Venezuelan Coffee: Why This Origin Deserves More Hype
Colombia is one of the greatest coffee producers in the world, but did you know that its eastern neighbour grows coffee just as worthy of the hype? Venezuela cultivates some of the best coffees you’ve never tried. Keep reading for an in-depth guide to Venezuelan coffee.
A Guide to Venezuelan Coffee Beans
Many of the best whole coffee beans in the world come from Central and South America. While coffee harvested in Bolivia and coffees from Costa Rica receive plenty of attention from the specialty coffee industry, Venezuela is often overlooked. That’s a shame, because once upon a time, Venezuela’s coffee industry was on par with its neighbour to the west, Colombia.
Keep reading to learn more about Venezuelan coffee — its history, coffee production, growing regions, cup profile, brewing methods – and how you can get your hands on these rare coffee beans.
First, a Little Geography
Venezuela lies just South of the Caribbean Sea on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west and Brazil to the south – two coffee-growing powerhouses.
Geographically, the country is divided into four distinct regions:
- Venezuelan Highlands, aka. the Mountains and Caribbean Coastal Region
- Los Llanos
Most of Venezuela’s population lives in the valleys between the mountains that make up the Venezuelan Highlands. However, more than half of the country is dominated by the plateaus forming the Guianan region, home to Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world.
Coffee Regions and Coffee Bean Varietals
Venezuelan coffee production primarily occurs in the Maracaibo lowlands in the west and the Venezuelan Highlands, which are part of the Andes Mountain Range in the north.
Coffee plantations average in altitude from 300 to 1,520 metres above sea level throughout the Maracaibo and Venezuelan Highlands regions (1).
All Venezuelan coffees are either fully or partially grown in shade in ecosystems with a diverse range of plants and trees.
Both Robusta and Arabica beans are grown throughout the country, but two regions stand out.
The Maracaibo Lowlands
There are different coffee-growing areas in this region, but the coffees cultivated here are collectively referred to as Maracaibos coffee — so named because these coffees were exported through the Maracaibo port.
Venezuela coffee production in this region yields four varieties, named for the states in which they’re cultivated:
The main Arabica varieties grown in this region are Bourbon, Typica, Mundo Novo, and Caturra.
Coffees grown in this region are known as Caracas coffee, named after the capital city of Caracas. Due to its higher elevation and proximity to the Caribbean, Caracas coffees cultivated in this region are mellow in flavour and have a similar cup profile to many Caribbean Island coffees.
Venezuelan Coffee Bean Cup Profile
Venezuela coffee is generally less acidic than other Central and South American coffee. The highest-grade Venezuelan coffee is marked “lavado fino.” Literally translated as “fine-washed”, these beans are wet processed and produce a clean cup profile with typically fruity flavours.
Marida is the mildest of the best-known Maracaibo coffees. It has a medium body with mild acidity and a hint of richness. Tachira and Cucuta Maracaibos coffees deliver a cup with more brightness and a good body. Coffee from the Venezuelan Highlands resembles Caribbean coffee because of its sweeter, gentler profile.
How Important Is Coffee To Venezuelan Culture?
Venezuelans historically drank black coffee in a bakery or brewed at home (2). However, more third-wave Venezuelan cafes serving specialty coffee are opening in Venezuela. Pietro Carbone, founder of La Academia del Caffe and Espresso Carbone, is teaching Venezuela’s younger generation to roast and make specialty coffee drinks (3).
Coffee is going to be the next wine. The tastes are getting better not only due to the efforts of producers but also due to new brewing methods.
Venezuelans traditionally brew coffee at home using a cloth coffee filter in a method called guayoyo. This steeping method pairs coffee with a warm spice blend and papelon, an unrefined brown cane sugar.
How To Try Venezuelan Coffee Beans
Want to buy Venezuelan coffee? You might need to buy a ticket to Caracas first.
Since 2001, Venezuela’s coffee crop has accounted for less than one percent of the world’s coffee beans.
Soil erosion, hyperinflation, and governmental regulations have made it difficult for the Venezuelan coffee culture to thrive. Almost all locally-produced coffees are consumed within the country, even as hyperinflation has made local consumption less affordable (4).
Hyperinflation has also made life more difficult for Venezuelan coffee producers, tightening their profit margins. It has made it impossible to obtain any of the necessary fungicides, fertilizers, and equipment essential to a coffee farm. Without high-quality agricultural supplies, the quality of Venezuelan coffee inevitably suffers (5).
As inputs have become scarce, the quality of Venezuelan coffee has suffered, making it less competitive on export markets.
Your best bet for trying Venezuelan coffee is to buy green coffee from reputable Venezuelan coffee businesses. Or else pack your bags and visit one of the many great cafes in Venezuela for a perfect cup.
Venezuela coffee beans are a rarity in the specialty coffee world, but their cup profile is worth the ticket price. Visit the Maracaibo region for coffees that are medium-bodied, mildly sweet, and rich. Or try Venezuelan Highlands coffee for a mellower, sweetly pleasant flavour with all the Caribbean vibes.
You roast green coffee beans with a dedicated coffee roaster for the best results, but you can also use an air fryer, oven, or popcorn popper. Before you do, open all the windows for plenty of air circulation, so you don’t accidentally set off the smoke alarm.
The best Venezuelan coffee brands are Café Mulata, Trinidad Coffee Estate, and Grupo Paramo Café. The latter of these is often called the “Starbucks of Venezuela.” All three offer 100% Arabica Venezuelan coffee beans, but you’ll need to travel to the country to sample their wares.
The best brew methods for Venezuela coffees are pour over and French press. Pour over brewing brings out all the rich acidity and fruity notes of high-quality Maracaibos coffees, while a French press brew highlights the richness of Caripe coffees.
- Escalante, E. (2016). Promising agroforestry systems in Venezuela. Retrieved from https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Promising-agroforestry-systems-in-Venezuela-Escalante/c56ab8cecd4b88efaf3efb8d6dccdc2ce3d59662
- Armas, M. (2021, November 10). Caracas cafe culture flourishes as Venezuela dollarizes economy. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/caracas-cafe-culture-flourishes-venezuela-dollarizes-economy-2021-11-10/
- Ettinger, J. (2015, May 28). Venezuelan Coffee Basically Doesn’t Exist Anymore. Retrieved from https://ecosalon.com/venezuelan-coffee-basically-doesnt-exist-anymore/
- Lee, J. (2015, January 21). The Venezuelan Industry According to Pietro Carbone. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2015/01/the-venezuelan-industry-according-to-pietro-carbone/
- United States Department of Agriculture. (2020). Venezuela Coffee Annual. Retrieved from https://apps.fas.usda.gov/newgainapi/api/Report/DownloadReportByFileName?fileName=Coffee%20Annual_Caracas_Venezuela_05-15-2020