Coffee beans are produced all around the world in tropical regions. Here we discuss the characteristics of those produced in Africa and the Middle East.
Ethiopia is the true birthplace of coffee. The original coffee plant originated here as well the first brew. Ethiopia today is the fifth largest producer of coffee in the world growing mainly the best arabicas. Ethiopian dry-processed coffee (Harrar), tends to be medium-bodied and strongly acidic with fruity, winy tones. The best wet-processed coffee (Yirgacheffe) is light-bodied and has distinctive floral and citrus notes. Dry processed ‘Djimah’ is a popular bean that a exhibits medicinal taste. ‘Ghimbi’ is a wet-processed bean from western Ethiopia. Limu is the market name for a well-respected fragrant, floral and fruit-toned wet-processed coffee from south-central Ethiopia.
As the 11th largest producer of coffee in the world, Uganda has some fine arabica coffees which display the much favoured winy acidity and other desirable flavour characteristics of the best East African coffees. About 90% of the coffees produced are of the robusta variety, which are mainly used for blending and in the manufacture of instant soluble coffee. The best Ugandan coffee is ‘Bugishu’ from the slopes of Mount Elgon.
As the third largest producer of coffee on the African continent, the Ivory Coast grows mainly rich and strong robustas used in soluble coffee production.
Tanzania produces mostly robusta coffees much of it grown on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro from which these Kilimanjaro coffees get their name. Some arabicas are grown further south in the country the best known of which is ‘Mbeya’ coffee. The best coffees from Tanzania have a full body and rich flavour, with classic acidy that make them resemble the best coffees of neighbouring Kenya.
Due to its high altitude, rich volcanic soils and ample rainfall coffees from Cameroon are of good quality. They are full-bodied flavour with a well-rounded finish with chocolate characteristics.
Kenya produces excellent quality Arabica coffees that are renowned for their consistent high quality. Although mainly produced by smallholders the harvested beans are pooled and processed under strict conditions by the Coffee Board of Kenya. The coffee beans are graded into various categories by the authority. PB or peaberry is considered the best, followed by AA, A and B. The peaberry plant only produces a single bean, rather than the usual ‘split’ bean found in all other varieties.
Kenyan coffees have deep winy acidity with subtle fruit and berry tones.
The island of Madagascar produces over 700,000 bags of coffee per year of both robusta and Arabica varieties. It’s most celebrated coffee ‘Kouillou’ has a highly distinctive flavour and is rated very highly by the French.
The name ‘Mocha’ often synonymous with coffee comes from the Yemen port of the same name, which was used as a main trading point for coffee beans. Yemeni beans are known for their rich, winy, aroma and strong chocolate tones.