Coffee growers all over Africa are stopping at nothing to produce good quality African coffee. It's hardly surprising, as Arabica coffee beans actually originated in Ethiopia. The continent has dealt with its fair share of challenges so far. Still, it produces some of the world's best coffee.
Most of this coffee gets exported overseas. Many people in Africa remain loyal to their tea drinking culture! So which African country is leading the way in coffee production?
The story goes that one man discovered coffee back in 800AD. Kaldi was a goat herdsman from Ethiopia. He noticed that his goats were acting strangely after eating a new berry. They were full of energy and wouldn't stop dancing throughout the night!
Kaldi tried the cherries himself and felt those caffeine effects we know about today. He passed the cherries on to monks. They used them to stay awake during long hours of prayer.
Of course, stories change over the years! There are many myths and legends associated with the discovery of coffee. It's almost always believed to have begun in Africa.
The transition from coffee cherry to the modern day drink began. Muslim holy men learnt how to roast and brew the beans. It became a convenient way to keep themselves awake during prayer. Wherever the Muslims went, coffee followed. More regions were catching on to the drink.
There's so much competition on the world for countries to produce the best coffee. It's easy to forget that there's some stiff competition on just one continent! Consumers praise some of the coffee beans that African countries are famous for producing.
So where can you find the best African coffee?
It surely makes sense to discuss coffee from Ethiopia first. This is where Arabica coffee beans actually originated and the country still produces famous coffee today. It currently stands as the 5th largest coffee producer in the world. In 2015, the country exported a whopping 384,000,000 kg of coffee!
It also dominates the African coffee market. 39% of all coffee produced in Africa comes straight from Ethiopia. Well-known varieties that come from Ethiopia include Yirgacheffe, Sidamo and Harar. Ethiopians appreciate good coffee, too! Whilst Africa is largely a tea-drinking continent, many farmers in Ethiopia produce coffee for domestic use.
Farmers in Ethiopia produce both wet-processed and natural coffee. This can affect how the coffee tastes.
Kenya coffee has a great reputation in the world market. The high-quality coffees are graded according to their standard. The best "A grade" coffees are Kenya A and Kenya AA. With Kenya AA being so popular, it can be difficult to market Kenya A alone. For this reason, a Kenyan blend will likely contain Kenya A.
Farmers wash and sun-dry these A grade varieties. Kenya grows coffee at altitudes of 4000-7000 feet. More recently, the people of Kenya have begun to enjoy drinking coffee. As a British colony, it was previously a nation of tea-drinkers.
Ivory Coast or Cote d'Ivoire is the 3rd largest coffee producer in Africa. It accounts for 13% of output, just after Ethiopia and Uganda coffee. Coffee is an important export for the country, providing money and jobs. Its ranking is not what it used to be, though. During the 1970's and 1980's, Ivory Coast was the number 1 coffee producer in Africa.
Mostly, Ivory Coast focuses on Robusta coffee beans. Some brands are choosing to blend the Robusta beans with higher quality Arabica ones.
Tanzania coffee gets its name for its peaberry beans. This occurs when a coffee cherry contains just one single round bean. The average cherry contains two flat half-beans. For many, this greatly enhances the overall flavor.
There's no doubt that this is an east African coffee. It has that east African aftertaste that lingers long after you've taken a sip. Depending on the roast level, you could get a different result. A City Roast will produce a more floral scent. Darker roasts accentuate the berry flavor and black pepper spice.
Rwanda makes up a small portion of production of African coffee. In the country, the Bourbon variety is the most commonly found.
The "Potato Defect" is most likely to affect from Rwanda coffee. This is when bacteria makes its way under the skin of the coffee fruit. It causes a compound to develop that gives the bean a potato-like taste. A raw potato flavor is not how I like my coffee! It affects Rwanda because of its positioning, near to Lake Kivu.
Of course, pickers and processors are skilled enough to throw away most beans with the potato defect. They leave the best ones for us!
If you're a hardcore coffee lover, you might know about the "Black Insomnia". This is the "strongest coffee in the world" and it comes straight from South Africa. This famous South African coffee contains 351 mg of caffeine. This is pretty impressive when you compare it to the average espresso with 50-90 mg.
Coffee beans from Africa provide your cup with a bit of sparkle. I recommend choosing Ethiopian or Kenyan varieties for maximum quality. That said, don't be afraid to experiment with them all!