Chilean coffee does not exist. Or does it?
May 8, 2013 7:33 AM   Subscribe

Is there a chilean coffee industry? My western European work colleague says she's heard of chilean coffee and that it's supposed to be very good, but as a chilean I've never heard of it, ever.

As far as I know, Chile does not even have the appropriate climate to grow coffee. But as a non-coffee drinker, I always assumed whatever coffee people drink over there is imported from Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, etc, and never cared enough to check a label while I lived there.

We found a German blog in which mention is made, again of "very good chilean coffee" but we have otherwise done an extensive online search - she is a librarian and knows how to find stuff - and can't find any real evidence for or against it.

We'll be both satisfied if you can name a place or region in which it is grown, even better if you know of a factory in Chile that processes 100% chilean coffee, which is grown in the region of [insert region].

Otherwise, I'd love to hear the reasons why chilean coffee is impossible, so next time someone asks me about its existence (it's happened before) I can give a satisfying answer.

Thank you!
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Googling around, companies in Chile at one point imported the raw beans from Costa Rica and processed them domestically. Coffee and coffee extracts are still a large export sector for Chile... but the beans come from Costa Rica.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:50 AM on May 8, 2013

Chile doesn't export enough coffee to show up on the International Coffee Organization web site as a coffee producer.
posted by Jahaza at 7:51 AM on May 8, 2013

According to the International Coffee Organization, Chile is an "Importing non-member". It imports all of its coffee and re-exports very little. It is not listed on the exporting countries list.
posted by cog_nate at 7:53 AM on May 8, 2013

Here is the ICO data sheet for Chile (pdf) which unlike Brazil's data sheet (pdf) does not list any production.
posted by Jahaza at 7:58 AM on May 8, 2013

As for why it is impossible, coffee basically needs to be grown in the tropics, which in Chile would be the far north which is inhospitable to the bean for other reasons - rainfall for one.
posted by JPD at 8:39 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

It doesn't really see any production or export level farming, but some people do grow it. I'm sure coffee production there is like Southern California, Florida and parts of Australia; it can be grown, but the stuff isn't very healthy, yields very little, and tastes like butt.

That said, I'd gladly try some
posted by furnace.heart at 5:24 PM on May 8, 2013

I had consistently delicious coffee when I worked in Santiago in Chile. It was strong dark and flavorful.
I had it black and in lattes, mochas, etc.
But I do not know where it was from.

Perhaps the comment that you read was about its preparation, rather than provenance?
posted by seawallrunner at 7:47 PM on May 8, 2013

I'm not aware of any Chilean coffee trade but Chile does have a singularly odd coffee culture called 'Cafe con piernas' (Coffee with legs). These coffee shops run the gamut from very sketchy, dank hideaways (think of a dive bar with no alcohol) to fairly clean bright shops with leggy girls dressed in tuxedo tops, fishnet stockings and high heels serving coffee to a strongly male clientele.
posted by lois1950 at 10:44 PM on May 8, 2013

The only coffee I could find in Chile apart from the odd starbucks was Folgers. I was very disappointed. I'd go to a conference and they would have a big urn of hot water, some styrofoam cups, and instant coffee. I figured being sort of close to Columbia and Peru they would have some decent coffee. When I would go to a Starbucks it seemed like hardly anyone ever ordered drip coffee, just caramel machiato's and stuff.
posted by trbrts at 3:06 PM on May 10, 2013

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