Varieties of Coffee Grown in Africa
Not all of Africa’s coffee production is limited to Robusta, however. Here’s an overview of the different coffee varieties that are grown frequently across the African continent (keep in mind that while some of these coffees are considered single origin in nature, most like Arabica and Robusta are not):
- Sadamo: A type of Arabica (which you can find elsewhere in this list) grown as a single origin coffee source in Sadamo, Ethiopia, this variety of coffee is a small bean that produces a rich, spicy and almost chocolatey flavor. Individual types of Ethiopian Sadamo include Yirgachefe and Guji, both known to be of high quality. Another type of Ethiopian coffee is Harar, which is another Arabica but not grown in Sadamo. More on these types of coffees later.
- Liberica: Coffea Liberica is a species separate from Arabica as well. It typically grows in the western areas of Africa – most notably Liberia. Liberica’s taste is closer to Robusta than that of Arabica, and the beans grow on trees that can grow as high as 10 to 15 meters tall.
Gros Idente: Similar to Liberica, Gros Idente coffee is grown in large trees in the western areas of Africa, such as the Ivory Coast.
- Arabica: Yes, for all of our talk about Robusta growing in Africa, it can be easy to forget that Arabica coffee is also grown in Africa. Typically, the environments suited for growing Arabica in Africa are in mountainous areas – places like the mainland of the Ivory Coast and Cameroon are typical spots where Arabica coffee is grown.
- Excelsea: Like Liberica coffee, these trees grow high. In fact, they are also grown in the Ivory Coast which contributes to much of their similarities to Liberica and Gros Idente coffees.
- Robusta: Much of the African environment is suitable for Robusta growing, typically the lower-lying areas in the equatorial regions of Africa. Robusta is grown just about everywhere from Madagascar to Gabon – even if Vietnam is a leading producer of Robusta coffee, its African roots are hard to shake off.
- Kouilou and Petit Indenize: Grown inland along the Ivory Coast, these are actually smaller coffee trees.
- Bourbon: This type of coffee was already mentioned before, but its influence in African coffee is difficult to understate. Bourbon was planted in Reunion – an island off the eastern coast of Madagascar – in the 18th century. The type of coffee then mutated, producing Bourbon coffee, which was then moved around the world and cultivated in different areas.
- French Mission: This refers to a type of Bourbon coffee that was planted by French missionaries in areas of East Africa around the turn of the 20th century. A Kenyan type of this coffee known as K7 is also grown in Africa.
- Mayaguez: Another subset of Bourbon coffee, this coffee is grown in Rwanda. Typically, the Bourbon coffees planted in Africa are spread throughout the eastern portions of the continent and Madagascar.
Considering the degree of geographical, environmental, and climate differences on a large continent like Africa, it’s not surprising that so many different varieties of coffee are produced there to some degree – including the world-popular Arabica.