From the global domination of chains like Starbucks to local independent cafés to your very own kitchen, coffee pervades our lives. Odds on that you have heard several people say that it’s the only thing that makes them feel human in the morning (you might even be one of them yourself!). Countries like the US, Germany, and France import the most coffee globally, and along with rest of Europe and North America, are dependent on the ‘coffee belt’, where there are the prime growing conditions for coffee. (Although this is not exclusive to the West – Yemen tops the list of fastest-growing coffee importers). South-East Asia lies within this precious region, and below we’ve explored some of the most interesting coffee producing countries in this area.
Vietnam had to top the list as it almost exports the most coffee in the world, second only to Brazil. In 2016 it produced 1,650,000 metric tons of the stuff. That’s a lot of iced lattes. Or more appropriately, a lot of Vietnamese coffees, as Vietnam also has a signature way of drinking their coffee (mixed with sweetened condensed milk, often iced).
This broad archipelago is made up of around 10,000 islands (although numbers have varied from 8,000 to 18,000, depending on what you class as an island). While around 900 are inhabited, just three of the major islands produce a third of the world’s coffee beans. Situated between the Indian and Pacific countries, Indonesia is also the world’s largest island country.
Java is one of the above mentioned Indonesian islands (and is home to about half the country’s population). Java coffee is famous around the world, gaining popularity in the 19th and early 20th century. The Dutch were the first to colonise the island and were responsible for introducing to cultivation of coffee to Java.
The soil and climate in Thailand are perfectly suited to growing coffee, and Thai coffee production has come on in leaps and bounds in just a few decades. If you’re looking for a good brew whilst in the country, most major cities and towns make a decent cup, with Chiang Mai having a real coffee culture in the city with many cafés and street stalls.
Bordered by Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, a high proportion of Cambodians are involved with agriculture, growing rice, fruit and yes, you guessed it, coffee. The tradition of coffee growing started with the French colonisers in the 1700s and continues today most famously in the Mondulkiri province. The coffee company that takes the same name is popular in both national and international markets.