My earliest impression of Africa was when I went to the cinema for the first time. The iconic opening of The Lion King, the beautiful landscapes of the Savanna, and the sight of different animals completely enamored me with this continent.
My love grew tenfold when I found out that it is also the birthplace of humankind and coffee. Historians can argue that the beverage (and modern civilization, of course) greatly influenced the world today. It is safe to say that the continent has produced some of the best cups of Joe the market can offer, and here are some of its countries that we should pay attention to.
We have to start in the country where coffee originated. Ethiopia is the largest coffee producer and top exporter among all countries in Africa and the world, valued at almost $1.2 billion in 2021. Most of their Arabica beans are grown at high elevations, making their coffee one of the most complex in flavor.
Ethiopian coffees are grown in three key regions, namely Harar, Yirgacheffe, and Limu. One of the factors of flavor variety is the location of the farm. For instance, Harar is known for its full-bodied flavor with distinct fruity and wine-like notes complemented with hints of cocoa.
On the other hand, Limu coffee beans boast a floral flavor that closely resembles jasmine, accentuated with notes of blueberries and citrus fruit undertones.
You can start acquainting yourself with Ethiopian coffee by trying Volcanica’s Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Coffee. The drink is medium-bodied and has a bright acidity to it. Personally, it captures all of the complex flavors Ethiopian coffee provides.
You might find our guide on the best Ethiopian coffee helpful.
Uganda is Africa’s second top coffee exporter, but it is interesting that more than two-thirds of their coffee is Robusta. Uganda is known for producing the highest quality Robusta. Additionally, since they grow their coffee at high elevations, it produces higher acidity levels than the common Robusta.
The flavor is more on the sweet side which features chocolate and caramel notes with pleasant woody and nutty undertones. Depending on how it was processed, some even highlight the sweet and winey notes of stone fruits and the tanginess of citrus fruits.
The country’s Arabica coffee is something to be desired, as well. Most notable is the Bugisu, a rich and full-bodied cup of Joe that gives notes of dark chocolate and a robust molasses flavor topped off with the tropical sweetness of berries and coconut hints.
Coffee from Kenya is one of the most sought-after coffee in the world because of its bean quality and bold flavor profile. One of which is their Kenya AA, which is a classification given to coffee beans that boast a large bean size. It is estimated that around 70% of Kenya’s coffee is produced by small-scale farmers and is mostly grown in the highlands of Mount Kenya, Nakuru, and Kisii, to name a few.
The coffee is usually wet-processed, and the flavors can differ depending on the region where it is grown. Regardless, Kenya coffee is known for its well-balanced cup and tolerable acidity that has lemon and blackberry notes, with some featuring a spicy kick.
Home of the renowned Kilimanjaro coffee, Tanzania offers a wide range of Arabica coffee cultivated from its nine main growing regions and accounts for 70% of its total coffee export. A whopping 95% of Tanzania coffee is grown by small-scale farmers, which speaks volumes about the excellent quality of their produce.
Kilimanjaro coffee offers a variety of flavor profiles. Some feature an apricot flavor with notes of sweet wine and a delightful nutty aftertaste, while others have kiwi and sweet berry notes. Other variants offer a spicy cedar zing complemented by a lingering dark chocolate taste and malty texture.
Volcanica’s Tanzania Peaberry is one of the best coffee you can brew if you have an Aeropress!
Though Rwanda’s coffee has its fair share of grim stories, the future looks promising for this landlocked African country. Ever since USAID offered to invest in the country’s coffee producers, it is starting to crack the list of the world’s largest coffee-growers in the world. In fact, a partnership forged between the Rwandan government and e-commerce giant Alibaba to trade coffee in the online market resulted in a 700% sales volume through the latter’s cross-border B2C platform.
As the trend with all African coffee, the flavor profile varies as Rwandan coffee is grown in five major regions across the country. Their thick yet velvety texture, similar to butter caramel or dates, ties them all up. Some variants, such as those grown on Lake Kivu, offer notes of the blood orange’s floral and tangy flavor, while those that hail from Akagera have a natural honey-like sweetness spiced with a cinnamon undertone.
Though Burundi is often under the radar in terms of coffee production, the country is actually part of the world’s top 30 coffee producers! In addition, nearly 20% of their population are small-coffee farmers, which are responsible for most of the country’s total coffee export.
All of their coffee plants are of the Arabica type, the majority of which are of the Bourbon varietal. Thanks to the high altitude lands of the country and the sub-specie they farm, their coffee features a bright and refreshing citrus fruit note and subtle hints of berries that can range from pineapple (yes, it is a berry) to passion fruit. Interestingly, it also has a butter-like consistency.
On another note, coffee plants that are grown in lower altitudes tend to have a smokey flavor with prominent cocoa and nutty notes. You might also enjoy our high-altitude coffee explainer.
7. Ivory Coast
The country is most notable as the world’s largest cocoa producer, but they are also responsible for 1% of all coffee we enjoy! Their coffee is mostly Robusta and is known for its bold and bitter profile, but the combination of dark chocolate and almond-like hints together with a distinct spicy aftertaste offsets it to a degree to make a delightful cup of Joe anyone can enjoy!
Though coffee production in the Ivory Coast is facing some challenges, the emergence of a rare coffee bean points to a promising future. Coffee farmers situated in Abidjan (considered the country’s economic capital) are reviving the Arabusta cultivar.
This hybrid coffee bean features Robusta’s resistance to coffee rust and endurance to high temperatures combined with the Arabica’s fruity and floral flavor profile. It takes up to two years before the plant bears fruit. Still, its lengthy lifespan can ensure that Ivory Coast farmers might rejuvenate the country’s coffee industry and provide us with a flavorful java that has a perfect balance of flavor, caffeine, and acidity.