The Best Coffee Beans in the World (2017)

The world’s finest arabica coffee beans are listed by country in no particular order since the biggest factor is personal preference. For example, some people might prefer the winey and fruity acidity of a Kenyan coffee over the classic balance of a Colombian coffee. Others might not. So we’ll go ahead and disclaim that there’s a subjective element and include the most popular coffees, taking all of these factors into account with the highest rated coffees. Some additional notes on methodology have been included at the bottom.

1) Tanzania Peaberry Coffee

Grown on Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania Peaberry coffee is a bright Arabica coffee with a medium body and delightful fruit-toned acidity. The best Tanzania coffees have a taste that is deep and rich, often revealing hints of black currant which soften to chocolate and then blend into the coffee’s lingering, sweet finish.

Try a medium roast, which provides an aroma that is floral and complex, often exhibiting hints of pineapple, citrus, or coconut. The flavor is delicate, sometimes revealing winey notes and a velvety feeling on the palate.

2) Hawaii Kona Coffee

The best Hawaiian Arabica coffee grown at about 2,000 feet above sea level on the fertile slopes of Mauna Loa and Hualalai Volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii, Kona coffee is known for its rich yet light and delicate taste with a complex aroma. Different farms will have slightly different coffees under their own brand, but shouldn’t be a blend.

Well-balanced with a medium body, it is clean in the cup with a bright and cheerful acidity. Kona coffee often reveals buttery as well as spicy qualities and subtle winey tones with an excellent aromatic finish.

3) Nicaraguan Coffee

A new arrival to the list this year is Nicaragua, which has developed a number of highly rated coffees. The best coffees from this top-rated central american country typically exhibit notes of chocolate (dark, almost cacao-like) and fruits like apple and berries.

4) Sumatra Mandheling Coffee

Exhibiting a full body and low acidity, Sumatra Mandheling is best known as a smooth drinking coffee. It is also known for its sweetness and herbacious, earthy flavor, and complex aroma. The coffee is grown in the Lintong region in north central Sumatra near Lake Toba. The best Sumatran coffees are known for being full bodied and having little acidity, making them perhaps the best low-acid coffee option here.

5) Sulawesi Toraja Coffee

This multi-dimensional coffee is grown in the southeastern highlands of Sulawesi. Known best for its full body and rich, expansive flavor, Sulawesi Toraja coffee is very well balanced and exhibits tasting notes of dark chocolate and ripe fruit. The acidity is low-toned yet vibrant, with less body than a Sumatran coffee though slightly more acidic, and with more earthiness than a typical Java Arabica coffee.

Toraja’s rustic sweetness and muted fruit notes create a deep and brooding taste with a pungent spicy quality similar to the best Sumatran coffees. Toraja coffee is processed using the Giling Basah wet-hull method, which produces chaff-free green coffee beans. For Toraja coffee a dark roast is recommended.

6) Mocha Java Coffee

Perhaps the most famous coffee blend, Mocha Java includes Arabian (Yemen) Mocha coffee and Indonesian Java Arabica coffee, two coffees with complementary characteristics. The best Yemen Mocha coffees exhibit a lively intensity and pleasant wildness which complements the clean and bright smoothness of the Java coffee. The traditional blend of Mocha and Java coffee beans creates a complex and yet well-balanced brewed cup.

See the World’s Best History of Coffee to read about how sailing ships arriving from Java Island arrived in the the great Yemen port of Mocha [Mokha] where the two types of beans became mixed in the wooden hulls of the ships creating the favored blend, a happy accident of history.

7) Ethiopian Harrar Coffee

Spicy, fragrant, and heavy-bodied, Ethiopian Harrar coffee is a wild and exotic coffee bean that is dry-processed (natural) Arabica coffee grown in southern Ethiopia at elevations from 4,500 and 6,300 feet above sea level. The dry-processing creates a fruity taste likened to dry, red wine, a power house coffee exhibiting a bold taste that resonates in the cup.

The best Ethiopian coffees are known for their winey and fruity flavors, floral-toned acidity, a bright in the cup, even intensity and a heady aroma that is rich and pungent. These coffees often have notes of blackberries and a lingering finish that may seem slightly fermented with intense notes of jasmine.

Edgy and bold, Ethiopian Harrar displays a complexity of spice tones including cardamom, cinnamon, apricots, blueberry jam, and compote. Some Harrars exhibit tones of very rich, dark chocolate.

8) Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Coffee

Fragrant and spicy, the best Yirgacheffee coffees are known for their sweet flavor and aroma with a medium to light body. The coffee is wet processed and grown at elevations from 5,800 feet to 6,600 feet above sea level.

Ethiopian Yirgacheffee displays a bright acidity along with an intense, clean flavor and a complexity of floral notes in the aroma, perhaps a hint of toasted coconut, along with a vibrant aftertaste and perhaps a slightly nutty or chocolaty quality. Yirgacheffe coffees are high-toned, floral and citrusy in contrast to the wild and jammy Ethiopian Harrars.

If you prefer your coffee heavy and sweet then choose a medium-dark roast or dark roast, though a medium roast allows the coffee’s delicate qualities to shine and enhance the bright acidity.

9) Guatemalan Antigua Coffee

Grown at elevations more than 4,600 feet above sea level, the grade of coffee beans of Guatemala Antigua is known as Strictly Hard Bean and include the Arabica varietals Catuai (Coffea arabica var. catuai), Caturra (Coffea arabica var. caturra), and Bourbon (Coffea arabica var. bourbon).

An exceptional premium coffee, Antigua exhibits the best Guatemala coffee qualities of a full body (heavier than the usual Central American coffee) and spicy taste often rich and velvety. The Antigua coffee bean works well with a dark roast that creates a pleasing smoky taste in the brewed cup of coffee.

Which of these coffees you should buy isn’t as important as whether what you’re purchasing is fresh roasted – coffee is at it’s peak flavor within days of roasting, while many bags of coffee sit on store shelves in Starbucks and Amazon for weeks or months before they finally arrive at your door step. A great cup of inexpensive fresh roasted single origin coffee will always be better than best (and often priciest) old, stale blends.

10) Kenya AA Coffee

Clearly one of the world’s best premium coffees, this is listed last but certainly isn’t the least of the best coffees in the world. Kenya AA is grown at more than 2,000 feet above sea level on Kenya’s high plateaus. The AA refers to the biggest screen size in the Kenya coffee grading system with specifications that the beans are just a little more than one-fourth inch in diameter.

The best Kenya AA coffee beans exhibit a full body and strong, rich taste with a pleasant acidity that some say provides the world’s brightest coffee. The aroma of Kenya AA is fragrant with floral tones while the finish is winey with berry and citrus overtones.

Honourable Mention: Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee

Coffees from Jamaica’s Blue Mountain region are indeed often named the “Best Coffee in the World”, but when it comes to price vs. quality, it’s an overhyped coffee. Is there any way to possibly quantify that Jamaican Blue Mountain is twice as good as a Kona (being twice the price)? or 4x as good as Kenya AA (at 4x the price)? It’s nowhere near that astronomical of a difference. Feedback from regular coffee drinkers (not coffee snobs) indicates that it’s a good cup of coffee, but falls on the mild side with subtleties most won’t appreciate for a daily drinker.

Named for Jamaican mountain ridge, the Blue Mountain coffee growing region is located south of Port Maria and north of Kingston. To be certified as Jamaica Blue Mountain and not one of the lesser grades the coffee must be grown on the estates at elevations between 3,000 feet and and 5,500 feet above sea level.

Grown in Jamaica’s Blue Mountain District, Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is often described as sophisticated with a smooth and silky, complex taste, outstanding full body, and very well balanced. Many reviewers have called it the quintessential cup of coffee and it clearly stands among the world’s top gourmet coffees.

The acidity is vibrant and bright, yet very smooth, revealing virtually no bitterness in its overall clean taste. The aroma of Jamaica Blue Mountain is sparkling and bold exhibiting floral notes as well as nutty and herbal overtones.

Dishonorable Mention: Kopi Luwak (Civet) Coffee

Kopi Luwak, also known as Civet or Cat Poop coffee, has attained a level of notoriety for its distinctive processing method, and spawned an array of copycat methods (elephants, birds, other small mammals). While an interesting concept, the ridiculous prices hovering around $300-$400 per pound have yielded an industry that cages and force feeds wild animals an imbalanced diet so that they can harvest the beans. This is animal cruelty, plain and simple. The lack of traceability means that any company can claim it’s “harvested naturally” or “in the wild” without any tangible proof. We recommend avoiding this.

Other Factors

Variations exist of course, between fincas (farms) and soil conditions, processing methods, etc. within a single country. Other factors include:

  • whether a coffee is Strictly High Grown (SHG) / Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) and what specific elevation
  • What crop year the coffee is from (older beans lose flavor)
  • Grading (eg. Kenya could be E, PB, AA, AB, etc.)
  • If buying already roasted, how long ago the coffee was roasted, and especially ground – the best coffee that has been sitting on a shelf for 6 months isn’t as good as a freshly roasted and ground mediocre coffee
  • Personal experience – tasting a coffee from a country you vacationed in can evoke memories that color your perception

Furthermore, whether you’re brewing a black coffee or take yours double-double or making an espresso drink, you may have different preferences.

Methodology

Some would say it is a matter of debate which coffees should be called “The Best Coffees in the World.” Which “premium” or “gourmet” coffees are most deserving of the title of highest rated coffees is less controversial than you might think. Certain coffees have proven themselves highly reviewed with a consistency over time.

There’s a bit of a snowball effect in play, with good coffees and processing methods fetching higher prices, which then causes further research and effort into developing better crops that yield higher prices and on and on. These effects tend to be localized within countries and processing stations, but is spreading globally thanks to coffee importers and wholesalers, as well as the widespread access to cellphones and internet in developing countries.

It’s reasonable to conclude that the most consistently highly rated coffees can be called the best coffees on the planet, but do need to be re-evaluated over time – fantastic new coffees come onto the market yearly. Coupled with reported sales volumes, customer reviews, and data about repeat purchases from roasters, the most popular coffees have some ranking affect on the best coffees.

It should be noted that coffee prices aren’t always correlated with quality, and that the most expensive coffees are affected by factors such as total yearly harvest, difficulty exporting due to conflicts (as with Yemen), trade embargoes (as in the U.S. and Cuba), spoilage due to improper storage (such as the recent flood at the Blue Mountain storage facilities in late 2016), and trends. Cost is usually more correlated to scarcity due to branding and mark ups from trade organizations and government regulations, not quality. The best coffee “brands” aren’t factored in here, as blends are simply composed of multiple single origins and most companies work hard to keep this a secret. Each of these single origin coffees can also be made into an espresso, making this a potential list for the Best Espressos in the World as well.

Unless otherwise noted, all the coffees here are Arabica.

[Updated for 2017.]

51 thoughts on “The Best Coffee Beans in the World (2017)

    1. Ka’u coffees are wonderful in their own right, and have a reputation for quality dating back decades. As of 2016 however, they’re considered quite mild coffees and don’t have the same prestige they once did. With a living wage paid to Hawaiian locals for maintaining, harvesting and pruning the crops, they’re quite expensive for what you get.

    1. Broadly speaking, Colombian coffees are a very good value coffee – offering a nice mellow flavor for a very reasonable price. That is no small reason they’re used in tons of blends and are quite common. We have seen some very high cupping-scored coffees come to market recently, but the average Colombian coffee doesn’t stand out among the others on the list.

  1. Athough the Colombian is very good-EthiopianYirgacheffe, Harrar, and Guatemalan Antigua are consistently superior

  2. Dear Madam and Sir,

    You allow to introduce myself. My name is Mr. Karoly Romvari, I’m Engineer grad., Hungarian citizen, I live in Hungary (Europe) as well.

    I’m very interested on your Coffee Palette and I would propose to be yours Exclusive Distributor in my Country as well in Europe, if you haven’t still any Distributor in this territory.

    I appreciate you and your kind response.
    I hope to hear from you immediately.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Mr. Karoly Romvari

  3. Actually Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is not the most expensive coffee in the world Matteo, it is currently running the same retail price as Kona Coffee. I just bought a 1/2 pound bag of each this morning, both cost me $19 each.

    I also just ordered a bag of unroasted Kopi luwak (civet coffee) today for $112 a pound. That is the world’s most expensive and rarest coffee according to Forbes Magazine.

      1. Yes, we recommend avoiding Kopi Luwak entirely due to a lack of traceability in the industry. Nothing prevents a coffee farm from claiming they “harvest wild” civet coffee while still caging and abusing the poor creatures. The price the coffee fetches is simply too attractive for people in a relatively less-developed country.

    1. Sadly, Sierra Leone is not a large enough producer or exporter to be able to find their coffees reliably on the market. If people can’t purchase the coffee to try it, it can’t be ranked and rated.

  4. I have had all of those coffees mentioned above. Nothing compares to Kona coffee. It is hands down the absolute best! Mild, sweet, and really great to the last drop. I live on the island of Molokai where they grow coffee over here and it is not as good as the Kona coffee. Wish it was, but I only buy and drink the best because I have drank all the rest and they can’t compete with my Kona coffee. I would even trade in my wife for a sack of Kona.

    1. A true Hawaiian islander if there ever was one. It’s actually common to hear this from any region – Jamaica, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Sumatra, etc. This is partially based on the fact that your tastes become acclimatized to what you regularly consume, in this case Hawaiian Kona, and not having a pallet attuned to new coffees. This isn’t bad by any means, we always recommend drinking what you like best, but not everyone will appreciate Kona coffee the same as Kurt.

      And we’ll just leave a note that as a Hawaiian resident he has an incentive to promote the islands’ economies 😉

  5. I think Hondurian coffe is so underrated at this moment but one of the best coffee that i ever try so far..aroma ,body, acidity,after taste at best! ,swettess …ect

  6. dont think so colombian is better EthiopianYirgacheffe, Harrar but guatemalan antigua is better than any coffee also there is a guatemalan coffee thats the best cofee but its low production

  7. There are so many distinctions on the beans and the different roasts. I admire the individual who can distinguish these subtle differences. Are there really those who can attune their taste buds to these subtle variables? I am in awe of this attribute. It is a talent akin to a wine taster and perfume expert. Amazing !
    Just wondering: Where does the Viet Nam Arabica coffee rate in this comparison ?
    They are the 2nd leading exporter in the world now.

    1. Vietnam’s Arabica coffees are just starting to show up on the market, but haven’t had much success. The vast majority of coffee grown in Vietnam is Robusta and the industry is geared towards supporting that – without much sorting or a steady market of buyers ready to pay for the more premium Arabicas. It will be interesting to see how this develops in the coming years as nearby China and Japan are rapidly becoming large consumers of premium coffees.

  8. Jamaican Blue Moutain coffee is one of the best, as is Kona from Hawaii. Columbian coffee? maybe its the best for Dunkin Donuts 🙂

    1. Colombian coffees are typically used for their consistency and mild flavors as opposed to being a “best” or “highly rated” coffee. There are certainly better crops showing up on the market and at specialty roasters but generally, Colombian coffees are only “best” for those that like dark roast, mild flavored coffee.

  9. Clearly this is a list put together by amateurs. It still shows Jamaican Blue Mountain in the top 40. They live on reputation alone. Also you have missed one of the most noteworthy coffee on the planet. The Isle of St. Helena Napoleon Estate has triumphed over literally all of the list. If you are new to coffee you may never have heard. And once you find the coffee vendor you will gasp at the price and the limited yields. Japan gourmets have bought up most of the stock.

    Also woefully missing are any of the Cup of Excellence winners from Central and South America. Your limited exposure to the coffee world is so very apparent in your list.

    1. I just came back from Nepal – in only exclusive places one can find a good espresso machines. The Himalayan coffee is absolutely the best I ever have had, superior to some that are found in the top 10 list here. The beans are of very good quality. BUT we cannot find those in Europe, shame! If someone start importing green beans please let me know.

  10. The best Coffee is not where comes , the important thing is to know

    how roasting , which select the beans , arabica ,robusta how is the mix ?? The Brand Name or which country is doesnt important

    and second , choice the Coffee Machine ,
    i recommend Semi Automatic Coffee Maker brand Name doesnt important

    and last important things is Water Quality , Water + Lime+ 90-92 C + Pump Presure 9.5 Bar is enough to make a super quality Coffee..

    1. The roaster’s ability to properly roast the bean and adjust over time to maximize the flavor is absolutely critical. However, certain flavors and characteristics and more prominent in coffees from one country or another and that’s the first step in selecting a coffee – no roasting ability can make up for the natural flavor of a coffee that you don’t like. The brand is similar in this respect, as their particular flavor profiles may or may not match up with your preferences.

      And yes, after that, proper brewing methods (regardless of the coffee machine you use) including water temperature and water quality can make a night-and-day difference in how the end-brew tastes.

  11. i think….i think..the best coffee in the world is….”what ever it is..u treat me ” hahahahaha that is most best taste than any other coffee..so when are u guys wanna buy me coffee…hahahha kidding, best coffee taste is depends how u serve it…and also how u keep the coffee beans, in my opinion each type they have their own flavor, just like tobacco, tea, and cheese…..

  12. Mmmmm, I think I am in heaven, people who think about coffee like I do …..

    Kona is my regular, I love Jamaican Blue Mountain, last I knew was $58/lb from the island, try to get at least once a year. And now must try this Kopi luwak (civet coffee) sounds “amazing”

    1. We recommend avoiding civet coffee on ethical grounds. The majority of civet coffee is harvested from animals that are caged and forced to eat an imbalanced diet that leads to malnutrition and other health problems. It’s a disgusting industry practice and should be boycotted.

      Additionally, the cost premium is not proportional to the quality. At 5x the cost of Jamaican or Kona coffee (20x the cost of any other premium coffee) it’s not anywhere near even 2x as good.

  13. I have to agree with John Abbott, no one here mentions Panama Gashai. Kenya is only good if it is AA, and Tansania is only good as a “C” of peaberry. All coffees have peaberry and AA 18+ screen size. Many times a higher price is just a higher price.

    civet coffee is an average coffee that is eaten by a cat that loves the taste of the cherry. Later the cat expells the seed in its fecies. Someone follows the civit and takes the seeds out of the steaming pile, and sells it to you for $100 per LB. How could that trip through a cats digestive track actually improve the taste of coffee?

    What makes coffee great is careful grading and cupping to find the very best in a region. If we are just grading regions, how can Kenya be anywhere but the top of the list??

    1. I think Kenya is the best (AA) but a lot has to do with the water and how the coffee is made. Done right, nothing gets close to Kenya AA.

    2. “AA” is only a screen size and has nothing to do with quality or flavor. The same tree will produce varying amounts of “AA”, peaberry, “AB”, etc. It just happens that most of the “AA” coffee is exported while the lower sizes are consumed locally or sold to companies that blend coffees.

  14. Like the wines… the best coffee is the one that you like it.
    It doesn’t matter how expensive is it …what really matter is the way you prepare a cup of coffee with your personal selection of coffee beans.

    1. Agreed entirely! We hope the reviews and guidelines we have listed help people find what best matches their own tastes preferences.

  15. I can only assume the Cuban embargo is still preventing the real Cuban coffee from reaching your shores. I have tried all of the above and a good REAL Cuban is a) unmistakeable and b) easily the best available in moderate / commercial quantities. Individual farm micro lots may be better again. The Kenya AA or just maybe the Sulawesi is probably the only ones listed here in the same postcode zone. What about the Nicaraguan? Even an idiot can get a good cup out of it. Oh for the 1960’s blue mountain – that would have given the Cuban a good run. The current Blue Mountain is sadly quite a pale shadow…

    1. Cuban coffees can actually be found in Canada, so find a cup of it next time you’re up there. We wouldn’t advocate bringing it across the border however…

    1. Sadly, Nigerian coffee production and export is relatively low and it is difficult to find. It would be interesting to compare to some of the neighbouring regions (eg. Cameroon) though!

  16. I would have to say kona and several of the big island coffees are by far the best. I have it ship to the states regularly haven’t found anything that can come close to comparing.

    1. There doesn’t appear to be much (any) coffee from Cape Verde available on the market. Starbucks had this at a few select stores (in Seattle mostly) a few times but generally you won’t find this locally.

  17. I’m a certified barista and I think the list is spot on. I’ve tried all those on the list and have enjoyed them all when extracted corrected. I recently tried Maui Mokka and I must say it is excellent. I’m guessing the limited quantities keep it from being included in the rankings, but it’s a top ten in my book.

    1. We have heard of more varietals being produced in both Maui and Kona, over concerns about coffee leaf rust. Some genetic diversity is very important for farmers that can’t afford to be wiped out by a coffee leaf rust infection. Mokka sounds like a great one!

  18. Thanks so much for your updated and well-balanced point of view. Clarity of thought and detail appreciated. I’ll never quite understand why commenters become so competitive over “best this or that”, especially in not bothering to qualify their observations. Sorta like: Håagen is ok, but Dazs is better. * ? *

    1. Yes! Vietnam has always been a powerhouse producer of coffee beans, but they tend to grow the lower-quality Robusta beans. While Robustas have their place in espresso blends (thanks for the higher caffeine content and the crema they produce), varietals haven’t yet showed up that would qualify as some of the best coffee in the world. Maybe one day.

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