South American coffee beans can be generally characterized as having a lighter body, medium to sharp acidity and a distinctive bright flavor.
You will find, among South American coffee beans, coffees that come from truly great growing areas, including Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia. The first two names on the list are well known, but after them some other countries also offer delicious and less well-known beans that are worth trying, if you can find them!
Most Americans are more familiar with Columbian coffee*(see the footnote for more information) because of that part of the industry’s intensive media campaign over the years. Columbian coffee* is full bodied with a rich flavor and medium acidity.
From the time the trees are planted to when Colombian coffee beans are harvested, there are extensive processing steps and intensive standards. These resulting coffee beans have become recognized throughout the world for the sheer quality.
But there are many, many more regions of Latin America that grow fine and flavorful coffees but are less well known than Colombia.
Brazil grows many remarkable coffees but the Bourbon Santos is considered its finest offering. Picked in the first four years of growth, the beans are small but full of smooth, rich and moderately acidic flavor.
While Bourbon Santos is the coffee preferred by commercial buyers, there are several other estates that produce superb Brazil coffee. Your taste buds may find the crops of other estates better than Santos; each of us is different so be adventurous and try offerings from several areas.
Venezuela is known for its low acid coffee that is perfect for blends. This is not to say it’s bad coffee -- on the contrary, its light richness and bold body makes it complementary for custom blends. Meridas is considered the best coffee in this Latin American country.
Bolivian coffee tends to be a more heavy-bodied, spicy coffee that is quite extraordinary. The beans are grown mostly on small farms that are more than a mile above sea level on steeply pitched slopes. As a result, the organic coffee industry is big in Bolivia, with obvious benefits to consumers.
Peru is another big South American coffee producer, notable for its Chanchamayo mild and light brew bursting with flavor and aroma. It is used as a base for flavored coffees and blended with darker roasts.
There are many options for regions, types and beans in South America. So, you are sure to find the coffee beans from South American to suit your palette.
*Typographical Note See the entry on Columbian Coffee for a detailed note.