Coffee from Africa

Coffee Regions Of The World: Africa April 21, 2018 – Posted in: Coffee

Despite being reduced to just “Africa” more than any other world region, the African continent is fascinating complex in geography, culture, economics, and—yes—coffee.

In this blog, we’ll explore Africa’s many coffee producing countries, the diverse coffee flavour landscapes of the continent, and even touch on some history. By the end, you’ll have a much better understanding of which country’s’ coffee you should buy to match your taste preferences. We’ve put together some killer coffee bean buying guides lately so be sure to check them out.

Ethiopia

Coffee from EthiopiaOur oldest myths of coffee go back to Ethiopia. Stories of warriors eating coffee cherries for strength before battle are said to go back two thousand years, but when it comes to coffee brewed as a drink, we can trace that narrative to around 800 AD.

As the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia has 99% of the world’s coffee plant genetic diversity. Most varieties haven’t even been formally identified and categorized—we just call these “heirloom” varieties. This, naturally, causes Ethiopian coffee to be some of the most diverse and exotic coffee in the world, often featuring bright, stunning fruity notes like fresh blueberries. You can get a lovely Ethiopian blend in our coffee subscription club – A must try!

Common Flavours: Fruity, Bold, Sweet, Crisp
Processing Methods: Natural, Washed
Notable Growing Regions: Sidama, Yirgacheffe, Harrar, Gesha

Kenya

Coffee from KenyaThough the next door neighbor of Ethiopia, tea-loving Kenya didn’t start growing coffee commercially until the early 1900’s, over one hundred years after Southeast Asia and the Americas. When Kenya declared independence from Britain in the 60’s coffee production really took off as bigger plantations were broken up and divided among locals.

Flavour-wise, Kenya coffee is also quite diverse. Some of it is fruity, but the majority is floral, earthy, and sweet.

Common Flavours: Tart acidity, juicy mouthfeel, dark sweetness, floral
Processing Methods: Natural
Notable Growing Regions: Bungoma, Kiambu, Mt. Elgon, Nyeri

Rwanda

Coffee from RwandaThe country of Rwanda had coffee before the 1900’s, but it was German and Belgian missionaries that really shaped the industry. Exports were high up until the 90’s, but quality was generally low because those missionaries had primarily produced robusta plants.

Since the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 that decimated the country’s economy and coffee industry, Rwanda has become an inspiring picture of reconciliation and progress. With the renewal of familial ties and national optimism in the early 2000’s, Rwanda has also begun growing more arabica plants and focusing on quality as a way to move on.

Common Flavours: Earthy, fruity, floral, spice, crisp acidity
Processing Methods: Washed
Notable Growing Regions: Lake Kivu, Butare, Nyanza, Ngoma District

Burundi

Coffee from BurundiA smaller country among giants, Burundi’s coffee industry has seen quite a few ups and downs in the last century. Colonization, independence, multiple civil wars, and drought have caused Burundi’s once thriving coffee economy to struggle to pick up the pace again.

Cup quality is particularly high in Burundi, and coffees are easily recognizable to professionals by their exotic acidity and soda-like tang. These stellar coffees have helped bolder Burundi’s economy in recent years.

Common Flavours: Complex, sweet, spicy, floral, crisp
Processing Methods: Washed, Natural
Notable Growing Regions: Gitega, Karuzi, Kayanza, Kirundo, Muyinga, Ngozi

Uganda

Coffee from UgandaThough the native coffee plants are robusta, Uganda’s seen a jump in arabica production since the plants were imported from Ethiopia and Malawi around 1900. As of 2015, Uganda had jumped ahead of Mexico to become the world’s eighth largest coffee exporter.

Similarly to India, Uganda has recently seen the rise of a few rare specialty-grade robusta coffees. This could be due to the rich volcanic soil or farmer techniques that have yet to be identified, but more research needs to be completed to discover the causes for certain.

Common Flavours: Earthy, spicy, crisp acidity, full body
Processing Methods: Washed, Natural
Notable Growing Regions: Mbale, Bugisu, Kibale

Ivory Coast

Coffee from Ivory CoastOn the Western end of Northern Africa is the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)—and though the country grows primarily robusta coffee, it’s worth mentioning. Coffee was brought by French colonists in the 1800’s and quickly grew into a major export. For a brief time after World War II, the Ivory Coast was the #3 coffee exporter.

Civil and political upheaval have caused the country’s coffee industry to fall back to the world’s 14th largest exporter, but the current government is optimistic and expects the industry to grow by 400% by 2020.

Common Flavours: Chocolate, nuts, spice, bitter
Processing Methods: Natural, Washed


There are many other African coffee producers, such as Sierra Leone, Malawi, Tanzania, Togo, and even Madagascar—each with its own unique history, culture, and coffee. To explore the diverse and fascinating flavour landscapes of the African continent, check out our current range of specialty-grade coffees.