Why Origin Matters: An Interview with Orinoco Coffee & Tea CEO, Pedro Ramirez

Pedro Ramirez of Orinoco Coffee & Tea
Pedro Ramirez, CEO, Orinoco Coffee & Tea

We often say when it comes to finding the finest bean or tealeaf, region matters. That’s why we buy our beans and tea leaves only from the finest coffee and tea producing areas of the world.

So, what areas are the best? According to Orinoco Coffee & Tea CEO Pedro Ramirez, it depends on your taste!

Read what he has to say about origin, coffee flavor profiles, and his secret passion for one particular tea.

Q: How does the environment affect the taste of coffee and tea?

Ramirez: “The environment plays a big role in how your coffee or tea tastes. Coffee beans and tea leaves require a tropical environment, so that’s why you find these crops near the equator in certain regions of the world like in Africa, Asia, Latin America, India, as well as in certain areas of Hawaii.

The soil composition of the farm and where the plants are harvested are really important. For both coffee and teas, altitude defines flavor; the higher the altitude, the denser the coffee bean, for example. The denser the bean the more flavor will accumulate within it. This usually means a better, more flavorful, more complex cup of coffee. This formula is true for teas as well.

It’s important to remember that too much or not enough rain can affect the quality and quantity of these crops too. Which is why you sometimes see the price fluctuate.”

Q: Why are certain coffees “better” than others?

Ramirez: “Better is a relative term. If you mean which coffees are the most sought-after, I would say the nuances that you experience from an African roast make those beans the most cherished.

At the same time, the coffees that sell the most are those from the Columbian and Brazilian regions, mostly because they are the largest producers. What makes a coffee better is really dependent on what the coffee drinker likes, as each region has a distinct taste, and each area within that region can be distinct as well.

As roasters, we look for beans that are consistent in size and color. This gives you a more balanced experience of the bean’s flavor profile, whatever that is — it could be acidic, earthy, or complex.

We buy from all over the world, not just from large producers like Brazil, but from smaller countries like Jamaica and Mexico too. It’s important to us to offer our customers a large variety of flavors and the best bean and teas from all areas.”

Q: What are the flavor nuances of each region?

Ramirez: “Coffees from Indonesia tend to be more earthy and have more complex flavors. Ethiopian coffees are often described as a “full cup” or said to have more flavor. The same is true for African coffees.

Coffees from Central and South America have a much cleaner, lighter flavor profile and can be more acidic. The best way to find out what kind of coffee you like is to try beans from different regions, because like wine, each region is different!

The same is true for teas. All tea varieties are produced from one tea plant. Your cup of tea will taste different, depending on how it is prepared and the origin of the leaf. Also, the larger the tea leaf, the more intense or bigger the flavor.

We purchase teas from India and China. I prefer black teas from East India. They tend to have milder taste. Teas from China I find to be more bitter, but as it is with coffee, it depends on what you like.

There are so many great flavors out there, I’m always discovering and trying new teas just about every week, but you can’t beat a warm cup of <Harney & Sons Ceylon>.”