Africa is home to many of the finest African coffee beans in the world, fromEthiopia and Kenya in the East to Rwanda where top quality Arabica beans are cultivated to West African countries including Senegal and Cameroon where robusta coffee beans are mostly grown.
We’ll look briefly at some of the regions in this article: Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi. Though to be fair, coffee beans from Africaare widely cultivated throughout the continent, and even grows wild in many areas.
Ethiopia: Harrar, Ghimbi and Yirgacheffe
Ethiopia has three main regions that produce African coffee beans: Harrar, Ghimbi and Sidamo, or Yirgacheffe. Harrar beans come from small farms and are dry-processed. They are labeled “longberry” for large and “shortberry” for small or Mocha (which is the size of a peaberry).
The Ethiopian coffee has a strong dry edge, wine-like to fruity acidity, a rich aroma and heavy in body. In the best crops, you can smell blueberries or blackberries. Ethiopian is often used in espresso blends in order the capture the aromatics in the crema (the thin layer of foam atop an espresso).
Ghimi and Yirgacheffe produce washed coffees. The Ghimbi beans grown in western parts are more balanced, heavier and longer lasting body than the Harrars. The Yirgacheffe coffee bean is the most flavored of all the Ethiopian beans, grown in the southern part of the country. Mild, fruity and aromatic, you may see it labeled Sidamo, which refers to the district where it is grown and harvested.
Uganda: Shade grown
Uganda produces mostly Robusta beans that are typically used in instant coffees but the Arabica beans it does produce are similar to Kenyan coffee. The best Ugandan coffee comes from the western slopes of Mt. Elgon called Bugishu.
Robusta has been in Uganda for centuries and wild varieties of it still grow in Uganda’s rain forests. Both Robusta and Arabica trees are grown in the shade of banana trees and harvested about twice a year. 300,000 farmers grow coffee, which makes up 95% of the country’s exports.
Ugandan farmers grow mostly Robusta since it is easier for farmers with little money for equipment and none to hire help. The more well-off farmers can afford to farm Arabica, which is more work and more expensive but also pays off better. Ugandan Arabica is of medium intensity, sweet with a hint of the rustic, has a good body that is husky yet clean and makes an interesting espresso.