In Africa and 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 consisted of the French Empire) is Robusta.
Because of its ancient conquests, in France we still drink a lot of robustas coffee while the British colonies at the end of the nineteenth century and after the First World War concentrated mainly in a region producing in Arabica: East Africa. The coffee mainly consumed in England was then Arabica.
African coffee-producing countries
Africa is the cradle of coffee and is a producer of some of the best coffees in the world. Unfortunately, social, political and economic problems can hinder its development.
South Africa has for a long time been a country producing quality Arabica. The coffee plants come from the cuttings of Bourbon and Blue Mountains, originating in Kenya. The producing region in South Africa is essentially that of Kwazulu-Natal, which is, with the southern part of Brazil, one of the only territories that cultivates coffee outside the tropical belts.
The 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 to import coffee. Another factor is that the constitution of the coffee plants is still fragile.
The first coffee plants were imported into the eighteenth century by the Portuguese settlers in what is now the People’s Republic of Angola. The country is mainly a producer of Robusta coffee and Arabica. Their crops are essentially dry-treated.
Although Robusta coffee is generally considered to be a less-than-good coffee, the one in Angola (Ambriz and Amboin) has a superior quality to third parties. The beans are uniform in size and color. The Robusta of Angola is grown on shady coffee of 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. The Arabica will be mild, relatively neutral. However, since the civil War, production has become scarce. From 3.5 million bags in 1973 to 33 000 in 1994.
In Benin is cultivated robusta and a little Arabusta ((Coffea × Arabusta) is a hybrid coffee maker resulting from the hybridization of the coffee maker Robusta (Coffea Canephora) and the 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 neighbours).
In this small country, coffee harvesting is the most profitable economic contribution. They export almost all of their productions. They cultivate a good quality Arabica and a large quantity of Robsusta.
Although one third of its harvest is a Blue Mountains variety Arabica, Cameroon is a very large producer of Robusta. Their production is mainly wet-treated.
Colonized by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century, the first coffee of Arabica were planted in 1790. As a result of a severe drought, coffee cultivation was confined to the volcanic lands at the highest peaks. The coffee produced although rare is mainly exported to Portugal. The inhabitants themselves being coffee lovers are forced to import, mainly since Angola.
Republic of Central Africa
Former French colony, the Republic of Central Africa continues to export a large part of its productions in France followed by Italy. Among the robusta produced, we can find the ordinary Caephora and the robusta nana, a coffee discovered in the wild by shepherds of the river Nana.
Located between the coast of Mozambique and the island of Madagascar, four small islands, the Comoros, mainly cultivate Robusta. This coffee is harvested in the shade of bananas and coconut trees. The quality of the beans is not bad, they are hand-picked and dried dry. The 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 depending on the number of defective grains. The top of the top is the excellent Extra Prima that has none. Overall it is a medium quality coffee.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo mainly cultivates Robusta coffee of a commercial type.
The Arabica which represents about 20% of the production is much more interesting. The coffee are grown at high altitudes in the Kivu mountains. Most of the arabicas harvested have a beautiful bright blue/green blue color of homogeneous appearance. The best Arabica coffees in the Kivu Mountains are described as fine, perfectly balanced coffees with body and acidity.
Unfortunately, the production of this Arabica has been declining for some years. The large plantations are poorly maintained, the best cafes are in extremely remote areas which are confronted with tribal conflicts and Trachéomycose. They must be transported to the eastern border via several countries before they can be exported from the Indian Ocean ports. Arabica Kivu coffees are therefore very rare.
In 2014 the Belgian NGO VECO started a programme aimed at reviving the Arabica coffee industry 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 framework of the United Nations (source).
Much more politically stable and with a monetary and military (passive) support from France, Côte d’ivoire is generally ranked second in Africa’s coffee producers. In Côte d’ivoire a medium-quality Robusta is harvested which, due to the constancy and reliability of its agricultural culture, makes it attractive to the manufacturers of mixtures. It is mainly exported to France and Italy.
A research centre in agronomy near Abidjan has developed the Arabusta: a very satisfying hybrid coffee.
All legends and stories about coffee 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 the largest producers of coffee in Africa as much in quantity as in quality, despite extreme poverty and a civil war that ravaged the country a few years ago.
Some of the most sought-after cafes in the world are produced in Ethiopia. Some coffees produced there are naturally low in caffeine.
The best coffee producing regions 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 still, that can have a catchy aroma. The aesthetics of coffee beans are without interest, see repulsive. A treatment carried out without much care is probably the cause.
Among the most famous cafes, we find the Djimmah, Illubador, Lekempti, Harar (long grain or short grain), Limu and Yrgacheffe. It is not advisable to roasting this coffee too much because of their unique and delicate aromas. A coffee that is too roasted could in this case conceal a low quality cru.
Gabon is a former French colony which mainly produces neutral Robusta. A large part of its harvest is sold to France. It is interesting to note that as Gabon exports more coffee than it can produce, probably the neighbouring countries smuggle coffee in Gabon.
Ghana is a very important producer of cocoa (economically more interesting than coffee). However, in regions not adapted to cocoa cultivation, the Government encourages the cultivation of coffee. Ghana harvests regular Robusta which is essentially purchased by England, Germany and the Netherlands.
The Tonkin Arabica was introduced in 1895 by the French. However the climate of this country is not really adapted to the culture of Arabica. The country harvests a good “neutral” Robusta in the shade of forests.
Unfortunately, 25 years of authoritarian rule, ethnic rivalries, a global debt do not promote the restoration of a stable market.
It cultivates Robusta, Liberica and also a little Arabica. Unfortunately, after the independence of the country in 1968 (after almost 2 centuries of Spanish domination) followed a dictatorship. Today the country is gradually recovering from these dark years and seeking to restore its cocoa and coffee production.
Kenya produces a good essence Arabica coffee. The washed-up Arabica of Kenya even arrives at the top of the world’s Arabicas. Kenyan industry is subject to strict quality control by the Kenyan Coffee Committee. This committee conditions each bag and sometimes mixes coffees from different plantations under the label “House Blend”. The bags marked “AA” are of inherently superior and highly sought after amateurs.
Kenyan coffee is known for its biting, fruity, lemon or citrus taste (due to its high acidity). These are aromas that can be found on the different labels: AA, AB or even the expensive Kenyans caracolis.
Despite its mediocre quality, Robusta produced in Liberia was usable. The United States was its main purchaser.
Madagascar is a producer of Robusta (mainly harvested from the eastern seaboard) and Arabica (central Plateau). The Malagasy coffee is largely exported to France. Overall, the coffee grown in Madagascar is of good quality.
Producer of an excellent Arabica, the latter is mainly grown in small farms and processed on the high plateaus. The harvest is still too low for a global export and it is a pity, because it has a quality close to an average Kenyan coffee.
At the time of the colonies, Portugal used Mozambique to cultivate tea (reserving coffee for Angola). As a result, the Arabica (of the Blue Mountains variety) and the wild Racemosa, which are harvested there, respond only to local demand.
The production of Nigerian Robusta is of poor quality and irregular. Despite everything, England is still a buyer.
The political stability (since 1986) of this country has participated in the end of ethnic tensions. This stability has greatly contributed to the production of coffee, mainly Robusta and an excellent washed Arabica (grown largely in the Bugisu region, close to Kenya).
The time when the coffee culture was compulsory for every free citizen, where the destruction of a coffee shop was punishable by death and where the currency of exchange was coffee is now gone. Bourbon Island (thus called the island of Réunion) gave its name to the oldest and best variety of Arabica: the Bourbon coffee.
Coffee Bourbon is a coffee that we thought was completely gone. In the years 2000 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 Kg. For more information about this story, I invite you to check out my next article.
It is from two reunion coffee reported from Yemen in 1715 that come most of the plantations of the world.
Coffee is the country’s main source of income. Despite past wars and pests, production is on the rise. The harvested arabica is generally of good quality, but because of the extremely rich soils, the 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.
Sainte – Hélène
Annexed by the British East India Company in 1659, the production of coffee began in 1732. However, the culture was abandoned. Subsequently, and in 1980, an enterprising roaster rehabilitated a small coffee industry. The cultivated coffee is organic, quality and processed by hand with acidic and well-balanced aromas. His coffee will probably be recognized in the coming years.
São Tomé e Principe
São Tomé e Principe produces Arabica grown in the rich volcanic soil. The coffee is quality and is quite popular. The country is looking to expand its exports.
The country produced up to 1985 a Robusta which counted among the best coffees to be mixed in Africa because of its quality and its neutrality in cup. However thereafter the country was decimated by coups and war.
Sudan has a large number of wild arabicas that have been brought by Ethiopian animals. Several drafts have started to try to cultivate this excellent Arabica. However, civil war, drought, disease and famine have been a hindrance to this set of projects.
Tanzania is the producer of an excellent washed Arabica reminiscent of Kenyan coffee even though its acidity is less intense and the overall impression is that 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, constant, well calibrated and neutral robusta. Despite the size of this country, 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 much to facilitate its export.
The Romans called Yemen “Arabia Felix” and it was this denomination which then gave its name to the coffee Arabica, which subsequently was introduced in the rest of the world. It looks like the café of its neighbor, the Ethiopian coffee: the mocha.
Ethiopian Mochas are generally less expensive, because they are less rare than Yemeni mochas. However, the mokas of Yemen have wild, faisandés, Viney, dry and delicate aromas with sometimes chocolate notes.
Zambia produces a Arabica, the taste of which is close to other East African Arabicas. He recalls in particular the coffee from 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 is devoid of aftertaste and has a fruity acidity as well as an honest aroma. Sometimes it differs from Kenyan coffee by its peppery notes.
Other coffee-producing countries
To discover coffee-producing countries in other continents: Central and Caribbean America, South America, South Pacific and Southeast Asia I invite you to click on the corresponding links. Or go back to the general summary.