At one time, Venezuela ranked close to Colombia in coffee production, but in the 1960s and 70s, as petroleum temporarily turned Venezuela into the richest country in South America, coffee was relegated to the economic back burner. Today Venezuela produces less than one percent of the world’s coffee, and most of it is drunk by the Venezuelans themselves. However, some interesting Venezuela coffees are again entering the North American specialty market.
The most admired Venezuela coffee comes from the far western corner of the country, the part that borders Colombia. Coffees from this area usually are called Maracaibos, after the port through which they are shipped, and may include one coffee, Cúcuta, that is actually grown in Colombia, but may be shipped through Maracaibo. The best-known Maracaibo coffees, in addition to Cúcuta, are Mérida, Trujillo, and Táchira. Mérida typically displays fair to good body and an unemphatic but sweetly pleasant flavor with hints of richness. Táchira and Cúcuta resemble Colombias, with rich acidity, medium body, and occasional fruitiness.
Coffees from the coastal mountains farther east are generally marked Caracas, after the capital city, and are shipped through La Guaira, the port of Caracas. Caripe comes from a mountain range close to the Caribbean and typically displays the soft, gentle profile of the island coffees of the Caribbean.
Regardless of market name, the highest grade of Venezuela coffee is Lavado Fino, meaning "fine, washed."