrating.
Guatemala produces some of the highest quality coffees in Central America. There are at least 8 different microclimates in Guatemala, each exhibiting distinct cup characteristics. Qualities of vivid, effervescent acidity, found in the Highland Huehue Region, differ dramatically from the balanced, sweet, and round coffees grown in the volcanic soil of Antigua.
Most of Guatemalan coffees are shade-grown by the hands of smallholder farmers and larger estates. However, dramatic differences in elevation and climate can produce a completely different product from a farmer's close neighbor. There is much to know and appreciate about the complexities, nuances, and diversity of great Guatemalan coffees.
South America provides widely enjoyable flavor attributes such as heavy and rich, lower toned, often chocolaty or nutty flavors without intense complexity. This is typically a result of the low, flat terrain on which most plantations are established.
Colombia houses a wide variety of terrain and microclimates, offering a spectrum of coffee growing conditions. Most coffee plantations are situated in the northern highlands of the Andes Mountain Range. Like other coffees grown in South America, many Colombians offer low-toned coffees with less sweetness and more rugged flavors. But, at higher elevations of 900m to 1300m, the coffees can take on higher levels of acidity, complexity, and sweetness. As an industry, we are excited to see more and more consistently good coffee farms coming out of Colombia.
The traditional flavors and simplicity of Brazilian coffees have earned them a reputation in the specialty coffee industry. They are typically rich, heavy-bodied, nutty, and tend to have less acidity than coffees from countries to the north. Their straightforward sweetness, and body make them a popular choice for espresso blends and as a single origin espresso.
Brazilian coffees are usually grown on large plantations at lower elevations. Low elevation farming results in lower seed density and lower natural sugar content, creating the more rustic and nutty profiles we are familiar with in this region. Natural Processing is becoming more common in specialty coffee production in Brazil as a way to save resources, preserve the ecology of the local water, and add natural sweetness to the finished product.
Coffee grown in Africa has dramatically different attributes that that grown in the western hemisphere. This is due to the difference in climate, and the native varietals used in coffee cultivation. African coffee flavor profiles range from zesty, herbaceous, and lemony, to deeply fruity and sweet.
As the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopian coffees are some of the most highly regarded coffees in the world. There are a number of growing regions including Yirge Cheffe, Sidamo, Harrar and Limmu. Washed processed Ethiopian coffeesa re vividly bright,fruity and floral with moderate body and staggering clarity. The delicate nuances of these coffees are sometimes described as tea-like. Natural processed Ethiopian coffees are syrupy, complex and intensely sweet. These are the coffees that often change people’s perception of what coffee is supposed to taste like with their wild and sweet fruit flavors and sweetness. With such diversity of processes and genetic varieties Ethiopia, as the origin of all other origins remains a fascinating microcosm all that coffee can be.
Kenya produces some of the most complex coffees in the world. Varieties unique to Kenya such as SL28 and SL34 are renowned for their big acidity, full body, savory nuances, and fruit forward sweetness. Coffee of this level only comes from a country with impeccable quality control and farmers who are highly educated in their craft. Because an auction system is used and Kenyan coffees are only sold to the highest bidder, competition is high. Farmers are constantly working to improve their product year after year to ensure the highest quality in order the attain the best price. Kenyan coffees can cost a pretty penny as a result, but the greatness in the cup is undeniable.
Indo-Pacific coffees have distinctive flavors due to a traditional processing method called “Giling Basah” or “Wet-milling”. This method can introduce wild, earthy flavors in the cup and decrease perceived brightness. These qualities can add complex and savory characteristics not found in most other regions.
Flores is a small island east of Java in the Indonesian archipelago. Like many of these Indo-pacific islands, coffee was first cultivated here in the late 1800’s by Dutch colonists. Many of these plantations still produce coffee to this day.
The wild, earthy, and savory characteristics of good Sumatran coffees distinguish them from other growing regions. These flavors stem from the clay-like volcanic soil, intensely humid climate and the unique Indonesian processing method called Giling Basah. In this process fresh picked coffee cherries are processed to remove everything including the protective layer of parchment as soon as possible to expedite the drying process. Because of the low tech approach to processing the coffees the sorting process is key to quality. The seeds are meticulously sorted by hand to weed out defects. The highest quality coffees are sorted three times. If you’re looking for a deep bodied, full and complex experience — pour yourself a Sumatran.
Java is the fourth largest island of the Indonesia archipelago. Five large coffee producing estates comprise the majority of Java's coffee industry. These plantations were originally established by Dutch colonists in the 18th century and have been producing coffee ever since. Coffees grown here are heavy-bodied and typically very sweet. Unique milling practices combined with monsoon weather produce the classic earthy, herbaceous flavors found in coffees grown throughout Indonesia.