African coffees tend towards the exotic in flavors as compared to the more well know Latin American coffees. These flavors include what’s described as fruity and floral with high acidity and medium body. Let’s review several of the more popular African coffee growing countries.
The king of African coffees, washed Arabica Kenya coffee, is considered overall to be of the highest quality on the continent as a result of years and years of production, very high standards, superior milling facilities and coffee experts. Located on the east coast of Africa, Kenya’s Mombasa port has been a natural focal point of commerce for ages. The famous Rift Valley of Central Kenya where most of the people live. A fertile land from the tropical coasts, semi-desert north and the savannahs in the south, Kenya’s agricultural products, primarily tea and coffee, contribute to half of the country’s exports.
The primary coffee growing regions are located around Mt. Kenya, just north of Nairobi, the country’s capital. This region has two distinct rainy seasons; the first is April-June which results in what’s called “fly crop” and the second is October-December with its increased rain produces the “main crop.”
Characteristics include a high acidity, full body, intense floral and fruity flavors.
Growing regions include: Meru, Kirinyaga, Muranga, Nyeri, Embu and several others.
By most accounts considered the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia is located in northeast corner of Africa just north of Kenya, next to Somalia, Djibouti and Sudan. It is interesting to note that Ethiopia is the leading coffee consuming country in Africa, consuming almost half their annual production.
Ethiopian coffee is a prized coffee for its very unique flavors, most often a result of a combination of soil, terrain, weather and often the natural drying process of the coffee cherries in contrast to the washed processing of most Arabia coffees considered high quality Specialty varieties.
Characteristics depending on the variety may include: balanced medium body and acidity with winey sweet or floral flavors and blueberry notes.
The most popular varieties in the United States are Harar, Yirgacheffe and Sidamo.
The mainland is primarily a savannah plateau lying east of the famous Rift Valley, Tanzania includes the island of Zanzibar. In the north lie Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti National Park. With its tropical climate people are concentrated on the coastal region and in the north. Coffee is one of its main exports. Tanzania has several regions, north, south and west where coffee growing is found.
These Arabica coffees are mostly of the washed and fully washed varieties with the harvest season extending from April through December.
Characteristics include a balanced body with bright acidity and flavor. In the south we find more fruity flavors.
Popular varieties include Kilamanjaro, Makambako, Songea and Bukoa.
This very small, but densely populated country borders Tanzania, Congo and Rwanda with a mountainous high plateau and tropical climate. A very poor country, most of its population survive through subsistence agriculture. Its coffee and tea earn 90% of its export dollars.
Primarily a washed Arabica variety, the harvest season extends from February through June.
Characteristics include a full body and bright acidity, typical of east African coffees. A long way from the ocean, processed coffee must be transported across land through Tanzania to the port of Dar es Salaam or through Kenya to Mombasa.
Like Burundi, Zambia is a landlocked country lying just north of Zimbabwe, but actually bordering seven countries in all. With its tropical climate and high savannah plateau, Zambia has a long rainy season which goes from November through May.
Although primarily an Agrarian country, its economy is dependent on mining Copper, but reserves are declining. As a result, the government is promoting agriculture and coffee production is increasing. The harvest season extends from October through March producing a full-bodied washed Arabica coffee with the general qualities of an average African variety.
Raising quality is a priority and government experimental farms are helping to improve growing, harvesting and production techniques that are being shared with the coffee growing community.
Another landlocked coffee growing country located at the southern end of the famous Rift Valley between Zambia and Tanzania, Malawi produces a small but good quality washed Arabica coffee harvest.
With a subtropical climate, its economy is primarily agricultural with 90% of the population living in rural communities. Although the country is a ward of the IMF and World Bank, independent coffee, tea, sugar and tobacco farmers are producing the main exports.
Coffee production is difficult as irrigation is required as a result of recent drought conditions and unpredictable rainfall. This situation restricts coffee production resulting in a small but quality coffee crop each year.
The washed Arabica beans are processed as fully washed coffee harvested from April through September producing a coffee of medium acidity and light body.