Single-origin coffees from each region have very similar characteristics and tastes. For example, coffees from South or Central America are some of the most widely loved single origins, with commonly tart and bright flavor notes.
You’ve probably tried a Colombian coffee, but many coffee connoisseurs rave about coffees from Africa. This is because varieties grown on this continent produce one of the most unique flavor profiles and tasting notes.
What can you expect from African coffee? What are the most popular countries for coffee production? And what’s the best way to enjoy a cup of vibrant African coffee?
Africa is a big continent, so when talking about coffee, this covers a lot of different regions.
While there are significant differences between the individual coffee-producing countries, there are some characteristics that are typical for most African coffees and make the coffee from this continent unique.
In terms of the taste profile, they are known to be fruity, floral, and aromatic. They are vibrant with notes of berries, peaches, and tropical fruit.
The fruity flavors can be accompanied by floral notes of jasmine, bergamot, as well as a bright profile.
They are not bitter, but vibrant and lively, with a wine-like acidity that can be compared to green apple or sparkling wine.
Coffee Growing Conditions
The ideal coffee growing conditions are responsible for the novel flavors of African coffee. The coffee is grown in mountainous regions in volcanic soils that are rich in minerals that help to develop vibrant flavors and add pleasant acidity.
The proximity to the equator, tropical climate conditions, and distinct wet and dry seasons make the coffee cherries thrive.
The continuous rainfall at the equator allows the plants to mature and grow at a steady slow rate, developing a richer, more distinct taste in coffee.
African Single-Origin Coffee
While most African coffees display similar characteristics and have a vibrant fruity and floral taste profile, each country of origin produces coffee with a slightly different taste.
The main exporters of coffee in Africa are Ethiopia and Kenya, considered to be some of the world’s finest coffee origins.
What can you expect from coffee produced in these two countries?
Ethiopian coffee has a long history since it is believed to be the original birthplace of the first ever coffee cherries. According to the legend, this happened by accident, when monks threw coffee cherries into a fire.
Today, Ethiopia is the 5th biggest coffee producer in the world, with over 1000 heirloom varieties and an estimated 15 million people involved in coffee production who rely on it in some form as the source of their income.
The Ethiopian single-origin coffee in particular has a fruity nuanced flavor profile, lemony finish, light to medium body, and wine-like acidity.
The country produces both washed and naturally processed coffees, with the washed coffees having lighter floral notes and the latter a heavier profile, a syrupy mouthfeel, and a fruity taste.
One of the most popular single-origin coffees, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, is grown in the Sidama region of southern Ethiopia, in the mountainous town of Yirgacheffe. This region is known all over the world for producing the finest specialty coffee.
The location is unique for its high elevation, healthy soil, and tropical climate, conditions that make the coffee cherries prosper.
The Ethiopian Yirgacheffe is renowned for its light-bodied flavors and tea-like aroma. It has a fruity and citrus profile with notes of lavender and lemongrass.
The second African country with a big coffee reputation is Kenya, growing coffee at Mount Kenya, a location with favorable conditions, high elevation, and rich volcanic soil.
When compared to Ethiopian coffee, the Kenyan beans are even brighter, more acidic, and have a more pronounced fruity taste.
You can expect a sharp fruity acidity, complex aroma, and exotic, vibrant, sparkling finish. The coffee from this region has a strong berry, herbal, and elegant floral taste.
You’ll also commonly see the letters AA on your bag of Kenyan coffee beans. This is because they have their own grading system, with AA-grade coffees being the highest-quality, having the largest beans and the sweetest flavor.
Kenyan coffees typically undergo a wet-processing method, which produces cleaner cups of coffee and allows the beans to maintain their high acidic content.
The coffee regions also have distinct varietals, with the SL28 and SL34 being the beans grown in the highest elevation and producing better cups of coffee.
Other African Coffee
African coffee is not limited to Kenya and Ethiopia. Other countries in this continent produce less coffee but have similar unique characteristics that make them worth trying.
Coffee from Tanzania is known for its peaberry variety that has a rounded, juicy toned acidity.
Coffee from Rwanda most commonly produces bourbon varietals with deep earthy and complex flavors, subtle fruity and floral notes.
Coffee from Burundi has a juicy flavor profile with a characteristic crisp tangy acidity.
The coffee grown in Uganda has a short history but the country is now the 8th largest coffee exporter in the world. Known mostly for producing Robusta beans, Ugandan coffee has a full body, crisp acidity, and deep earthy flavor.
And that’s only naming a few. There’s also coffee produced in Congo, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and others.
Best Way to Enjoy African Coffees
Excited about tasting African coffee? Here’s the best way to enjoy its unique flavor profile.
The coffees grown in this region are best roasted to a light or medium roast. This retains the raw characteristics of the bean and showcases the nuanced flavors.
They are best enjoyed black, prepared with a manual filter brewing method such as V60 or Chemex. The slow dripping process develops the delicate profile and preserves the bright acidity in the cup.
Having a light to medium body, this coffee is not really suited to be mixed with milk, because it would lose its fine fruity tasting notes.
Making espresso with single-origin African coffee can be an interesting experience, and making cold brew using Kenyan beans will make its delicate fruity flavors shine.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and experience the unparalleled flavors of African coffee.