Month: September 2013
The Coffee Bean in Africa
It will come as no surprise that coffee comes from the coffee bean, which is actually the seed of the coffee plant – strictly speaking a fruit. Coffee plants can, of course, grow wild, but world demand for coffee means that it has become a popular cash crop. The seeds of the coffee plant are processed and eventually brewed into the drink that we all enjoy so much.
However, it is more complicated than that – there is a large variety of coffee plants, and hence coffee bean, out there. For the most part, coffee plants are defined by the region in which they are grown. Nations with high, cool regions tend to have the best conditions for growing coffee, and the most expensive coffees are often those grown in volcanic soils – such as parts of Hawaii.
More than 75% of coffee beans sold worldwide are variants of Arabica, while most of the remainder are variants of Robusta. Countries in Africa produce a large proportion of the world’s coffee, and this article will attempt to describe some of the better known varieties of African coffee.
Sidamo: This is coffee grown in the large southern region of Ethiopia named after the Sidamo, or Sidama, people. Before 1995, Sidamo was a province, but has since been broken into smaller regions – but the whole area is still designated as Sidamo. Coffee grown in this region is sold as Yirgacheffe, named after the village of Yirga Ch/’efe.
The best of this coffee is gown on the higher slopes of the region, and is water processed. Yirgacheffe is generally considered the best type of Ethiopian coffee.
Harar: This coffee is aromatic and often is characterised by its blueberry like aroma and after taste. Harar comes in either shortberry or longberry form – longberry being physically longer than most other forms of coffee beans.
It is widely believed that Ethiopa was the country where coffee was first consumed and grown by farmers, but interestingly other, neighbouring African nations did not start cultivating coffee until the 1800’s.
Chipinge: This coffee is named after the town of Chipinga, on the mountainous slopes of the Eastern Highlands. These mountains are on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The almost perfect conditions and elevation allow the production of fine coffees, with a rich flavour and superb after taste. This coffee is often brought to market under the name of Zimbabwean Salimba, and is considered the best of the coffees grown in this country.
Political tensions have affected the production of this style of coffee, but it is a revenue source for the people, so is still available.
Fine Robusta coffees, usually used to make instant coffee, is grown in the Mount Elgon region of Uganda, which is close to Kenya – it can often be confused with Kenyan coffees due to its taste and appearance. This coffee is known as Bugisa Coffee.
Also grown on the high regions of central Africa is Arusha Coffee, named after the region of Tanzania at the foot of MountMeru. Tanzania produces what is widely regarded as some of the world’s best Arabica coffees.
Kenya is very well known for its coffee production. Most of the coffee produced in this region is mild Arabica, and exported world wide.
What makes Kenyan coffee special is the way in which it is produced – most of the coffee is grown by small, independent farmers, working in a successful co-op style. Over 70% of the coffee beans sold in Kenya come through this system. Over six million citizens of Kenya are employed directly or indirectly in the coffee industry, making it a major employer in the country, and a significant contributor to the country’s GDP.
Having grown up in South Africa, I was fortunate to have been exposed to Rooibos (Red Bush) tea from an early age. Drinking hot, cold, with milk or without has always been part of my lifestyle. And I was delighted to find it easily available here in the UK, both in shops and online.
Rooibos is grown in the Western Cape area of South Africa, in a small coastal region. It is part of a general family of plants in the region known as fynbos. People have tried to grow Rooibos elsewhere in the world, but none have been particularly successful. The unique weather conditions and soil types make reproducing the real thing in other places very difficult indeed.
It can be served in a variety of ways. Many will drink it in exactly the same way as they drink other teas – with or without milk and sugar is a personal taste. One of the most common ways to drink Rooibos is to brew it hot and strong, and then simply drop a slice of lemon into your cup. In the summer, some of us like to brew it up, let it cool and then keep a big jug of it in the fridge. Makes a very refreshing cold drink – and it’s good for you!
There are numerous benefits of Rooibos (I’ll stick to the Afrikaans name, if you don’t mind!). Obviously, for those of us who have the taste, we simply enjoy it! It’s part of our culture!
Rooibos can be enjoyed in any weather, and is delightfully refreshing. But there are also numerous, genuine benefits, some of which I will attempt to describe…
Caffeine free: for those who don’t do caffeine, this is an excellent option. As there is no caffeine in the tea in the first place, it does not have to be adapted in any way to remove caffeine, keeping it natural. Of course this makes it drinkable by those who can’t have caffeine, such as pregnant women. It is also perfectly safe for young children – many parents do not like their little ones having caffeine if at all possible. Some parents even put mild Rooibos into the baby’s bottle to help colic, as Rooibos has been proven to be good for various stomach ailments.
Helps you sleep: the lack of caffeine in Rooibos leads to the next benefit. Many people, myself included, will often have a cup of Rooibos before we go to bed. As it has no caffeine, it is a more sensible option than coffee – caffeine has been proven to keep us awake. Additionally, Rooibos has a soothing effect, helping us relax and improving the chances of a nice, restful sleep.
Antioxidants: one of the best known benefits of Rooibos is that it contains antioxidants. These are particularly good at fighting free radicals, which are cells that damage healthy cells. The high level of antioxidants in Rooibos can help keep away various illnesses, not least of which is heart disease. Some studies have shown that the chances of contracting certain cancers are reduced by drinking Rooibos regularly.
Circulation: evidence suggests that Rooibos can have a positive effect in fighting heart disease. It can help reduce high blood pressure, and has even been shown to help with diabetes. The same can be said for liver disease – Rooibos can be recommended for both prevention and as part of the therapy. Studies have even shown that Rooibos can be good at helping prevent respiratory problems, and in the treating of these.
High mineral content: Rooibos contains high levels of certain minerals that are important for our bodies. These include magnesium, calcium, manganese, iron and zinc.
Good for your skin: recent studies have shown that a recently brewed Rooibos teabag, when applied to the area, can reduce inflammation and help cut down on the effects of acne. Make sure you let the teabag cool first, though, before you put it on your face!
All in all, Rooibos is good for, and is enjoyable to drink. Of course, it is not a magic cure all – like most herbal teas, Rooibos is recommended for prevention, rather than cure. Watch what you eat, and do enough suitable exercise. But I can certainly recommend Rooibos as part of a healthy lifestyle.
“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly. “I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.” “You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.” “Nobody asked your opinion,” said Alice.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
The very sight of a teapot puts a smile on the face of most people. One cannot help but think of more serene and genteel times. From a whimsical child’s teapot to an elegant English Teapot, to collectible teapots that adorn some homes,
they are a subtle reminder of all that is good in this world.
– Barbara Roberts
One of the many legends surrounding the founding of tea as a favoured refreshment tells us that tea was discovered about 5,000 years ago by Chinese Emperor Shen Nung.
One lone leaf of tea is said to have blown into the emperor’s pot of boiling water. He found that the leaf improved the taste of the water, but he was delighted to find out that it also seemed to have a stimulative effect.
And the rest is history…