If there’s one conversation that all coffee lovers have had, it’s about the best coffee in the world.
When that conversation isn’t about filter coffee vs espresso coffee or whether a latte or cappuccino is better, it’s usually a debate over the world’s best coffee – and there are many (strong) opinions!
At the time of writing (2023), the coffee industry is worth a whopping US$495.50bn worldwide – and is only showing signs of growth.
That means that there are countless people, beans, processing methods, brewing methods and tastes involved.
With all this in mind, it makes determining the world’s best coffee incredibly difficult!
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the factors that affect the quality of coffee, as well as the influences that contribute to certain coffees’ popularity around the world.
We’ll also share some of the world’s best coffee beans, brands and countries.
Then, it’s up to you to make your mind up!
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Determining the world’s best coffee
So, given that the coffee world is as vast and varied as the planet itself, how do you know what the world’s best coffee is?
There are several ways the best coffee in the world could be identified (somewhat) objectively:
The first factor above, price, might be the obvious way to judge the quality of a coffee.
However, while one coffee may come with a higher price tag than another, few coffee drinkers would argue that the more expensive coffee is undoubtedly better.
In fact, many people would argue the opposite!
That’s because the price of coffee isn’t determined by the quality alone and the highest quality coffee isn’t always the most expensive.
Factors such as supply and demand, processing costs and even the season all contribute to a coffee’s shelf price.
So, what about taste?
While taste is inherently subjective, the coffee industry does have a system for rating coffees based on their flavour profiles.
The Specialty Coffee Association grades coffee using rigid protocols to determine the quality of a bean in a process called ‘cupping’.
For each coffee, judges rate ten different criteria are rated out of ten. These are Fragrance/Aroma, Flavour, Aftertaste, Acidity, Body, Balance, Uniformity, Clean Cup, Sweetness, and Defects.
The coffee is then awarded an overall score out of 100. Any coffee scoring 80+ is considered specialty coffee.
Anything with a cupping score close to 90 – like our Kenya Ichuga coffee, which scores 89.75 – is considered an extremely high-quality coffee, while coffees scoring over 95 are exceptionally rare.
However, just because coffee scores high according to these criteria, it doesn’t mean it will be to everyone’s tastes. And coffee is all about personal taste, after all!
In this regard, another way to decide on the world’s best coffee might be to look at which coffees are most sought after.
While this is, in theory, a great way to determine the most popular coffee, coffee production varies greatly from region to region.
Because some regions are limited to growing coffee only in small areas of land or in certain seasons, though, supply can’t always meet demand.
Sometimes the lack of supply even increases the demand greatly due to its rarity – something that has been seen with Blue Mountain coffee in Jamaica.
Would Blue Mountain coffee be as popular if the coffee plants could grow in an unlimited area? We’ll never know for sure, but it seems unlikely.
The best coffee in the world: ranking coffees & beans
Even though it’s impossible to objectively determine the world’s best coffee, we’ve put together a list of the coffees that are fighting for the top spot.
These are the ones that seem to be the most popular, most sought after and generally most desirable in our experience as coffee professionals.
We’ve broken them down into three main categories: best coffee beans, best coffee country and best coffee brands.
That’s because these all represent very different sides of the coffee industry and different perspectives on the best coffee in the world.
Even if you don’t consider any of these to be the world’s best coffee, we hope you have fun learning about – and perhaps even trying – them!
Best coffee beans in the world
When considering the best coffee in the world, it’s likely that your mind will jump straight to the best coffee beans in the world.
So let’s start there!
For the most part, when we are talking about types of coffee beans, we are referring to the bean variety. This simply means the type of coffee cherry from which a bean comes.
Coffee bean varietals come under four major categories: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica and Exclesa. These can be broken down further (and is something we list on all of our bags of coffee beans).
One thing to note: While robusta beans aren’t unheard of, arabica coffee dominates the specialty coffee space.
This is why independent coffee shops almost always use arabica beans – and why they’re generally considered better than robusta coffee.
There are several coffee bean varietals that might be considered the best coffee in the world for various reasons and they’re almost exclusively types of arabica coffee. These are:
- Geisha coffee beans are some of the most expensive coffee beans available and Geisha coffee generally has a very delicate and complex flavour profile. For example, our Colombia Geisha varies between Turkish Delight, lemon, cacao, rosehip and cherry depending on how and when you drink it!
- Peaberry coffee beans also come with a premium price tag due to their rarity and labour-intensive production methods. However, it goes beyond that: peaberry receives more caffeine and more nutrients than other beans because it grows as a single bean – rather than a twin – and many coffee drinkers consider them to have a sweeter taste.
- SL 28 & SL 34 are two types of Kenyan coffee varietals and are considered some of the best African coffee beans in existence. The SL 28, which is one of two varietals in our Wahundura Kenya coffee – in particular, is sought after by many coffee buyers for its exceptional cup quality.
- Blue Mountain
Of course, these are just four of the world’s best coffee varietals based on price, popularity and demand, and by no means an exhaustive list.
An unusual candidate for world’s best coffee
The other candidate for best coffee beans in the world isn’t actually a varietal at all. Instead, it is defined by its processing method.
That coffee is Kopi Luwak and it is a type of Indonesian coffee that is made from partially digested coffee cherries.
These coffee cherries are eaten and excreted by the Asian palm civet. During this process, the cherries ferment in the civet’s intestines, resulting in a very unique type of coffee!
While we wouldn’t personally consider Kopi Luwak to be the world’s best coffee, others might.
And, while we understand that it’s a drink every coffee lover would love to experience, please make sure you only purchase ethical Kopi Luwak sourced from wild civets. The price is (of course) higher, but it guarantees that no animals were exploited in its production.
Best coffee in the world by country
Just as it’s impossible to objectively name the world’s best coffee bean or varietal, it’s equally hard to declare one coffee country the best.
Every coffee region has its own characteristics (and challenges!) which greatly affect the flavour of any cups of coffee that originate there.
Once again, it largely comes down to personal taste.
You might think that Burundi coffee beans generally make for a great cup of coffee, while someone who doesn’t like fruity notes might label it a bad cup of coffee.
Therefore, a list of countries with the best coffee will look different for everyone. However, these are some of the countries that often make such lists:
- Brazil: Unsurprisingly, the world’s largest producer of coffee is also often considered the best coffee country in the world. Brazilian coffee generally has a chocolate-heavy, nutty profile, giving them wide appeal.
- Colombia: Another one of the largest coffee producers in the world and a popular spot for coffee tourism, Colombian coffee is some of the most-loved and most varied coffee in the world. Its clean cup secures it the spot for many drinkers.
- Ethiopia: The birthplace of coffee isn’t just the original coffee country. For many people, Ethiopia is home to the best coffee in the world also, particularly those who enjoy fruity and floral flavour profiles that Ethiopian coffee so often provides.
- Vietnam: Even though it produces more coffee than most other countries, that coffee is almost entirely robusta. Because of this, it is rare to come across Vietnamese coffee in the specialty coffee world. Despite this, many coffee drinkers rate Vietnamese coffee highly – both the beans and the brewing method. Vietnamese iced coffee in particular is very popular even outside of Vietnam!
With over 50 countries around the world producing and exporting coffee, the few mentioned above just scratched the surface and it once again comes down to personal taste.
However, while it’s impossible to declare one single best coffee country in the world, there is one thing that coffee connoisseurs can agree on: single-origin coffees offer a more premium coffee experience.
You can read more about why that is in our guide to single-origin coffee vs blend coffee article.
Discover our single-origin coffee beans:
Best coffee brands in the world
One final way to look at the world’s best coffee is by considering the best coffee brand.
However, like all of the other factors considered above, this is also subjective.
Furthermore, many of the best coffee roasters and brands are small-scale operations.
While this gives them the advantage of strict quality control and freedom to experiment with different coffees, it also means that the average coffee drinker will have a lower chance of experiencing their coffee.
On the other hand, large-scale coffee brands often have to create a coffee profile that appeals to the masses.
Although this helps them to avoid putting off certain tastebuds, the divisiveness also means the coffee lacks any strong feelings at the other end of the scale.
Our advice: get out there and experiment!
Whether you’re making coffee at home or in your local coffee houses, it’s fun trying to narrow down your coffee preferences and getting to know your own version of the “best coffee in the world”.
Chances are, the one you consider to be the world’s best coffee is being roasted right now by a roaster you’ve never heard of and comes from a farm whose beans you’ve never before tasted.
Even though we have an abundance of coffee to enjoy – and love our own coffees! – there’s nothing like discovering a new coffee that makes you go, “wow!”.