Handy for die-hard coffee fans, the best beans often are sourced from the far-flung green belt of central and South America. The location makes for a pretty interesting coffee pilgrimage. Brazil is the biggest player on the scene here, supplying over 40% of the world’s coffee, but other countries in the Americas are very rapidly catching up. Ideally positioned, the optimum climate gives way to geisha estates and expert techniques, coaxing the best blends out of the beans and into our flat whites.
John Rombout, owner and head barista of Reunion & Co, Richmond-based darling of the Melbourne café scene, has nothing but enthusiasm for blends emerging from Central America.
“Panama is growing quickly as a specialty coffee source, with geisha estates dedicated to single variety plantations that are meticulously looked after.”
First to check off the list would be the family-run Hacienda La Esmeralda in Boquete for the quality coffee bean harvests. After getting your caffeine fix, you can check out the plethora of activities the region has to offer, from hot springs, white water rafting and canopy tours. Venture out of Boquete to experience the full range of Panama’s diverse landscapes… where else can you take a dip in two different oceans, traverse mountainous terrain, trek through a rainforest and go snorkelling? The best time to visit would probably be in the dry season from January to May – although there’s some stellar humpback whale watching to be had from August to October.
The café is currently running a single origin coffee from Honduras, Ocotepeque, and the description alone is enough to make you want to hop on a tram to Richmond (or a plane to Honduras).
“It’s an exclusive micro lot and the coffee is planted alongside orange, lemon and guava trees which add flavours of sweet and dried fruits to the coffee. It’s all hand-picked and sorted so you can be assured the green coffee is on point before transportation.”
Honduras is a fascinating part of Central America, best visited between October and February. Travelling the region means endless adventure with the colonial villages of Gracias and Comayagua, natural parks, ancient Maya ruins and the Bay Islands – endless stretches of white sand beaches and stunning coral reefs. Three hours north of Ocotepeque you’ll find Copán, home to one of the greatest centres of Mayan civilisation. The ruins have some of the most beautiful pre-Columbian art you could hope to find.
Sydney’s Single Origin is known for its ethical practices and expertise, both in its in-house roasting and dedicated bean source, all thanks to their green bean buyer Wendy de Jong. Angus Lindsay, head barista at Single Origin Surry Hills, dishes on the beans produced at Guatemala’s El Socorro plantation.
“The tasting notes are Tropical fruit punch, with a sweet and creamy lingering aftertaste. Juan & his son Juan Diego attribute their continual success to strict quality control through every step of harvesting and processing, along with their innovative approach to fermentation using hot water at a regulated temperature to control the processing."
Once again, it’s best to visit in dry season, with November to April being the ideal months to travel. What a happy coincidence that it coincides with coffee bean harvest season! Bolstered by your daily (hourly?) aromatic coffee, take to the charming cobbled streets of Colonial Antigua, pausing only for the delectable 7-course tasting menu at Casa Santa Domingo. Explore Tikal, the largest of the Maya ruins and marvel at the remnants of this ancient civilisation. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can hike up the Pacaya Volcano where you can roast marshmallows over the vents and peer at cold lava.
Paramount Coffee Project in Sydney believes key to brewing quality coffee lies in the smaller estates. Dylan Johnson, the head barista and former Australian Aeropress championship winner is all about small holders like Colombia’s Finca Alcatraz in Oporapa. He lauds them "for the uniqueness of varietals, and optimum quality."
“The combination of high altitude and constant sunshine in Central and South America allows the beans to develop to their fullest, which is approximately nine months from seed to fruit. We really see the difference in the final product – resulting in the highest quality beans.”
Swing by from December to February and immerse yourself in Colombia’s vibrant atmosphere. From historic towns to party cities, the rugged Andean summits, Amazonian jungle and unspoiled coastlines, the diversity in topography is only matched by its range of traditions and food. Visit Popayán, a beautiful, white-washed city that holds the second biggest Easter festival in the world, or Cartagena, Colombia’s most impressive colonial settlement and fringed with gorgeous beaches.