Africa’s top coffee-producing countries include the birthplace of the world’s favorite coffee bean
3:42 AM EDT, Thu April 29, 2021
Recently rediscovered 'Coffea stenophylla' is a rare type of coffee that grows exclusively in West Africa. Native to Sierra Leone, it hasn't been seen there since 1954. However, a discovery by researchers 2018 has led to hopes it may hit coffee markets around the world once again --and put Sierra Leone on the map of Africa's top coffee markets. Scroll through the gallery to see the continent's current top coffee producers and consumers.
Ethiopia -- Accounting for nearly 40% of Africa's coffee, Ethiopia is the continent's largest producer, and fifth in the world. It's no surprise, then, that Ethiopia is also Africa's biggest coffee consumer. The main coffee species grown in Ethiopia is Arabica, thriving in the country's highlands. Arabica is the world's most popular coffee, and accounts for more than half of all coffee produced worldwide.
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Ethiopia -- Here, women sort coffee beans at the Kaffa Forest Coffee Farmers' Cooperative Union outside Bonga, in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia -- the birthplace of the Arabica coffee plant. Smooth and sweet, the beans are generally considered a superior quality of coffee. However, the plant's requirement for cooler climates has left it -- and the coffee industry as a whole -- vulnerable to climate change.
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Uganda -- The continent's second biggest coffee producer, and eighth in the world, Uganda is renowned for its high-quality robusta variety, so-called for its hardy nature. Grown at lower elevations and higher temperatures than Arabica, robusta is also less vulnerable to coffee "leaf rust," a fungal disease that lowers yield and bean quality.
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Uganda -- These Ugandan farmers are using a hand-cranked coffee cherry pulper, which separates the beans from the fruit pulp -- leaving the coffee beans we're more familiar with. Before pulping, some producers leave the coffee berries to dry and ferment in the sun for up to four weeks (known as "natural processing"). Other producers prefer the washed or wet method, which instead ferments the beans in water after pulping.
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Ivory Coast -- The Ivory Coast is West Africa's largest coffee producer. It is famed for its robusta coffee, which tends to be higher in caffeine with a more bitter flavor, making it ideal for espresso coffee blends. However, a small number of farmers also produce "Arabusta" coffee, a hybrid that combines the productivity of robusta with the sweeter flavors of Arabica. It takes longer for the plant to grow and to process the beans, but it sells for around four times the price of robusta.
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Tanzania -- With a reputation for high-quality Arabica, most of Tanzania's coffee is grown in the high elevation of the Mount Kilimanjaro region. The Burka Coffee Estate has been growing Arabica since 1899, on the slopes of Mount Meru (pictured). Instead of plantations, coffee is "shade-grown" using an "agro-forestry" approach that is better for the environment.
Kenya -- Like Tanzania, Kenya produces quality Arabica beans on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, which qualify for Strictly High Grown (SHG) status, certifying that they are grown at elevations that allow beans to develop at a slower pace and with more nutrients. Using the wet process on the beans, producers have more control over the resulting quality and flavor of the coffee, which makes them highly coveted around the globe.
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Kenya -- Though Kenya has a large domestic tea market, the country's homegrown coffee consumption is on the rise. Here, a worker in the warehouse of Dormans Coffee -- Kenya's first coffee roaster, dating back to 1950 -- moves green coffee in the warehouse.
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Madagascar -- Unlike many other coffee-producing countries in Africa, Madagascar both grows and consumes coffee and has a strong coffee culture. Coffee on the island nation -- predominantly robusta, Arabica and the lesser known Liberica and Bourbon species (pictured) -- is grown in small quantities on family-run farms.
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Algeria -- After Ethiopia, Algeria is the continent's second biggest coffee consumer, and the biggest importer of coffee in Africa. Algeria is often credited with creating the world's first iced coffee: the mazagran, a strong coffee shot mixed with water, ice, and sweet sugar syrup. Variations of the drink now include lemon juice to make it extra refreshing.
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Egypt -- Like Algeria, Egypt doesn't produce coffee but has a strong taste for the beverage, with Indonesia as the country's biggest supplier. While American-style coffees are easily found around the country, Turkish-style coffee is more popular.