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The types of Coffee Beans used in Go Africa®Coffee
We have received so many inquiries regarding which beans are used in Go Africa Coffee. Since we source are beans from the following countries: (Ethiopia, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Cameroon, and Democratic Republic of the Congo) the short answer is it depends.
We have asked our resident Coffeelogist and Chief Roaster, Losseni Kone, to help provide an answer.
Coffee aficionados of all levels have without a doubt heard the words “Robusta” or “Arabica” However, Coffee is much more complex than just type of Coffee.
Below is a list of Countries and Types of beans sourced from the country for Go Africa Coffee. Keep in mind a Country can source more than one type of bean:
- Ethiopia: (Arabica, Sidamo (Yirgachefe and Guji))
- Kenya: (Bourbon, French Mission)
- Côte d’Ivoire (Arabica, Gros Idente, Excelsea, Kouilou and Petit Indenize)
- Tanzania: (Robusta)
- Cameroon: (Arabica)
- Democratic Republic of the Congo: (Robusta)
Below is a detail description of each type and subclass of Coffee Beans grown in the various regions of 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):
- Sidamo:A type of Arabica (which you can find elsewhere in this list) grown as a single origin coffee source in Sidamo, Ethiopia, this variety of coffee is a small bean that produces a rich, spicy and almost chocolatey flavor. Individual types of Ethiopian Sidamo 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 Sidamo. 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.
Coffee aficionados of all levels have without a doubt heard the words “Robusta” or “Arabica”. If you aren’t familiar with either, these two terms describe the two different species of beans grown commercially. They are the same in that when harvested, roasted and eventually brewed to become that magical thing we call coffee. However, that’s where the similarities end. Robusta and Arabica differ when it comes to taste, growing environments and quality:
Robusta has a neutral to harsh taste range and is often likened to having an “oatmeal-like” taste. When unroasted, the smell of Robusta beans is described as raw-peanutty.
Arabicas, on the other hand, have a very wide taste range (depending on its varietal). The range differs from sweet-soft to sharp-tangy. When unroasted, Arabica beans smell like blueberries. Their roasted smell is described as perfumey with notes of fruit and sugar tones.
Robusta coffee beans come from a resilient plant that is able to be grown in low altitudes of 200-800 meters. Robusta beans aren’t very susceptible to damage done by pests. Additionally, they produce more finished product per acre and require fairly low production costs.
Contrariwise, Arabica coffee beans are fragile and must grow in cool, subtropical climates. Arabica beans also need a lot of moisture, rich soil, shade and sun. Because of their fragility, Arabica beans are vulnerable to attack from various pests and can be damaged by cold temperatures or poor handling. This type of bean also needs to be grown at a higher elevation (600-2000 meters).
Which bean is better?
No contest! If you had to choose between an Arabica bean and a Robusta bean, it’s important to always choose Arabica.
Robusta fosters use mono-cropping, the practice of growing the same plant every year in one place. It yields more space since it involves clear-cutting the forest for the crop. Because Robusta is more a resilient plant than the delicate Arabica, it can be grown in more places. Large coffee companies buy huge amounts of rainforest, clear-cut the land and plant Robusta beans. Robusta is often mixed with Arabica, allowing the coffee companies to save a pretty penny and serve you a crappy cup. Not to mention, mono-cropping, when done excessively, also erodes soil and demolishes nutrients making the soil nearly unusable.