Top 10 Best Coffee in the World (2017)

The world’s finest arabica coffees 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 taste 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

An 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) Java Arabica Coffee

This wet processed (washed) Arabica coffee is grown on the Indonesian island of Java, and in particular on the Ijen Plateau at elevations around 1,400 meters on the east side in the Ijen volcano complex.

With a somewhat heavy body, Java Arabica is nonetheless lighter than many other Indonesian coffees and also has a lower level of acidity (medium acidity). The flavor is somewhat rustic with a lingering, herbaceous aftertaste. The coffee’s body that is clean and thick with a low-toned richness and earthy qualities, though less earthy than Sulawesi and Sumatra coffees.

The aftertaste of Java Arabica often reveals a smoky or spicy twist and leaves the coffee drinker with a overall sweet impression, supple and smooth. Five large coffee estates established in Java by the Dutch government in the 18th century.

4) Sumatra Mandheling Coffee

Exhibiting a full body and low acidity, Sumatra Mandheling is 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.

5) Sulawesi Toraja Coffee

This multi-dimensional coffee is grown in the southeastern highlands of Sulawesi. Known 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 finer 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 Yemen Mocha provides 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 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.

Known for its winey and fruity, floral-toned acidity, Ethiopian Harrar is bright in the cup, even intense with a heady aroma that is rich and pungent, often with 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, 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 typical 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 old, stale blends.

10) Kenya AA Coffee

Clearly one of the world’s finest premium coffees, Kenya AA is grown at more than 6,600 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.

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

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.

11) Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee

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.

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.

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 sat 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

For example, 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 Top Ten 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, as certain coffees have proven themselves highly reviewed with a consistency over time. It’s reasonable to conclude then that they can be called the best coffees on the planet, but do need to be re-evaluated over time. 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 price isn’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.]

20 thoughts on “Top 10 Best Coffee in the World (2017)

  1. 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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Luwuk Coffee from Sulawesi, Indonesia is the best I have tried. It is a good balance of aroma, taste and very light acidity. Like the other gentlemen mentioned, it is expensive. I had a cuppa for about US$20. But it is worth every sip.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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..

  7. 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”

  8. 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??

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

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