Coffee In Africa

In today’s day and age, coffee has become a necessity – a part of everyday life.  Recently though people have become fascinated at the different origins of coffee. They have become obsessed with speciality grade coffee that possesses an incredible intrinsic flavour that takes your normal cup of coffee to a new level. What about coffee in Africa?

This article is going to assist you in purchasing your next tin/bag of coffee beans, in choosing an origin of bean most suited to your flavour preference. From intensely bold to light and fruity, coffee grown in different countries have their own accents in flavours. A lot too can be spoken about the roasters who roast the coffee. I hope this article helps you come to a better understanding of coffee from around the world.

The flavour we taste in our cup of coffee is strongly influenced by the country of origin the specific beans came from. Whilst it is difficult to generalize each of the profiles created, each coffee origin generally has its own unique characteristics.

The Home of Coffee – Africa

This is where it all started.

It makes sense to begin our coffee discussion with Africa as it is widely accepted as the birthplace of coffee and can be accredited with the very global nature, we see in the industry today.

The Bean was first discovered in Ethiopia, by a supposed goat farmer named Kaldi who noticed his goats behaving strangely after eating the cherries off a certain tree he found growing in the area. Kaldi sampled the cherries for himself and then shared his findings with his neighbours and friends who all felt the similar effects the goats had – they were more energetic.

As the tale goes, the strange behaviour was noticed by a religious man who deemed the cherries a work of the devil and threw them on the fire. Not long after the air was filled with the heavenly aroma of roasted coffee, which thereafter he declared the cherries the work of God.

Whether this is fact or fiction, there’s no dispute about the incredible growing conditions found in Africa. This has led to Africa as a continent achieving global fame for its production of coffee. Some of the best coffees in the world are found in Africa and it wide argued that most coffees from East Africa (Tanzania, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and DRC) have the most potential to score highly for quality.

For the purpose of this post, we are going to be looking at the Arabica bean growing countries across Africa. The cited table below highlights the differences between Arabica and Robusta and details where both specific beans are grown in Africa.  

Species of Coffee and their associated producing countries in Africa

Coffea Canephora (Robusta)Coffea Arabica (Arabica)
Key factsKey facts
Grown From Sea level to 800 Masl (meters above sea level)Grown from 800 Masl to 2300 Masl (meters above sea level)
Twice the caffeine content of Arabica and
therefore naturally bitter in flavour.
Half the caffeine content of Robusta and is much more complex in
flavour as a result
Higher yielding than Arabica Lower yielding than Robusta
Very resistant to diseaseLess resistant to disease
Grown in: Angold, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire
Ghana, Togo, Uganda
Grown in: Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and
The Democratic Republic of Congo.

 The above-attached table helps to explain a lot more than just the origin of the coffee but some of the history behind the coffee culture found in today’s society as well. For example, Cote D’Ivoire was a French colony and therefore exported much of its Robusta coffee into France. It is for this very reason that the preferred French flavour profile is a coffee that is darkly roasted, bitter and chocolatey.

African coffees are well known for their complex flavour profiles. These profiles bring added sweetness and acidity to many espresso blends, that make fantastically refined single-origin brews. The African beans are by far the best example of many different flavours that can be found in coffee. Many of the coffee-producing counties listed above have the best weather conditions and soil profile, for the production of high-quality coffee.

Take a look at the coffee tasting wheel below. African coffees usually occupy the floral to fruit section with flavours ranging from Hibiscus to Prune. They offer a wide variety of fruity flavours from lemon to jasmine to black current.

Photo Credit – Counter Culture Coffee https://counterculturecoffee.com/learn/resource-center/coffee-tasters-flavor-wheel

Harvesting

In General, coffee from Africa will have been farmed on smallholder plantations as opposed to large estates owned by one owner. For example, in Kenya, 60% of farming is achieved by smallholder farmers who often have no more than just two hectares for coffee production. This would equate to 200-300 trees. This amount of land would produce roughly 1-2 sacks of coffee (60kgs or 130lbs) which usually isn’t enough to export to buyers.

Farmers of coffee with therefore group together what they have grown and form cooperatives which are generally named after the factory that processes the cherries that are delivered by the smallholder farmers. These smallholder farmers are then paid for the cherry that is delivered and will receive incentives for the quality of ripe coffee that is being brought to the washing station/factory. Thereafter the factory will be specifically trained on how to process the coffee in a consistent and uniform manner to ultimately produce coffee that has incredible flavour. At times there can be up to 1000 smallholder farmers that group together with their harvest.

Pre-roasted Coffee

Brewing

Coffees from Africa are best enjoyed filtered and black with no milk or sugar added to them. This approach is best used to experience the fruity flavours that African coffees have to offer. This method is purely used to show off the complexity of the flavouring that can be found. Not all coffees though will perform the same.

Some coffees need to be extracted as an espresso, Rwanda, for example, is one blend that will perform the best using this method. This will create a rich and creamy shot with hints of orange. Other producing countries such as Kenya, is a good example of a coffee best enjoyed filtered due to its flavours of blackcurrant and lemon.

Processing

Most of the coffee produced in East Africa will be washed in channels by hand then dried on raised beds. For this reason, these coffees tend to have higher acidity levels and are incredible ‘clean’ and ‘crisp’ in the cup with distinct nuances of flavour.

Ethiopia is a well-known coffee origin for using the natural process alongside their washed procedures to create dynamic flavour profiles that really need to be tasted to be believed. These natural African coffees tend to have intense floral notes and aromas of ripe strawberries and blueberries.

“Coffee is the common man’s gold, and like gold, it brings to every person the feeling of luxury and nobility”. 

Sheik-Abd-al-Kadir

The way you enjoy your cup of coffee is up to you. But think carefully about whether an African coffee is suited to your flavour and brew preferences and they can taste peculiar if not brewed correctly. 

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7 Responses

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