Did you know…
When we think of coffee growers, we tend to think of the traditional countries – Brazil, Sumatra, Indonesia, parts of Central Africa etc.
However, Australia, also has a growing coffee industry!
Coffee farmers in parts of Queensland benefit from their geographical position on the edge of the “coffee belt” to grow quality product, and have done well lately, largely due to the drought in Brazil – which has made buyers look elsewhere, and pushed prices up by as much as 9%!
However, those Aussis who think that they will soon be enjoying a brew of the home gown stuff, no such luck. The vast majority of Australian coffee lands in in Europe.
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.
Coffee – why is it that so many people drink so much of it? Surely coffee is one of the world’s most popular drinks. It seems that wherever you go, you can get a cup of coffee in some form or other.
Here’s some thoughts…
Many of us crawl out of bed and head for the coffee machine. Mine is set to start bubbling away just before my alarm goes off, and I love it! Staggering into the kitchen to fill up a cup of rich, strong brew. The smell, the taste, the wake up.
And grabbing another cup of coffee is the first thing that I do when I get into the office.
But is coffee just a quick blast of caffeine? Clearly not! If that was the case, wouldn’t we just take it as a tablet?
No – the truth is, we LIKE coffee. Despite its bitter taste, there is something about a good quality coffee that appeals to us. Whether you have it with milk, cream, sugar or none of the above, you still like the basic taste of the stuff.
Is it good for us? Now there’s a debate!
A May 2012 study found that coffee drinkers “who drank at least two or three cups a day were about 10 percent or 15 percent less likely to die for any reason during the 13 years of the study.” Wow! That’s some claim!
Some of the pundits out there will point to studies that show us that coffee may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. They say that it’s good for your liver, may help you fight depression, may even go some way to fending off type 2 diabetes. It may even be a temporary weight loss helper.
I don’t know the answers, and I certainly don’t presume to be a medical expert. All I know is that I like, no – NEED – my coffee. It is perhaps one of the few completely legal and readily available performance boosters. Athletes spend heaps of dosh on fancy energy boosters, while the rest of us working slobs just pour another cup of coffee. Even if it doesn’t really work, we think it does, so maybe it’s just a case of “mind over matter”.
Of course, if it’s the caffeine in coffee that gives us a boost, that raises the argument over why we bother with decaf. Or perhaps strengthens the argument that we drink coffee because we simply like it!
Does coffee make you jittery and is it responsible for those sleepless nights? There is a school of thought that would tell you no – not at all. Apparently, it is not the coffee itself, but how it’s brewed. In other words, we can drink as much as we like, with no side effects. But just a couple of badly brewed cups…
Personally, I’m not taking any chances. Coffee for me in the morning, but not after midday. However, don’t let me change your habits!
There’s a mind boggling range of coffees to choose from.
Sumatra – earthy, almost fruity, taint to it and can be an ideal choice as a dessert coffee. Grown, obviously, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Kona – rare, grown in rich volcanic soils in Hawaii. Delicious, but, because it’s rare, it’s pretty expensive.
Arabica – a medium roast and traditionally used for most standard, American coffee blends. The coffee bean of choice for South and Central America.
Kenya – similar to Arabica beans, but with a livelier, sweeter flavour. Also a faint blackberry taste.
Robusta – less flavour but much cheaper to produce than Arabica beans. So the beans that are usually found in your basic supermarket coffees. However, for those looking for their quick caffeine boost, coffee made from these beans have nearly twice the caffeine level as coffee made from Arabica beans.