Coffee Terroir: Africa and Arabia

Africa is the birthplace of coffee and it's been cultivated and brewed here far longer than anywhere else in the world. It's fitting, then, that African coffees have a depth and wine-like sophistication that makes them a favorite among many coffee-drinkers.

What does coffee from Africa and the Middle East taste like and what should you look for? Here are some of our favorite aspects of African coffees... Even though Africa is an enormous continent and rather far removed from Arabia and the Middle East, these ancient coffee-growing regions are usually grouped together since their products have much in common.

Again, like coffees from Latin America, there are many differences and shades in coffees from different parts of Africa. Coffee is cultivated in Ethiopia, Yemen, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ivory Coast, and other countries in Africa - many of which are also major cacao producers. Ethiopia is supposedly where coffee was first discovered, and coffee now makes up a huge part of Ethiopia's economy.

The coffees in each of these nations and geographical regions have their unique characteristics. But here are the general broad strokes of flavor in African and Middle Eastern countries:

The acidity (see our definition of acidity) in African coffees is medium, often with a winey flavor and body that some describe as syrupy.

The flavors in African coffees run towards wild citrus and berry flavors, and exotic spices. There are often strong chocolate and cocoa undertones, which are best brought out by medium to dark roasts. They are good dessert coffees that go well with strong, sugary desserts. Their citrus and wine flavors sparkle when paired with creamy desserts and a wide variety of ingredients, from lemon to chocolate.

(Photos: Shetland Coffee)

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