You can find some of the most unique coffee-producing countries scattered along the equator in Africa. The most beloved Arabica coffee beans were discovered in Africa’s largest coffee-producing country of Ethiopia over one millennium ago.
African coffee holds some of the most complex and diverse flavors of Arabica and Robusta varieties in the world.
Common flavor profiles of African coffee beans include bright and crisp acidity and deep berry and floral notes. There are several countries in Africa that rely on coffee as an important cash crop.
We’re going to explore the distinct flavors of these coffee-producing countries and give you some suggestions for African coffee brands to try.
About African Coffee
The origin of Arabica coffee beans is rooted in the East African country of Ethiopia. Legend says that in the 9th century, a goat herder named Kaldi discovered the Arabica coffee plant.
Kaldi noticed that his goats were oddly excitable and discovered they had eaten some red berries on a nearby plant. Little did he know that the berries were actually Arabica coffee cherries.
Kaldi picked some of the coffee cherries to share his discovery with the local monastery, who tossed them into a boiling pot.
The aroma enticed them, which led them to drink it and realize it helped them stay alert. The beans began to make their way around the world, and coffee became one of the most desired and beloved beverages.
Coffee remains a sacred part of Ethiopian culture. It is also a very important crop for the economy of several African countries. Most of the coffee-producing countries on this continent are in close proximity to the equator.
Coffee Countries of Africa
The coffee industry in several African countries has been up and down for more than a century. Some countries that once experienced success in the coffee industry no longer produce on a large scale due to detrimental political conflicts.
There are still a few main coffee-producing countries, however, that have a thriving coffee industry. African countries responsible for most of the continent’s coffee production and exportation include:
There are also a few countries that still have success with growing coffee and rely on it as the main source of export income.
These honorable mentions go to Tanzania, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), and Burundi. There are other countries that grow coffee as well, but production is not nearly as high.
If you’re looking for Arabica beans from Africa, you will likely find the most success in Ethiopian coffee brands. There are a little over 2.2 million coffee farms in Ethiopia. Most of the farms are smallholders that produce Arabica beans.
Ethiopian coffee is produced in three main regions: Sidamo, Kaffa, and Harrar. Typical flavors and features you can expect in the beans from this country include a full-bodied cup with some acidity, floral notes, and deep berry notes that can give it a winey taste.
One of the most exceptional Arabica varieties, Geisha, originates from Ethiopia. It is considered one of the highest-quality varieties in the world.
Almost all Ugandan coffee is produced on smallholder farms. Uganda ships more coffee out than Ethiopia and holds seventh place in the global coffee export ranking, according to World Coffee Research.
There are more than one million coffee farms spread throughout the country. Robusta beans are native to Uganda, which is also the dominating plant variety of this country.
You can still find some Arabica varieties in Uganda, such as Nyasaland, SL14, KP423, and SL28. Ugandan coffee beans are known to have crisp acidity and have tasting notes of spices and some earthiness.
They may also be a little bitter, which is very common for Robusta beans.
Kenya has the lowest global export ranking between Ethiopia and Uganda, but it’s still top 20 in the world. Its exports have also increased in the last decade.
There are several different Arabica varieties that are grown in Kenya, such as: Batian, Ruiru 11, SL14, SL28, SL34, and K7. These varieties generally produce a good to an exceptional quality cup of coffee.
Kenyan coffee farms have been known to produce high-quality Arabica beans that have complex, intense flavors. The beans also tend to be more on the acidic side.
Kenyan coffee bean characteristics to expect include a fruity flavor, bright acidity, nice aroma, and bold body. Beans labeled “Kenya AA+” means they are estate-grown.
African Coffee Flavour Profiles
Flavor profiles can vary widely depending on what country the beans are grown in. Some countries produce mostly Arabica or Robusta, while others produce both. These two varieties are one of the biggest factors that determine the flavor of coffee beans.
There are some flavor notes and characteristics that are most common in African beans.
- Deep fruit and wine-like tasting notes
- Bright citrus acidity
- Rich hints of chocolate
- Earthy and slightly bitter
Deep fruit and winey coffee generally come with some acidity and floral notes. Beans with hints of chocolate may have a more earthy and bitter taste.
Robusta beans are going to be more robust in flavor, hence the name. This means that the beans have a more wild and earthy taste. A bitter aftertaste may also be more present in Robusta coffee.
Arabica beans of Africa are known to have intense fruity flavors and lively acidity. Many African coffee farms are situated on volcanic soils that have an abundance of minerals and nutrients, which can improve bean quality.
What to Look for When Buying African Coffee Brands
One of the characteristics you may commonly see in African coffee brands with beans from Ethiopia is “Heirloom varietals”. This means that the beans are a mixture of Arabica varietals sourced from Ethiopia.
There are many unidentified Arabica varieties intermixed with Arabica coffee plants in Ethiopia. For this reason, beans are often labeled as Heirloom varieties since they may be indistinguishable.
If you like acidic coffee, you might love most African coffee beans. Ethiopian and Kenyan beans are known to be acidic. Beans from Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi generally have a moderate amount of acidity.
Since Robusta beans are less acidic than Arabica, Uganda beans are naturally lower in acidity. The Ivory Coast also produces Robusta beans.
5 African Coffee Brands to Try
Groundwork – Heirloom Blend Ethiopia
Groundwork Ethiopian coffee is a blend of heirloom varieties from Arabica plants. These single-origin beans are lightly roasted in small batches.
This coffee has a pleasant acidity with sweet citrus and floral notes. You may notice hints of cherry and milk chocolate that add some richness.
Cooper’s Cask Coffee – Kenya
If you’re looking for Kenyan coffee, you might want to try Cooper’s Cask Kenya AA medium dark roast. Kenya AA means that it’s the largest bean size rated on Kenya’s coffee grading scale.
This coffee might be great to try if you’re looking for those authentic African coffee bean flavors.
These single-origin beans produce a sweet and juicy cup of coffee with a taste of dark cherries, peaches, and chocolate. It has a thick, syrupy mouthfeel and subtly sweet molasses aroma.
OUT – Organic Uganda Mt. Elgon
Grown in the volcanic soils of Mt. Elgon, OUT Organic Ugandan coffee is a medium roast made from 100% Arabica beans.
These coffee beans have hints of florals and nuts with fruity and winey tasting notes. It has balanced acidity and syrupy texture that creates a full-bodied mouthfeel.
Good As Gold Coffee Roasters – Tanzania Peaberry Coffee
Tanzania Peaberry by Good As Gold Coffee is a small batch, medium roasted coffee made from peaberry beans. Peaberry beans are considered to be rare, flavourful, and sweeter. Instead of two beans developing in a coffee cherry, only one does.
This coffee will have a medium to the full-bodied mouthfeel that has a smooth and buttery finish. It has a subtle sweetness and is economical for typical peaberry bean prices.
Kivubelt Coffee – Rwandan Speciality Coffee
Kivubelt Rwandan Specialty Coffee is a lighter dark roast ideal for lattes, cappuccinos, or a mild espresso. The beans are grown in the western Rwandan province of Nyamasheke off the shores of Lake Kivu.
This coffee will give you a slightly sweet and buttery cup that isn’t as intense as your typical dark roast.
Overview: African Coffee Brands
African coffee beans have some of the most intense fruity and wine-like flavor notes in the world. The crisp acidity of the beans can give your cup of coffee a little tang. The Robusta beans of Africa offer a different set of flavors, including hints of chocolate and bitter earthy notes.
If you’re looking for an African coffee brand that has the most authentic flavor profile, we suggest the OUT Organic Ugandan Mt. Elgon coffee.
It has the signature winey, fruity, and floral notes that African beans are known for. It is also grown in fertile volcanic soils that give the beans a bolder flavor. The beans do have a slight bitterness, but this is a common African bean feature.
The other African coffee brands are also great choices to try out beans from different countries and regions. Each of these brands shares some similarities but ultimately has its own distinct flavor profiles.