Good coffee and wine have many things in common, and one of them is the concept of terroir. Terroir in coffee, as in wine, is a word that expresses everything about the geographic region of that particular bean: its soil, the weather conditions, and climate - all of which give each coffee its taste and character.
Knowing the general characteristics of coffee regions can help you as you pick out coffee and learn what you like best. There are literally thousands of coffee varietals, so grouping them by large geographical areas of terroir is difficult, but there are some very broad characteristics in coffees from the three major coffee-growing areas of the world. Here's what to expect from a coffee from the first region: Latin America.
Coffee is grown throughout the jungles of Central and South America, as well as in the Caribbean islands. Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela and Mexico are all strong producers of coffee.
Beans from Latin America tend to have a very distinct set of flavors and textures, depending on their roast. They are often grown at high altitudes in volcanic soil which gives them brightness and sweetness.
Their acidity (see our definition) is usually high, with a light body. There is often a distinct sweetness and tangyness to Latin American coffees. Their flavor is usually brought out best by a light or medium roast, so you don't see as many espresso or French roasts with Latin American beans.
They are good breakfast coffees with a lightness and freshness to the taste - very bright.