It’s no secret that Africa is the birthplace of coffee which can be traced back to the ancient region of Ethiopia called Kaffa.
Naturally Ethiopia is the largest coffee producer in Africa with a coffee industry that accounts for up to 70% of foreign income with estimates of 15 million people working in this industry.
Although east African countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda ) are recognised as established coffee growing regions with great quality and tasting notes countries such as Malawi, Zambia, the democratic republic of Congo all now have established export markets.
With the exception of Ethiopia who have a local coffee culture consuming around half of their production all other African countries grow coffee for export. This trend is set to evolve due to the rise of the middle class who are showing a preference for coffee over traditional drinks such as tea.
Africa consists of 54 countries of which 24 produce either Arabica, robusta beans or involved in growing both. Each country can have different growing regions meaning that flavours and notes vary depending on the region, the coffee bean type, soil, weather and processing methods.
Arabica or Robusta?
Two main coffee types are grown in Africa, arabica and robusta. There are a number of distinct differences between arabica and robusta beans from the shape of the bean to the sweetness. The two main distinct differences borders on where they grow and the caffeine content which greatly affects the taste.
Arabica requires a steady growing environment consisting of warm days and cooler nights around18-22°C with volcanic soil being the ideal ingredient for growing the best arabica species which is abundant in some African regions particularly parts of east Africa. Arabica beans are mainly grown in east and central Africa, are sweeter and are known to have tones of fruit, florals, chocolate and nuts.
Robusta on the other hand grows in lower altitudes and are much more hardy plants, resistant to weather, disease and require less maintenance. Unlike arabica, they produce fruit much quicker and have double the caffeine content of arabica beans. This isn’t necessarily a good thing as it tends to have a bitter and harsher taste for this reason.
Arabica coffees are undoubtably the finer and most preferred coffee out of the two with a global consumption accounting for over 60%.
Within the coffee industry, robusta beans are mainly used in instant coffee and as blends for espressos.
At Mara Coffee, we only focus on the highest grade Arabica single origin speciality coffee. The widely accepted definition of specialty coffee is coffee scoring 80 points or above on the SCA grading (speciality coffee association).
Cream of the crop
African coffees are highly revered for their diverse flavours which are not found anywhere else. What makes the continents coffee unique is the wide ranging distinct flavour profiles, satisfying aroma and wide ranging tasting notes.
Let's explore some of the tasting profiles you can expect from African coffee.
Usually distinct, elegant floral, herbal, with citrus notes. After taste notes of blueberry, Jasmine, and bergamot.
Inimitable rich bodied, fruity, bold acidity with fragrant blackcurrant flavours, taste notes of citrus and berries.
Rich flavours with pronounced fruitiness of berry and red apple. Florals are also quite common flavour profiles.
Some regions produce sweet nutty flavours with hints of lemon and spiced cloves. Typically balanced bodied with fig flavours wrapped in juicy acidity.
Can have a sweet molasses fragrance with notes of apple fruit, berry flavours and a smooth finish. Similar to Kenyan coffee but has a lighter acidity.s
Less fruitier than neighbouring Kenyan & Tanzanian coffee. Rich textured with sweet chocolate flavour, typically bright with cherry and nutty notes.
Lower acidity, bright complex and floral. Ideal for darker roasts in espresso drinks.
A smaller, lesser known region. Sweet and smooth flavoured with hints of chocolate. Hints of blueberry and citrus
Democratic Republic of Congo
Another lesser known region, typically full bodied with a unique profile of rich chocolate notes earthy, hints of cinnamon, apple, caramelised sugar and moderate acidity.
An up and coming region that is re awakening with the support EU funding. Spicy rich, mellow flavoured coffee with a pleasant aroma.
Medium bodied with sweet, chocolatey, woody. Can have excellent acidity accenting complex, roasty notes, almost savoury.
There are other coffee producing regions that haven’t been featured such as Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Angola etc, who are mainly robusta growers.
To sum up, Africa has a rich and sumptuous coffee offering ready to be explored. What are you waiting for, adventure awaits!
Visit www.maracoffee.com for premium speciality coffee to shake up your coffee routine. Time to explore!