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A Beginners Guide To The Different Flavours of African Coffee

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African coffees have vivid floral, fruity, and berry tasting notes. It is characterised by the typical bright acidity and winey flavor profile. It is a region where the fruitiest coffees can be found. Citrus, bergamot, berries, or jasmine are the common flavors.

Best African Coffee Producing Countries infographic

Ethiopia and Kenya are the African countries that have established a coffee legacy that is celebrated all around the world with superior varieties such as Kenya AA or Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Other regions, such as Rwanda, Tanzania or Burundi, also display unique flavors and get very high specialty coffee grading.

Ethiopian Coffee

Coffee is now grown around the world, but Ethiopia is considered its homeland. The coffee history in Ethiopia dates back to the very beginning in 850AD. This country is believed to be the birthplace of coffee. Plus, it’s the largest coffee producer in Africa. The environment is so perfectly suited for the crop that Ethiopian coffee grows wild, with more than a thousand different varietals present in the country.

Ethiopian coffees can be punchy and very sweet, suggesting a variety of fresh fruit-salad flavors. Natural Ethiopian coffee can taste like cantaloupe, cherry, grape, lime, green apple, or even peach. They have heavier bodies with a silky mouthfeel, like velvet, or a syrupy, honey-like texture.

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Kenyan Coffee

Kenyan coffee history is not as long as the Ethiopian one, but its reputation is just as big. It is the 16th largest coffee producer in the world with 330 farms that are 15 hectares or bigger. It is mostly grown at foothills of Mount Kenya with the most favorable coffee climate. It is often grown by small farmers who emphasize quality.

All Kenya coffee grown is Arabica coffee grown on the rich volcanic soil that is found in the highlands of the country. Kenya arabica beans are regarded for their light body, bright mouthfeel, and intense floral taste. Along with the floral notes expect to taste hints of tropical fruit, berries, and wine. While the coffee can have a rich flavor, it is almost always tempered by a bright and refreshing acidity.

Tanzanian Coffee

Tanzanian Peaberry coffee is grown at Mount Kilimanjaro, which ensures that the region’s soil is favorable for the flavor of the beans. The peaberry coffee is known for having one, smaller, and rounder coffee bean instead of the usual two.

Most Tanzania coffees share the characteristically sharp, winy acidity typical of Africa and Arabia coffees. They tend to be medium- to full-bodied and fairly rich in flavor. Other Tanzania coffees from the Kilimanjaro region may exhibit soft, floral profiles reminiscent of similar washed Ethiopia coffees.

Rwandan Coffee

Rwanda has the high elevations and soil quality necessary for producing delicious specialty coffee, so it’s somewhat surprising that they aren’t more well-known as coffee producers. Rwanda is known for producing a bourbon variety of coffee. With less than 20-year coffee history, the fact that 80% of the country’s produce is classified as specialty grade is very impressive. Again, the coffee production conditions are ideal here, with a high elevation of 3000 feet producing dense beans.

A fine Rwanda coffee offers a silky, creamy body along with the floral notes of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Coffee and the acidity of a Kenya coffee. The aroma may provide hints of lemon and orange blossom with floral notes complementing the sweet citrus qualities with hints of caramel in the aftertaste.

Ugandan Coffee

In the past, Uganda was mostly known for producing Robusta coffee beans. Now, however, it’s starting to make the name for itself with high-quality Arabica coffee as well. Some farms sit at a high 7500 feet altitude. The conditions are cooler and produce more complex coffees.

Uganda coffee is some of the best coffee in the world. If you’re looking for great coffee for yourself or as souvenir gifts, check out our favorite coffee roasters in Uganda. The flavor profile varies depending on whether you try eastern washed coffee or DRUGAR, but Ugandan coffee has a smooth mouthfeel with hints of stonefruit and berries, like many African coffees.

South African Coffee

Arabica coffee was first planted in South Africa early in the 1900s and under the government price support self sufficiency program from the 1970s through to 1994, this production increased to reach peaks as high as 3,000 metric tonnes per annum. South African coffee beans have many special characteristics that make distinctive. At present no more than 200 ha of Coffee are under production in South Africa, mostly in the KwaZulu Natal and Mpumalanga provinces. Historically coffee has been grown from Port St Johns in the south to Empangeni in the north of KwaZulu Natal at altitudes between 200 and 800m.

South Africa grows both arabria and robusta beans. The robusta has a high caffeine concentration and a less delightful taste and is mostly used in instant coffees. The arabica contains less caffeine than the robusta variety and delivers more of a high-end, complex aroma and sweet flavor. It’s also said to be harder and more expensive to farm.

Within recent years South Africa coffee has been recognised for its specialty coffee on the global market. High-quality coffee beans are produced in South Africa by correct farming and harvesting practices which also reduce defects and ensure peak ripeness.

It’s hard to get your hands on South African coffee, but if you do it’s something to savor with notes of blueberry to complement a well-balanced cup with notable acidity and strong fruity notes.


Whichever single-origin coffee beans you choose, you will not be disappointed with African coffee. Enjoy!

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SEE ALSO: What Different Flavours From Around The World Taste Like

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