Africa is filled with coffee’s rich history and offers a variety of flavors. Coffee enthusiasts around the world find African coffee quite exotic, but are they wrong? With that in mind, here are the answers you need to answer the question; what is African coffee?
According to the World Economic Forum, African coffee accounts for 12% of the world’s coffee production. But what is it? African coffee is a type of coffee grown, harvested, and found in the African continent. The major countries that supply African coffee are Kenya and Ethiopia.
African coffee has a deep history rooted in politics, colonization, African tribes, etc. Of course, this article will touch on some of the rich histories behind coffee, but it will also give you the information you need to know about African coffee.
You’re welcome to take a seat, brew a cup, and keep reading.
What Is African Coffee?
As shared earlier, African coffee is a type of coffee found in the African continent. According to the NCA, the National Coffee Association, no one knows where coffee comes from, but coffee allegedly originated from Ethiopia, a country located in the eastern part of Africa.
From Ethiopia, the Arabs like it because Islam does not allow them to partake in alcohol. So coffee became something they could enjoy without breaking the rules: two birds and one stone or one cup of coffee.
After that, the rest is history; coffee spread to Europe and finally to the Americas. It has retained its global popularity, and there’s little anyone can do to shake it off its historically drawn-out throne.
So, just as Africa is the cradle of humankind (Darwin’s theory), you could assume that Africa is the cradle of coffee. You could also think of African coffee as the original flavor that ended up changing thanks to the climate, soil, etc.
If you’re a coffee enthusiast looking into African coffee, you’re in the right place. Apart from this short history lesson, this article hopes to act as the ultimate guide you’ll need to understand African coffee. Here’s what the guide entails:
1. Coffee growing areas in Africa
2. Types of African coffee
3. What makes African coffee so different?
4. Taste of Africa
Hopefully, after you’re done reading this article, you can say with a clear conscience that you can answer the question; what is African coffee?
What Are The Main Coffee Growing Areas in Africa?
For those of you readers that didn’t know, Africa is a continent. There are 54 countries in total in the African continent. Africa is also the second-largest continent in the world.
The largest continent in the world is Asia, and in third place in North America. Out of those 54 countries, only a handful of countries grow, harvest, and distribute coffee beans.
Here are the major coffee-producing countries in Africa:
- Democratic Republic of Congo
A 2020 report by Statista shows that Ethiopia leads in the total coffee exports in Africa; Uganda and Kenya follow suit. Although the numbers are pretty small, other honorable mentions are South Africa, Cameroon, and Cote d’Ivoire.
This article will mainly touch on Ethiopia and Kenya. Why? Because coffee enthusiasts consider these two countries the top countries in the African continent when it comes to coffee.
As shared earlier, experts consider Ethiopia as the birthplace of coffee. One more thing that adds to this fact is that there are wild coffee plants present in the mountain regions of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is a country located on the Eastern side of Africa. Its capital is Addis Ababa; however, coffee is grown and harvested from three main areas in Ethiopia:
Experts consider Ethiopian coffee to be full of flavor. A taste capable of making a bold statement.
Kenya is a country south of Ethiopia, and it’s similarly on the Eastern side of Africa. You will notice that many Americans and Europeans prefer Kenyan coffee because of its sharp, fruity, and acidic taste.
Coffee in Kenya is grown by small-scale farmers along the Mount Kenya region. Mount Kenya is the tallest mountain in Kenya. Not only that but there’s a body that grades the coffee produced.
The body grades coffee in Kenya in the following ways:
The body bases the grading system on the size of the coffee beans. Officials do not base the grading on the quality of the coffee beans but the size of the coffee beans.
The different grading levels are size-oriented. Grade AA makes up 15% – 20% of the production. The most exciting thing about Kenyan coffee is that Kenyan citizens do not drink coffee.
Kenya is one of the leading countries in tea production. The majority of the Kenyan population drink tea, leaving coffee a product for export. Why don’t they drink their coffee?
In my experience, it’s part of the culture. Coffee isn’t as prominent in Kenyan culture in comparison to tea. There’s also the issue of the British colonization, which embedded tea into the lifestyle of millions of Kenyans.
What Are The Types Of African Coffee?
Now that the history and geographic points of coffee are in order, it’s time to start delving deeper into the topic of African coffee. As shared, Africa is a massive continent.
Not only that, but coffee differs according to the climate, soil, etc., that it’s grown in. This article will cover more on that below.
Scientists have this long concept of naming plants. It’s called Binomial Nomenclature. In a nutshell, scientists provide all living organisms a genus and a species name.
Coffee is a plant, and thus scientists consider it a living organism. The genus name of the coffee is Coffea. Any name that comes after the word Coffea is known as the species name.
Why is this important? According to the NCA, the National Coffee Association, experts estimate between 25-100 coffee plants worldwide.
Does this mean that this article will cover over 100 coffee plants? Fortunately no. There are four leading coffee plants found in Africa.
The different coffee-growing areas have also led to different types of African coffee.
Here are the primary coffee plants that you can find in the African coffee category:
- Coffea Arabica
- Coffea Robusta or Coffea Canephora
- Coffea Liberica
Coffea Arabica is the leading coffee plant in the world. It constitutes up to 75%-80% of the world’s total coffee production. Not only that, but it’s the descendant of the original wild coffee plants found in Ethiopia.
Why are they so popular? The C. Arabica coffee plants produce a mild and aromatic coffee taste that many coffee enthusiasts find pleasant. They also have the lowest caffeine levels when compared to Coffea Robusta.
Another reason why Arabica is so popular is that it has the highest value amongst African coffee. It’s a low-caffeine coffee plant that brings in a reasonable amount of profit.
Coffee farmers usually grow and harvest Arabica between 2000 – 6000 feet above sea level. However, there are some areas that coffee farmers consider optimal because of their distance from the Equator.
When growing Arabica, coffee farmers must consider the temperature. It’s the deal-breaker for Coffea Arabica. Arabica requires a mild temperature, something between 59°F – 75°F.
Arabica’s optimal rainfall is 60 inches of rainfall annually. Another thing to note is that Arabica will not survive in areas prone to frost. They will inevitably die in such conditions.
On the other hand, the growing and harvesting process of Coffea Arabica is costly to farmers. They are prone to diseases and will require more TLC than Coffea Robusta.
Not only that but areas where Arabica can grow are pretty steep, making harvesting pretty expensive because of the workforce needed. It’s a costly endeavor, but the results are worth it.
Coffea Robusta Or Coffea Canephora
You can find Coffea Robusta, aka Canephora, in the Central and Western parts of Africa. You can also find it in South American countries such as Brazil.
Currently, the NCA shares that Coffea Robusta accounts for only 30% of the world’s total coffee. An interesting fact is that you can mainly find Coffea Robusta blends in instant coffee.
What differentiates Arabica and Robusta is Robusta’s ability to survive in lower altitude areas. Not only that, but it’s capable of surviving in higher temperatures.
Experts shared that Robusta prefers a temperature of between 75°F and 85°F. It’s pretty high when you compare it to the temperatures that Arabica needs to grow.
Like its fellow genus member, Robusta is weak to frost and will die in colder climates. Robusta also requires the same annual amount of rainfall.
You may or may not have heard of Coffea Liberica because it’s grown and produced in small quantities. You can mainly find this coffee plant in Western and Central Africa.
What’s interesting about Coffea Liberica is that it grows as a large tree that can span up to 18 meters high. In terms of flavor, many coffee experts compare it to Robusta.
What Makes African Coffee So Different?
Coffee experts consider African coffee a delicacy. But what makes it so different? What is African coffee, and what makes it so different from the global coffee community?
If you had not noticed, most of the coffee produced in Africa is grown along the Equator. In other words, African coffee thrives in the areas along the Equator.
The equatorial region experience the equatorial climate. This climate tends to stay constant for most of the year. The areas in the equatorial region will also have a hot climate for the majority of the year.
This reason is why the equatorial region will experience hot and wet seasons throughout the year. Unlike spring, summer, autumn, and winter seasons felt in the areas away from the Equator.
The equatorial climate meets every single condition required for either Arabica or Robusta coffee to grow. The Equator also cuts through Africa, making Ethiopia and Kenya peak regions for African coffee to grow.
The main thing to note about the soil farmers use to grow African coffee is that the soil is volcanic. For example, coffee in Kenya is grown around Mount Kenya because volcanic soil provides the necessary nutrients and drainage for the optimal growth of coffee.
Coffee-growing regions in both Kenya and Ethiopia exhibit the same soil conditions, which is another thing that differentiates it from other coffee types worldwide.
The Coffee Type
As shared earlier, experts estimate that there are 25-100 coffee plant species worldwide. African coffee comprises three coffee plants. These three coffee plants are also native to Africa, but farmers can grow them in other environments, albeit in a controlled environment.
Arabica and Robusta are some of the leading coffee types in the market. They are also the main coffee types grown throughout Africa. Because of the soil and the climate, the Arabica and Robusta coffee will have their distinct taste compared to the Arabica and Robusta grown in other countries like Brazil.
Coffee types play their part as one of the factors that make African coffee different from its counterpart. Not only that, but experts consider Africa as the birthplace of coffee. All the coffee that’s grown worldwide originated from the Ethiopian highland valleys.
Essentially, African coffee is the blueprint for the entire coffee industry worldwide. Other coffee types are variations of that coffee. That’s another reason why African coffee types stand out from the rest.
African coffee is a delicacy worldwide because of its flavor, taste, and the fact that it’s the main movie and the rest are sequels. You could say that it’s the main movie and the prequel. Nevertheless, African coffee has made its place in the coffee industry as one of the best coffee types worldwide.
If you’re interested in getting to know more about African coffee, you can check out these African owned coffee brands:
- Kahawa 1983
- Tanzania Peaberry Coffee
- Out of Africa Coffee
- Java House Kenya
- Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Coffee
So what is African coffee? African coffee refers to coffee beans that came from Africa. African farmers planted, harvested, processed, and exported the coffee. African coffee is a true delicacy for any coffee lover, and it might just change your perspective on coffee or even your taste buds.
You have nothing to lose by trying out the best African coffee.
Are You Interested In What Other Like-minded Individuals Are Asking? Here Are Some Extremely Helpful FAQs.
Is African Coffee Good?
You can consider Africa as the birthplace of all coffee species in the world. Any coffee variety that’s grown anywhere in the world originated from Africa. But is African coffee good?
African coffee speaks for all the coffee worldwide, not the other way around. Till today, experts consider the coffee that comes from Ethiopia as top-tier coffee. So yes, African coffee is excellent.
There are numerous coffee brands from Africa and are ran by African companies. For example, the Kenyan AA coffee is one of the top coffee beans in the world. So, if you’re interested in African coffee, be sure to check out African-owned businesses to get a real taste of African coffee. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Which Country Has The Best Coffee In Africa?
Hands down, you have to give it to Ethiopia. The Ethiopian valleys still have wild-growing coffee plants that are producing coffee to this day. Not only that, but Ethiopia has the highest coffee production in Africa.
Why? Because the coffee from Ethiopia is delicious and considered top-tier in the coffee industry. So, if you’re new to African coffee, you can start with Ethiopian coffee and the different blends that the companies offer.
On the other hand, there’s also Kenya, a strong runner-up. Kenyan coffee is another exciting coffee blend you may want to try out. Kenya has a coffee grading system that prioritizes quality over quantity. If that appeals to you, be sure to check out Kenyan-owned coffee brands for a great cup of coffee.
How Is African Coffee Made?
From a general perspective, African farmers make coffee the same way it’s made worldwide. The only difference would be that in Africa, the emphasis is on sustainable processing methods. Most African farmers will use the dry processing method, which utilizes the sun as a drying agent. Drying the coffee cherries is part of the process.
Either way, once the cherries have been dried under the sun for a couple of days, they use a machine to remove the rest of the coffee fruit, leaving only the seed, which is what’s commonly referred to as the coffee bean. Remember that Africa is the cradle of coffee and the majority of the coffee grown worldwide comes from Africa.
So you could say that African coffee serves as the blueprint for the rest of the world to follow. Lastly, African coffee is prevalent in Western countries because of its taste, flavor, and exotic nature.