Latin-American coffees are grown all along the mountainous backbone of Latin America, from southern Mexico south through Central America, Colombia and Bolivia to Peru, as well as in the highlands of the larger islands of the Caribbean and on the high plateaus of Brazil. At their best, the classic coffees of Latin-American manifest bright, lively acidity and a clean, straightforward cup. They provide what for a North American is a normative good coffee experience.
Within this very broad family of coffees, however, there are many variations in cup and character. The very highest grown coffees of Central America and Colombia tend to be boldly and intensely acidy and full-bodied. These are the coffees that attract coffee purists of the old school. Caribbean coffees, including the celebrated Jamaica Blue Mountain, tend at their best to be big-bodied and roundly balanced with rich, low-key acidity. The best Nicaraguas are meaty and full-bodied. Lower grown coffees from Central America tend to be soft and round in profile, as are the often exquisitely sweet coffees of Peru.
The character of the classic Latin-American cup derives in part from the clarity of flavor achieved through wet-processing. The coffees of Brazil offer a different world of experience based on a much wider variety of processing methods, from dry-processing, which produces the classic Brazil Santos cup, low-toned, spicily complex and rich, to semi-dry or pulped natural processing, which promotes a softly complex, delicately fruity cup, to classic wet-processing, which produces a cleanly understated, pleasingly low-acid cup much like the one offered by the finer lower grown coffees of Central America.