What You Can Expect in a Coffee from Africa

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Rod Waddington)

A few weeks ago we looked at what you can expect from a Central or South American coffee and today we’re taking a look at the coffees from Africa.

There are no rules about the differences in coffee, but because certain coffee varieties are often more prevalent in some geographical locations than others. Processing methods can also be similar within a certain region. That means that we can make a few generalizations about how coffees taste from region to region.

Africa: Diverse Regions & Coffees

Africa is obviously a huge continent. It’s over 30 million sure kilometers; that’s bigger than the United States, China and India combined. So when we say “coffee from Africa” let’s remember that we’re talking about many different regions.

In fact, while Ethiopia and Kenya are well-known as coffee producers, countries like Angola, Burundi, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo are amongst some of Africa’s many producers.

(Image credit: Colleen Taugher)

In general, though, African coffees are known for being fruity, sweet and floral. This means that from an African coffee, you might get all kinds of notes from blueberries to citrus. These are the kind of coffees that make you think, “Coffee can taste like this?” Some people like to refer to it as the special “sparkle” that you taste in these coffees.

Now let’s get local and focus on the tastes of the specific coffees from the region.

What Coffees From Ethiopia Taste Like

Being the birthplace of coffee, it’s no surprise that Ethiopia has a strong culture of both coffee production and consumption. There are over 1000 heirloom varieties in Ethiopia. As always, processing changes flavor, and because Ethiopia produces both natural and wet method coffee, the flavor profiles can be different. Washed coffees are a bit lighter, with more floral notes, like jasmine, while the natural (or dry processed) ones tend to be a bit heavier, fruitier and syrupy, with tastes like blueberry.

What Coffees From Kenya Taste Like

Kenyan coffee is known for its complexity, and it often has a sharp, fruity acidity combined with a full body: think quality coffee that tastes fairly tropical. Coffees from this region are mostly grown in mid to high altitude, and the country is known for its system of coffee cooperatives.

(Image credit: Adam Posey)

What Coffees From Rwanda Taste Like

In Rwanda, the Bourbon varietal is prevalent. The varietal is known for its complexity, acidity and balance. The coffees are often sweet with bright notes, with flavors ranging from citrus to floral. Rwandan coffees are also known for their smooth, butteriness, so think caramel and butterscotch.

What Coffees From Burundi Taste Like

Burundi coffees are often compared with those from Rwanda, which is no surprise as they’re neighbors. Coffees from Burundi are bright and dynamic, with flavor notes of red fruits, berries and citrus.

Do you have a favorite region or variety of African coffee?