BLOG // // 26.1.2018

African Coffee Bean: Vivid flavors from Ethiopia & Kenya

Coffee beans from African countries are my favourite. What triggered me when I first tried African coffee beans, was that the coffee did not taste like coffee at all. Africa, more specifically East Africa, produces some of the world’s most distinctive coffees characterised by vivid floral, fruit, and wine tones with rich acidity. All in all, African coffee beans are packed with taste! I encourage everyone to start exploring and enjoying African coffees because of their wide taste profile.


Ethiopia and Kenya are not only among the world’s most distinctive coffee origins, but also among the world’s finest. Out of all the coffee-producing countries, Ethiopia is perhaps the most compelling. It‘s fascination stems not only from the unusual, astonishing coffees it produces, but also from the mystery that surrounds it.  

Ethiopia's history with coffee goes all the way back to the very beginning, as the very first Arabica coffee plant was found there in the ninth century. According to legend, a goat herder took notice of the plant when he realized the energizing effect it had on his herd.


Ethiopia is the largest coffee producer in Africa. In 2016 it produced 384 000 metric tons of coffee. Ethiopia is the geographic home of Arabica coffee, the most popular beans worldwide. Coffee is not a small part of Ethiopia’s economy – over 28% of Ethiopia's yearly exports is coffee. The coffee farms in Ethiopia are either referred to as garden, forest, semi-forest, or plantation. All in all 15 million people are involved in the coffee-production process, from picking to export.

Ethiopian coffee that is broadly wet processed, comes from one of three main growing regions — Sidamo, Harrar, Kaffa — and often bears one of those names. The complex mix of species and varieties that are native to Ethiopia gives these coffees their unique flavors. The variety isn’t usually known when buying Ethiopian coffee because they label most of their coffee under variety called Ethiopian Heirloom. This means that your batch/crop might be a mix of SL28, SL38, Catuai, Geisha and Typica which is quite unusual. Ethiopians do this because once upon time Panamanias stole the Geisha variety from them and they don’t want that to happen again. Geisha is considered the most prestige and valued coffee variety in the world, kind of the queen of coffee. Not telling the variety might also be because coffee grows so wildly in some parts of Ethiopia that the farmers aren’t able to tell which variety they are farming.

coffee beans fermented

The best washed coffees can be incredibly elegant, complex and delicious, and the best naturally processed ones can be described as wildly fruity and enchantingly unusual.  Coffees are famous for their distinct and elegant floral, herbal, and citrus notes. The flavour is inimitable, sensitive and delicate; from Ethiopian coffee one can sense notes of jasmine flower, bergamot and blueberry in aftertaste. The body of the coffee is not very strong and acidity is mild and pleasant. In general, Ethiopian coffees are heavy and winey or floral and tea like. 


coffee cherries sorted
Red cherries on a coffee farm in Kenya.

Kenya produces top quality Arabica coffee which is globally recognized for its unique and exquisite taste. The favourable climatic conditions of the Kenyan highlands make it easy for the country to produce some of the best quality coffee beans in the world.

Kenyan coffee is well-known and liked, both in Europe and in USA. The beans produce a sharp, fruity acidity, combined with full body and rich fragrance. Coffee is grown on the foothills of Mount Kenya, often by small farmers. Kenyan producers place an emphasis on quality and as a result, processing and drying procedures are carefully controlled and monitored. Kenya has its own unique grading system. Kenyan AA is the largest bean in a 10-size grading system, and AA+ means that it is estate grown.

graded coffee in  kenya
Different coffee grades in Kenya.

Kenyan Arabica is grown on rich volcanic soils found in the highlands between 1,400 to 2,000 meters above sea level. The altitude affects the taste, and it can be said that Kenyan coffees are not for those adverse to acidity. But if acidity is your thing, then Kenyan coffee is where it is as its best. 

Kenya offers some of the most intensely aromatic, brightly acidic coffees in the world. The taste profile is complex and can possess interesting fruity flavors, notes of berry and citrus, some almost winey. Tastewise, Kenyan coffees are falling into one of two categories: big and bold with a clean juiciness or tropical and crisp. Compared to Ethiopian coffee, Kenya coffee is much brighter, and higher in acidity. In any case, if you have a chance to cup any of these coffees, I promise you won't be disappointed.

Only around 330 farms in Kenya are estates of 15 hectares or more. Just over half of the coffee producers are smallholders with only a couple of hectares a land each. Kenya grows Arabica, specifically SL, K7, and Ruiru varieties.

Coffee trees in Kenya
Coffee trees on a Kenyan coffee farm.

If you are really curious about Kenyan coffees, it is important to taste them first, reading about them is not so effective. I promise the taste speaks to itself! Kenyan coffee is quite popular among the cafés, so it won’t be a very difficult task to find a cup of Kenya.


Ethiopian Coffee Key Facts

% of the world market 5
Main types Arabica - Native Heirloom varieties
Harvest October - December
Processes Natural & washed
Production in 2016 384 000 metric tones
World producer ranking 5th largest


Kenyan Coffee Key Facts

% of the world market 0,5
Main types Arabica - SL28, SL34, K7, Ruiru11, Batian
Harvest October - December (small Apr-Jun)
Processes Washed, some natural
Production in 2016 about 50 000 metric tones
World producer ranking 16th largest