In Africa, as elsewhere, when coffee did not grow naturally in the colonies, their crops were strongly encouraged. In this way, a very large part of the coffee produced in West Africa (which made up the French empire) is Robusta.
Because of its old conquests, in France we still drink a lot of coffee Robustas while the British colonies in the late nineteenth century and after the First World War were mainly concentrated in a region producing Arabica: East Africa. The coffee mainly consumed in England was then Arabica.
African countries producing coffee
Africa is the cradle of coffee and is the producer of some of the best coffee in the world. Unfortunately, social, political and economic problems can hinder its development.
South Africa has long been a producer of quality Arabica. The coffee plants come from cuttings of Bourbon and Blue Mountains, from Kenya. The producing region in South Africa is essentially that of Kwazulu-Natal which is, with the south of Brazil, one of the only territories that grows coffee outside the tropical belts.
Coffee produced in South Africa is still very little exported. One of the main factors is the population: the country is very populated and their crops are not sufficient forcing them to import coffee. Another factor is that the constitution of coffee plants is still fragile.
The first coffee plants were imported in the XVIIIe century by Portuguese settlers in what is now the People’s Republic of Angola. The country is mainly producer of coffee Robusta and Arabica. Their crops are mainly treated by the dry route.
Although Robusta coffee is generally considered a coffee of less good quality than the others, that of Angola (Ambriz and Amboin) has a quality far superior to thirds. The beans are of uniform size and color. Angola’s Robusta is grown on shady coffee trees in the northern plains near the Congo Delta.
The Arabica is harvested in the interior plateau at an altitude of 1800m, enjoying a much more temperate climate. Arabica will be sweet, relatively neutral. However, since the civil war, production has become rare. From 3.5 million bags in 1973 to 33,000 in 1994.
In Benin, Robusta is grown and a little Arabusta (Coffea × arabusta) is a hybrid coffee resulting from the hybridization of Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora) and Arabica (Coffea arabica). However, production is too low to appear in global statistics. Nevertheless, the country continues to export more than it creates (notably through fraudulent activity with neighbors).
In this small country, the coffee harvest is the most profitable economic contribution. They export almost all of their productions. They grow a good quality Arabica and a large amount of Robsusta.
Although a third of its harvest is a Blue Mountains variety Arabica, Cameroon is a very large producer of Robusta. Their productions are mainly processed wet.
Colonized by the Portuguese in the XVe century, the first Arabica coffee was planted in 1790. Due to a severe drought, coffee was found confined to volcanic lands at the highest peaks. Coffee produced although rare is mainly exported to Portugal. The inhabitants are themselves coffee lovers are obliged to imported, mainly from Angola.
Republic of the Central African Republic
A former French colony, the Republic of the Central African Republic continues to export a large part of its productions to France followed by Italy. Among the Robusta produced, we can find the usual Caephora and Robusta Nana, a coffee discovered in the wild by shepherds of the Nana River.
Located between the coast of Mozambique and the island of Madagascar, four small islands, Comoros, grow mainly Robusta. This coffee is harvested in the shade of banana and coconut trees. The quality of the beans is not bad, they are picked by hand and dry dried. Production remains very small and is partly consumed by the local population.
The Congo produces Robusta coffee which is classified not in relation to the size of the beans (because they have uniform sizes), but according to the number of defective grains. The best of the best is the excellent Extra Prima which has none. Overall, it is a medium quality coffee.
Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo mainly cultivates Robusta coffee type Marchand.
Arabica, which accounts for about 20% of production, is much more interesting. The coffee trees are grown at high altitudes in the Kivu mountains. Most Harvested Arabicas have a beautiful bright blue / greenish blue color with a homogeneous appearance. The best Arabica coffees from the Kivu mountains are described as fine coffees, perfectly balanced, with body and acidity.
Unfortunately, the production of this Arabica has been declining for some years. The large plantations are poorly maintained, the best coffees are in extremely remote areas that face tribal conflicts and tracheomycosis. They must be transported to the eastern border via several countries, before they can be exported from the ports of the Indian Ocean. Arabica Kivu coffees are therefore very rare.
In 2014, the Belgian NGO VECO started a program aimed at reviving the Arabica coffee sector in Congo. This project is sponsored by the International Coffee Organization, and funded by the Common Fund for Commodities, an intergovernmental financial institution established within the United Nations (source).
Much more politically stable and with monetary and military aid (passive) from France, Côte d’Ivoire is generally the second largest coffee producer in Africa. In Côte d’Ivoire harvested a Robusta of average quality which by the constancy and the reliability of its agricultural culture makes it attractive to the eyes of the manufacturers of mixtures. It is mainly exported to France and Italy.
An agronomy research center near Abidjan has developed the Arabusta: a very satisfying hybrid coffee.
All coffee legends and stories refer to Ethiopia as the country of origin of coffee. The coffee processed by the villagers still comes today from wild coffee. Ethiopia is one of Africa’s largest coffee producers in both quantity and quality, despite extreme poverty and a civil war that ravaged the country a few years ago.
It is in Ethiopia that some of the most sought-after coffees in the world are produced. Some coffees produced there are naturally low in caffeine.
The best coffee producing areas are Simado, Kaffa, Harar and Wollega. Each of these regions produces a natural and washed coffee.
Generally, unwashed coffees are described as having a wild bouquet, which is not necessarily appreciated by all. But all the same, who can have a catchy aroma. The aesthetics of coffee beans is without interest, see repelling. Treatment done without great care is probably the cause.
Among the most famous cafes, we find Djimmah, Illubador, Lekempti, Harar (long grain or short grain), Limu and Yrgacheffe. It is not recommended to over roast this coffee because of their unique and delicate aromas. Too much roasted coffee could in this case hide a lower quality raw.
Gabon is a former French colony that produces mainly neutral Robusta. A large part of his harvest is sold to France. It is interesting to note that as Gabon exports more coffee than it can produce, it is likely that neighboring countries are smuggling coffee into Gabon.
Ghana is a very important producer of cocoa (economically more interesting than coffee). However, in areas unsuitable for growing cocoa, the government is encouraging coffee growing. Ghana harvests ordinary Robusta which is mainly bought by England, Germany and the Netherlands.
Tonkin Arabica was introduced in 1895 by the French. However the climate of this country is not really adapted to the Arabica culture. The country harvests a good “neutral” Robusta in the shade of forests.
Unfortunately, 25 years of authoritarian rule, ethnic rivalries, global debt do not favor the restoration of a stable market.
They grow Robusta, Liberica and also some Arabica. Unfortunately, after the independence of the country in 1968 (after almost 2 centuries of Spanish rule) followed a dictatorship. Today the country is slowly recovering from these dark years and is seeking to restore its production of cocoa and coffee.
Kenya produces Arabica coffee of good essence. The washed Arabica of altitude of Kenya arrives even at the top of the world Arabicas. Kenyan industry is subject to strict quality controls by the Kenya Coffee Committee. This committee packages each bag and sometimes mixes coffee from different plantations under the “House Blend” label. Bags marked “AA” are inherently superior and highly sought after by amateurs.
Kenyan coffee is renowned for its biting, fruity, lemony or citrus taste (due to its high acidity). These are aromas that we find on the different labels: the AA, the AB or the expensive caracolis Kenyan.
Despite its poor quality, the Robusta produced in Liberia was usable. The United States was its main buyer.
Madagascar is a producer of Robusta (harvested mainly on the slopes of the eastern seaboard) and Arabica (central plateau). Malagasy coffee is largely exported to France. Overall, coffee grown in Madagascar is of good quality.
Producer of an excellent Arabica, the latter is mainly grown in small farms and processed in the highlands. The harvest is still too weak for a global export and it is a shame, because it has a quality close to an average Kenyan coffee.
During the colonial era, Portugal used Mozambique to grow tea (reserving coffee for Angola). As a result, Arabica (of the Blue Mountains variety) and Wild Racemosa, harvested there, respond only to local demand.
The production of Nigerian Robusta is of mediocre and irregular quality. Nevertheless, England remains a buyer.
The political stability (since 1986) of this country has contributed to the end of ethnic tensions. This stability greatly contributed to the production of coffee, mainly Robusta and an excellent washed Arabica (grown largely in the Bugisu region, close to Kenya).
The days when the coffee culture was obligatory for every free citizen, where the destruction of a coffee tree was punishable by death, and where the bargaining chip was coffee is now over. Bourbon Island (Reunion Island) was named after the oldest and best variety of Arabica: Bourbon coffee.
Bourbon coffee is a coffee that we thought was completely gone. In the 2000s some trees were found by enthusiasts and are now cultivated. They produce the most expensive coffee in the world, a coffee that can exceed 2000 $ per kg. For more information on this story, I invite you to read my next article.
It is from two Reunionese coffee trees brought back from Yemen in 1715 that most of the world’s plantations come from.
Coffee is the main source of income for the country. Despite past wars and pests, production is rising. The harvested Arabica is generally of good quality, but because of the extremely rich soils, abundant rains, the sun, the Arabica has a rapid growth. This gives a characteristic taste to this coffee: a grassy flavor except for the higher coffees.
Annexed by the East India Company in 1659, coffee production began in 1732. However, the cultivation was abandoned. Subsequently and in 1980, an enterprising roaster rehabilitated a small coffee industry. The coffee grown is organic, quality and processed by hand with acid and well balanced flavors. His coffee will probably be recognized in the years to come.
São Tomé and Principe
São Tomé e Principe produces Arabica grown in the rich volcanic soil. The coffee is of quality and is quite popular. The country is looking to expand its exports.
The country produced until 1985 a Robusta which counted among the best coffee to mix of Africa because of its quality and its neutrality in cup. However subsequently the country was decimated by coups and war.
Sudan has a large number of wild Arabicas that were brought by animals from Ethiopia. Several drafts have started to try to grow this excellent Arabica. However, civil war, drought, disease and famine have been a drag on this set of projects.
Tanzania is producing an excellent washed Arabica reminiscent of Kenyan coffee even though its acidity is less intense and the overall impression is of a softer and lighter coffee. It is important to note that Tanzanian coffee is not as consistent in quality as Kenyan coffee.
The country has greatly encouraged the production of Robusta: an ordinary Robusta, constant, well calibrated and neutral. Despite the size of this country, the export is important (to France and the Netherlands). The good quality of the road network and the fact that the capital has a port contribute a lot to facilitate its export.
The Romans called Yemen “Arabia Felix” and it was this denomination that gave its name to the Arabica coffee, which was later introduced to the rest of the world. It resembles the coffee of its neighbor, the Ethiopian coffee: the Mocha.
Ethiopian Mokas are generally cheaper because they are less rare than Yemeni mokas. However, the Yemen Mokas have wild, tasty, vinous, dry and delicate aromas with sometimes chocolate notes.
Zambia produces an Arabica that tastes similar to other East African Arabicas. He recalls in particular the coffee of Tanzania.
Producer of a good Arabica, it may not be as famous as that of Kenya, but it shares many of its characteristics. Generally it lacks aftertaste and has a fruity acidity and an honest aroma. Sometimes it is distinguished from Kenyan coffee by its pepper notes.
Other coffee producing countries
To discover coffee producing countries in other continents: Central America and the Caribbean, South America, the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, please click on the corresponding links. Or, go back to the general summary.