South Africa is known for friendly people and buzzing Cape Town, which is alive with a rich and vibrant coffee culture.
If you aren’t able to vacation to Cape Town but still want to taste the magic of South African coffee, this guide is for you.
We’ve put together a list of the top South African coffee brands on the market that you’ve got to try. And, we’ve thrown in some information about different tasting notes in South African blends.
Let’s jump in!
Major Coffee-Producing Countries in Africa
Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania are three famous African countries producing coffee. The beans from all three countries are used in South African coffee blends.
To get a feel for these beans and how they affect the taste of South African coffee, let’s take a closer look at these countries.
Ethiopia has always been one of the birthplaces of coffee and is the 7th biggest coffee producer in the world. Coffee drinkers love the richness and diversity of Ethiopia’s coffee flavors.
If you love floral and fruity flavors in your coffee, you’ll love a cup of beans from Ethiopia.
50% of coffee production in Ethiopia takes place above 1500 meters. This altitude gives the coffee beans the perfect conditions to thrive and grow.
Inside Ethiopia are more specific coffee-producing regions. Each region has its distinct growing conditions and coffee flavors:
- Harrar – the highest coffee-growing region
- Djimmah – coffee grows 1200 meters above sea level
- Sidamo – markets coffee as Lekempti and Yirgacheff
Most coffee beans from Kenya are grown at altitudes 1500 to 2100 meters above sea level. There are always two yearly harvests, and smallholder farmers produce the bulk of these beans.
In Kenya, most of its coffee is pooled, and farmers get paid average prices, depending on the beans’ quality grade. This means that they get fair prices for their coffee harvest.
Coffee grading in Kenya is by size. Generally, a larger coffee bean means that it has better quality. The following is the grading system for Kenya’s coffee beans:
- E (Elephant) – largest coffee beans
- AA (Screen size of 18) – involved in specialty coffee and has the highest prices
- AB (Screen size of 15 or 16) – Kenya’s most common coffee grading
- PB (Peaberry) – also sold at high prices because it’s rare
- C – the lowest grade
The flavors of Kenyan coffee have distinct flavors with Blackcurrant undertones.
Tanzania also produces interesting coffee even though its production is not as big as that of Kenya and Ethiopia. Most coffee production in Tanzania involves Robusta beans.
Before smallholder farmers, most of Tanzania’s coffee grew in single estates. The largest union of smallholder farmers growing coffee is KNCU or the Kilimanjaro Cooperative Union.
Tanzanian coffee has a softer and more full-bodied flavor profile than Kenyan coffee. And it’s also less acidic.
South African Coffee Flavours
South Africa is famous for its specialty coffee and generally produces premium quality coffee beans through proper harvesting and farming practices. These practices also help ensure the beans’ peak ripeness and reduce possible defects.
Two coffee bean types grow in South Africa: Robusta and Arabica. Each type has its own taste, caffeine content, and roast.
Robusta coffee beans have higher caffeine concentrations. The higher caffeine content makes these beans taste less delightful and more bitter. Robusta beans are also commonly used in instant coffees.
South African roasters believe that roasting techniques and brewing methods are important factors. They help bring out the maximum flavors and aromas of the coffee beans.
The Coffee Market in South Africa
Locals from South Africa take coffee seriously. But, they don’t just love instant coffee anymore.
Today, more people are looking for different coffee combinations and specialty roasters. This led to more coffee shop franchises and boutique cafes for South African coffee enthusiasts.
One of the main reasons why South African coffee is unique is because of the flavor diversities. Locals love experimenting and trying new blends. Their willingness to formulate and test flavors and make adjustments drive the success of South Africa’s coffee industry.
The Rise of Black Insomnia
Black Insomnia, a specialty coffee, is considered the world’s strongest and richest coffee. It originated in South Africa, giving the country some proud recognition.
Black Insomnia has a caffeine level of 351 mg. That’s way higher than the caffeine in a shot of espresso, around 50 to 90 mg.
In fact, when a Swiss laboratory tested this coffee bean, scientists found out it had 17.5 g of caffeine in a kilogram!
Top 5 Best South African Coffee Brands
More coffee drinkers are interested in tasting the flavors of South African coffee.
And if you’re one of them, here are five of the most famous South African brands out there.
1. Assagay Coffee
- Beans are grown in optimal conditions, so your coffee has all the right flavors
- It’s vegetarian, so even health-conscious people can drink this coffee
- Combines Arabica and Robusta beans, so expect your coffee to be strong and sweet
- Strong coffee, so it’s a perfect morning pick-me-up
- Flavors are mostly strong and bitter, so if you palpitate easily, it might not be for you.
- It’s a premium brand, so the prices are high
Founded in 1991, Assagay tops the list of leading South African coffee brands. Most of this brand’s beans are sourced and cultivated in KwaZulu Natal, a region in Assagay Valley.
Assagay Coffee uses the more premium Robusta and Arabica beans. Its coffee products are also vegetarian, so they’re safe even when you’re on a strict diet. Coffee beans from Assagay have unique sweet, spicy, and robust flavors.
Assagay Coffee continues to expand as it recently became a wholesaler distributor. Today, this brand exports its products to Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Zambia, and Namibia.
Check out the product here.
2. Douwe Egberts
- It’s strong coffee, so it’s a good morning cup.
- Placed in resealable jars, so it maintains the coffee’s freshness
- Instant coffee, so it’s convenient and quick to prepare
- Might be too strong if you’re a beginner in coffee drinking
A famous South African instant coffee brand is Douwe Egberts. This brand specializes in making different coffee blends in resealable jars.
The most common blend is Douwe Egberts Pure Gold, and it has been a standard for instant coffees worldwide. It consists of a well-balanced medium roast with the right caffeine kick to boost your day.
Douwe Egberts also offers the Pure Indulgence Dark Roast if you want something darker and richer. This blend has a velvety body, giving you a smooth drinking experience.
Check out the product here.
3. Jacobs Kronung
- Ideal roasting temperature, so your coffee has all the right flavors
- Versatile coffee, so you can drink it plain or with extra milk and sugar
- Comes in resealable jars, so the jars help maintain the coffee’s freshness
- It’s a gourmet brand, so it’s more expensive than other brands.
A premium South African coffee brand is Jacobs Kronung. Consumers love this because it’s not too bitter and has a smooth texture. Jacobs Kronung offers various versatile blends, perfectly plain or with milk.
Locals love this brand because it has just the right amount of caffeine for casual drinking. Jacobs Kronung has a rich aroma with complex flavors. And the coffee doesn’t taste burnt or overly roasted.
This South African coffee brand extracts flavors from coffee beans between 190 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to get all the flavors out of the beans without burning them.
Check out the product here.
4. Colombo Coffee
- Diverse coffee blends, so you can certainly choose a flavor preference
- It’s specialty coffee, so flavors are complex and rich
- It’s strong coffee, so you get the caffeine fix you need
- Because it’s specialty coffee, it can be expensive.
Colombo Coffee is one of the oldest coffee brands in South Africa. This century-old specialty coffee brand offers coffee capsules, ground beans, and instant coffee.
This specialty coffee brand is known for its single-origin beans, ensuring premium quality in every cup.
Colombo Coffee is the one for you if you want strong coffee with unique fruity flavors. Also, aside from coffee, this famous brand specializes in formulating unique brewed teas.
Check out the product here
For a cup of coffee with chicory flavor, try Frisco. It’s the cheapest option among all the brands, but it features a delectable coffee taste. The chicory flavor adds a unique sweetness to your cup, masking the caffeine’s bitterness.
Frisco’s bestselling flavor is Frisco Rich and Creamy Original Powder. It’s the perfect variant when you enjoy drinking black coffee. But it’s also a great option when you want to add milk or sugar.
Check out the product here.
Choose The Best South African Coffee Brand
South Africa takes pride in creating specialty coffee with unique and complex flavors. When you taste one of the brands mentioned, you’ll be transported to one of the largest coffee-producing countries in the world.
If you want to taste a gourmet cup of coffee, try Jacobs Kronung. This premium brand roasts beans in optimal weather conditions, extracting all the flavors. But because it’s a premium brand, it can be expensive.
But if you’re on a budget and still want to taste good South African coffee, try Frisco. It’s one of the only brands offering coffee with chicory flavor. This gives your drink a unique kind of sweetness.
Taste the complex flavors of South African coffee, and get the caffeine fix you need today!