Coffee Bean Bucket List: 5 Coffee Beans You Must Try

When you first started drinking coffee, you probably didn’t care about where your coffee came from or what it specifically tasted like – you just needed a jolt of caffeine in order to properly wake up in the morning.

But if you’ve grown to become a serious coffee fan, you’d realise there’s actually a lot happening behind the scenes before your coffee reaches your tastebuds: anything from the variety of the coffee plant and where it’s grown to how recently the beans were roasted and how they’re brewed can influence its taste.

True coffee lovers can attest to the fact that all no two coffee bean varieties are alike, so understanding what you’re looking for can go a long way towards helping you find the perfect one to suit your taste. If you’re looking to widen your coffee-drinking horizons, here are five coffee beans you should definitely try:

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe

Based on coffee lore, Ethiopia is said to be the birthplace of the coffee bean. So you know you’re in for a treat, but this is especially the case if your coffee beans are sourced from Yirgacheffe. This small town in the country’s southern reaches is famous for consistently producing some of the best coffee in the world.

Yirgacheffe beans are traditionally wet-processed (i.e., the fruit – or coffee cherry – is washed off the green coffee bean soon after picking), lending it a bright acidity. Best enjoyed with a light to medium roast, the beans are known for their complex floral or citrus notes, making it perfect for a tall, cool glass of iced coffee.

Every year, coffee cherries are harvested during the dry season when they are bright red, glossy and firm. Photo by Clint McKoy

Hawaii Kona

Hawaii is the only place in the United States that grows coffee, and its Kona coffee is one of the most sought-after varieties. Over 500 small coffee farms are located in the Kona Coffee Belt located on the western side of the Big Island of Hawaii. Most of the farms are family-owned and still stick to time-tested methods (e.g., hand-picking the coffee cherries).

Kona coffee is known for its rich flavour – well-balanced with subtle wine tones – and a strong, memorable aroma. These are best brought out in a medium roast, but if you prefer a more robust taste, you can go for a dark roast or espresso roast.

Pro-tip: As much as possible, opt for single origin rather than a blend. Single origin beans come from the same place, offering a distinctive flavour profile, whereas a blend is a mix of beans from various locations around the world.

Tanzania Peaberry

Searching for coffee beans that will blow your mind? Try the Tanzania Peaberry on for size. Grown in the volcanic soil-enriched slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, the peaberry is a single, round coffee bean found inside the coffee cherry.

Only about five per cent of all coffee beans are peaberry, which is known for its superior flavour. Producing a sweet, zesty aroma, Tanzania Peaberry coffee beans tend to have a cheerful acidity and medium body, with a profile of molasses and a mild hint of berry.

Drip coffee yields a stronger, more intense flavour because it wets the coffee grounds evenly. Photo from Karl Fredrickson

India Monsooned Malabar

If you’re looking to impress your fellow kaki kopi (coffee enthusiasts), be sure to bring up this coffee’s unique origin story: as suggested in its name, the beans are exposed to blustery monsoon winds for three to four months, causing them to expand in size due to all the moisture in the air. The result? Large, golden coffee beans packed with flavour.

This coffee is unique to the Malabar Coast of Karnataka and Kerala and is characterised by its bold and pungent aroma, accompanied with spicy or nutty notes. Taste-wise, its low acidity and thick, chocolatey flavour make it suitable as an espresso.

Pro-tip: It’s worthwhile to buy your coffee beans whole and investing in a coffee grinder so you can grind just the right amount you need each time. This gets you a fresher, more flavourful cup. Here’s a guide on self-grinding coffee to the perfect size because it highly matters.

Panama Geisha

Despite its name, Geisha coffee has nothing to do with Japan’s famed painted ladies – the beans actually originated from the town of Gesha in Ethiopia, before making its way to Central America in the 1960s. Panama’s Geisha coffee beans, in particular, have been widely acclaimed, especially those sourced from Hacienda La Esmerelda.

With a light, tea-like body infused with honey and citrus flavours, the Geisha is just the thing for those who prefer brews that aren’t so heavy. Its floral aroma with notes of berries, mango and mandarin oranges will leave you with a warm, cosy feeling that’s sure to start your day off on the right foot. If you gravitate towards these flavours, find out more about the coffee flavours of Indonesia – a fruity and floral coffee bean haven.