So for example, in my local Fairway Market, I see barrels of coffee beans labeled such as "Ethiopian Harrar", "Costa Rica Tarrazu", "Ethiopia Yirgacheffe" etc.

These names literally refer to geographic locations in a country, where the beans are grown and harvested (I assume). How do these names relate to roast level of the different beans? Is there a standard? Does "Ethiopian Harrar" for example imply a particular roast level that is consistent no matter who you buy the beans from?

2 Answers 2


First things first; roasting and beans are two separate things as mentioned as a comment here:

Probably, it is already noticed so the question have been tagged separately.


I think Wikipedia has a very nice guideline for coffee roasting. Keep the following in mind as a principle.

(Summarizing) It is said there, as light roasts leave the origin characteristics of the bean where darker roast wipe it away, yet insert more caramelized flavors while decreasing acidity.

(What are origin characteristics? The answer is at the end.)

If you want to check the details what happens during roasting, you may check the Maillard reaction in one of the previous posts:

Based on this principle you may answer your own question, such as this one:


This chart below is a reference for me.

Every now and the I check this to follow the relations in between the common varieties of edible Coffea Genus. This is a taxonomic chart. However, you cannot learn how they taste by simply looking at it. You should know by heart. Or... Read from a source. There is a simple answer below, then a more complete guide, I believe.


There is no direct relationship between the names you mention and a roast level. That being said, once you learn the characteristics of the origin beans, then many times those beans have a particular roast level that highlights particular flavors.

You are correct that the names mentioned are referring to regions. Typically these regions have an overarching 'profile' that helps guide the customer to what they want.

Let's take the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe for example. Yirg's tend to have citric acidity, with berry and floral notes. While Yirg's are roasted to all different roast levels, many times roasters will tune the roast profile to highlight the positive characteristics of the bean. Meaning, I would bet that a large percentage of Yirgacheffes are sold at a light to medium roast level to highlight the clean cup, and lighter more delicate flavors in the cup.

This is by no means a hard and fast rule!! Some coffees at light roasts highlight lighter fruits like pear, apple etc, and at darker roasts that flavor switches to a deeper development of stone fruit (apricot, plum, peach) or maybe a darker roast starts to bring out baking spice type flavors. This means that certain beans might be offered in a light and a dark variant because they both have very positive traits on both ends of the roasting spectrum.

When I pick a particular coffee, I never look for a 'light', 'Medium' or 'Dark' coffee. Instead, I look for a coffee whose inherent traits align with my taste buds. For me, I know that I will probably like a Guatemala Huehuetenango or an Ethiopia Yirgacheffe coffee provided it is a high quality bean and roasted using a good method. A Sumatran coffee on the other hand tends to highlight very bold earthy flavors that I only prefer in certain circumstances (like when it is blended with something to balance it out) and so if someone is trying to sell me a single origin Sumatra (which isn't very common) I would probably pass.

If you are trying to find out how the names correlate to what flavors, I would look at the product descriptions of various specialty roasteries online. Typically a roastery is going to have cupping notes describing the coffee and you can, in general, get a feel for what origins correlate to what flavors by just reading.

Note: Look for keywords Natural and Washed when shopping coffee origins. A Natural Ethiopia Yirgacheffe has wildly different flavors than a Washed from the same origin (even the same farm). Naturals use a dry processing method that essentially allows the fruit to dry onto the beans (and ferment while its drying) which imparts very fruit forward flavors. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of naturals since along with the added fruitiness, they also tend to get some funky flavors that I can't exactly describe.. basically flavors of fermentation.

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