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Coffee From Asia and Oceania: Origins and Flavor Profiles

  • 4 min read

Across the Asia/Oceania region, from the subcontinent of India to the islands of Indonesia to even sections of Australia, you can find coffee farms. Given the size of the region and different cultures, you can find many different types of coffee here.

Many areas in Asia/Oceania grow Robusta beans, which can tolerate higher temperatures and lower elevations, compared with Arabica beans. Vietnam, for example, is the second-largest coffee producer in the world — behind only Brazil, according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO) — and it primarily grows Robusta beans.

Still, you can find both types of beans throughout the region, and you can discover a world of flavors.

History of Coffee in Asia/Oceania

While coffee originated in Africa, it took root in Arabia, which is technically part of the Asian continent. From there, other parts of Asia took hold as important parts of the early coffee trade.

As the book Espresso Coffee: The Science of Quality explains, Muslim pilgrims likely brought Arabica beans from Yemen to Sri Lanka and India in the early 17th century. Around 1700, the Dutch East India Company also brought seeds to Java in Indonesia. 

So, when you’re enjoying a cup of java, you may be more connected to history than you realized.

However, like many stories in history, there’s underlying complexity and legends. As one story goes, a theft by Dutch merchant Pieter van den Broecke made it possible for the Dutch East India Company to later get into the coffee trade. 

The theft “happened in 1614 when he visited Yemen’s primary port, Mocha. As you might remember, Yemen had banned the sale of live coffee bushes in an effort to keep their cash crop a monopoly. Van den Broecke stole one of these plants and transported it back to Amsterdam,” explains the Coffee Canon podcast

What Does Coffee From Asia/Oceania Taste Like?

Like with other regions, the taste of coffee from Asia/Oceania can be hard to pin down, as there’s so much variation among different producers. However, if you had to put an overarching descriptor on the flavor profile of coffee from Asia/Oceania, then earthy would likely be a good fit.

Here, we’ll dive into more detail on the flavors from four notable coffee-growing countries in Asia/Oceania. 

What Does Coffee From Vietnam Taste Like? 

Vietnam is among the world leaders in coffee.

“In the last 20 years Vietnam has emerged as a global force in commercial coffee production, especially in the lower grown robusta sector,” says Scott McMartin, founder of Fundamental Coffee and head of coffee for the Mercon Coffee Group. He is also a Coffee Quality Institute Certified Q Grader.

But Vietnam isn’t limited to Robusta. “There are some exceptional, high-altitude specialty Arabica coffees grown near Da Lat which are worth seeking out,” adds McMartin.

The blog JayArr Coffee adds: “Vietnamese coffees often feature earthy/wood notes akin to Sumatran coffees, with lower quality coffee often described as being flat and lacking sweetness. However, quality arabica coffees from Vietnam also often feature chocolatey and spicy notes.”

What Does Coffee From India Taste Like?

Another big coffee producer in Asia/Oceania is India, where you can find a mix of Arabica and Robusta beans. One notable type of coffee from India is known as Monsooned Malabar, where beans get exposed to the monsoon season.

“With a balanced pH level, the texture becomes thicker and fuller grained, losing its color and turning golden. The specific tastes, as considered by consumers, can be described as richly earthen. It is said to possess aromatic smoky and spicy flavors with a touch of malt sweetening,” explains Craft Coffee Guru.

What Does Coffee From Indonesia Taste Like?

After Vietnam, Indonesia is the largest coffee producer in the region. The country produces a mix of Robusta and Arabica beans. And different islands within Indonesia have different flavors/quality levels.

“The best Sumatras have full, syrupy body and a spicy, herbal quality that is highly prized. Sadly, the government-run plantations of Java are overdue for renovation and have produced fewer special coffees than in years past,” notes McMartin.

What Does Coffee From Papua New Guinea Taste Like?

Papua New Guinea shares an island with Western New Guinea, also called Papua, which is part of Indonesia. But the eastern end of the island, Papua New Guinea, is its own country with its own rich coffee industry.

“Not be overlooked are the highly remote coffees grown in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Often containing notes of sweet acidity and exotic floral aromas, these coffees are rare and worth seeking out,” says McMartin. 

Unlock the Flavors of Asia/Oceania Coffee

From Robusta blends to single-origin Arabicas, you can find a wide range of coffee beans that come from Asia/Oceania. And the next time you hear someone refer to coffee as java, you’ll know that there’s a deeper story beneath the name, whether they consciously know it or not.

If you want to unlock the flavors of coffee from this region, you can use your Moccamaster to experience the real taste. Different types of beans will have different tastes; some might have hints of mushroom, others chocolate, and others more of a nutty flavor. The beauty of coffee is that there’s something for everyone, so take your time and discover the many flavors waiting to be sipped.

Explore all the coffee growing regions.