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Despite the fact that Italy is considered the world capital of coffee, history books can draw a different picture. This drink actually originated in Africa, namely Ethiopia, and then it spread all over the world and became one of the most popular drinks for every occasion.
We’ve looked at more than 35 different African coffees to select ones that can truly represent the unique character and the impeccable taste of such a drink. African coffee is cultivated in nutrient-rich volcanic soils, shielded under a cool climate, and dried under the sun when ready. The result should be flavorful and aroma-filled, with overtones that are fruity and floral. That’s what we were looking for when putting together our selection. Of course, these beautiful beans can be roasted differently and can come in different forms, from bags both big and small to easy-to-use capsules, so we made sure to get the biggest variety we can. The Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC, Tanzanian Peaberry Coffee, our Editor’s Choice, is the best option for most people.
This light roast coffee is harvested from some of the best African coffee beans, the rare flavor-filled Tanzanian peaberry variety. It’s packed in the form of whole beans, with this particular package weighing 5 lbs., which means it’s big enough to ensure that the heavy coffee drinker has enough coffee to last them a few months. This package size is also perfect for the office kitchen. One of the most outstanding things about this coffee is that it has little acid, so it doesn’t have the bitter taste and/or bitter aftertaste you get in some high-end coffees. Instead, it has sweet peach, lemon, and black tea notes that linger in the mouth.
The beans are sourced from a single origin, and as such, the aromas and flavors are well-defined. They are then farm-washed and naturally dried in the sun to preserve as much of their flavor as possible.
This is a Kosher certified product that is sustainably sourced and processed with the utmost care, intent to preserve its quality, and respect for the environment. It comes in a large 5-pound bag, and inside, the coffee is packed in single-serve quantities and sealed using nitrogen insufflation to prevent air exposure that could degrade the flavor.
What are our favorite features? That it’s sustainably sourced and processed. The large family-sized pack gives value for money.
What could be better? They could offer both pre-ground and whole beans instead of only whole beans.
One of the finest African coffee brands, this single origin Arabica coffee is sourced from the highlands and mountainous regions of Rwanda. It has a delicate mild citrus taste and a balanced acidity that leaves a pleasant taste in the mouth. To help retain as much of their flavor and aroma as possible, the beans are roasted in batches. A one-way freshness valve is used during packing to further preserve the flavors. Although there is a “best before” date, they have not indicated when the coffee was roasted, so you have no way of knowing whether it is freshly roasted or it has been in storage for a while. The coffee is packed in whole bean form, giving you the freedom to choose the quantity of beans you can grind at a time. It’s sold in a pack of three 12-ounce bags, which means you’ll enjoy your AmazonFresh Rwanda coffee for weeks, especially if you’re the only user or maybe have a two-person family. AmazonFresh Rwanda is a Direct Trade certified brand, meaning their trade practices are centered on improving the lives of coffee farmers.
Why did it make our list? Batch roasting for flavor and aroma preservation. How it comes in 3 small packets instead of one large packet, so you can open one packet at a time and preserve the flavor of the unopened packets.
What is not ideal about it? A label showing when the coffee was roasted.
For those who like stronger coffee, Volcanica Kenya AA Coffee Beans is a good choice. This is one of the best East African coffee varieties, with a rich coffee bean body that is defined by a mix of raspberry, cranberry, redwood, and alyssum-like flowery undertones. As you roll it in your mouth, you can pick out citrus overtones as well, and as you swallow it, it leaves a mild, pleasant, winey aftertaste. If you’ve tasted South African coffee, this is a far fuller and tastier version of it. It is medium roasted to a mild smoky taste, which, combined with its natural flavors and mild acidity, gives it a smooth, sweet and savory taste. To preserve the flavors, the coffee is sun dried in a non-rushed process that allows the produce to dry in the most natural way.
Volcanica Kenya AA coffee is organically grown and is Rainforest Alliance certified, so if you’re committed to consuming natural, organic products only, you’re in good company here. It’s also Fair Trade certified, so you can purchase it in peace, knowing you’re not enjoying good coffee at the farmers’ expense.
Why did it make our list? The rich flavors and how they blend, and how the medium roast brings them out.
What is not ideal about it? They could introduce a pre-ground variety for those who like their coffee ground.
Get the Stone Street Coffee Ethiopian Yirgacheffe if you’re after a perfectly blending mix of floral flavors. All the beans come from a single origin, so they all have the same undertones and overtones. When blended together, they come together to release a sweet aroma and delicious, mellow flavor. The coffee beans have low acidity, so they do not leave an aftertaste. And although the manufacturer tags this as a light roast coffee, the taste is a lot stronger than your typical light roast. It certainly tastes more like a medium roast than a light roast, and for someone who is getting their coffee feet wet, so to speak, this can be confusing. All the same, this is a great tasting exotic coffee. To preserve its freshness and flavors, a one-way de-gassing valve is used during the packing process, and it’s packed in a 3-layer Natural Kraft foil bag. While the layered bag is designed to preserve flavor, it is not re-sealable, which goes against its intended goal.
It comes in both whole bean and ground varieties.
What are our favorite features? The mellow, smooth, sweet taste. The flexibility to choose either beans or pre-ground since both are available.
What could be better? It has a much stronger taste than you would expect from a light roast. For it to be a true light roast, they need to modify their roasting process to attain a milder taste.
The East African Blend from Westrock Coffee Company is one of the finest blended coffees on the market. The manufacturer does not say exactly where the various coffee varieties it’s composed of are sourced, but this may not bother you much because it’s blended to perfection. And because it is wet milled, none of the flavors overpower the others. It has a very distinct nutty flavor, with hints of milk chocolate and a sweetness that floods your taste buds as soon as the coffee passes through your lips. Its mild, citrus-like acidity lends it a clean taste with no aftertaste. It is medium roasted and presents an excellent balance of flavor and acidity.
This coffee is not only sustainably grown but also ethically sourced and Direct Trade certified, meaning the growers enjoy training opportunities and long-term partnerships that are economically empowering, among other benefits.
It’s packaged in a large, single-serve, 80-count box; you never have to try and figure out how much of the coffee to use since that’s already done for you. And the extra-large package gives you enough servings (80) to satisfy the coffee needs of a large family or work colleagues.
What are its best features? The perfectly balanced flavors. The large package is perfect for heavy coffee users.
What could be improved? A whole bean variety where consumers could choose to buy either this pre-ground variety or the bean variety.
Things to Consider
In this next section, we equip you with all the information you need to pick out the perfect African coffee. We tell you the different flavor notes to expect and address all the different things that affect the taste of coffee, such as the roast, whether it’s ground or whole, etc. We also discuss the characteristics of African coffee and show you how to make a delicious cup of African coffee.
How does African coffee differ from the rest?
African coffee has distinctly exotic flavors, with fruity and floral undertones. Its acidity ranges from low to medium, and as a result, it has a tangy sweetness. While a large percentage of the coffee is wet processed, some of it is dry processed, meaning the rich flavors from the mucilage and the cherries seep into the beans, adding to the coffee’s strong flavor. While you can expect to enjoy a sweet, fruity flavor from your African coffee, the taste varies from region to region.
Ethiopian coffee leans on the floral tone side, with low, citrus-like acidity. Kenyan coffee also has citrus-like acidity, coupled with berry and tropical fruit sweetness. Tanzanian coffee has a bright flavor, while Ugandan coffee is bright, with grape, cherry, chocolate, and nutty flavors. Coffee from Rwanda has grape undertones and medium-high acidity, while that which comes from Burundi has low acidity, with sweet berry, cherry, and fig flavors; and the one from Congo has medium-high acidity, with apple, chocolate, and cinnamon undertones.
How to make a perfect cup of African coffee
To make an espresso or latte from your African coffee, follow your regular espresso/latte brewing recipe and process. You may need to adjust the amount of coffee you use to get the desired strength. Experiment with different amounts of coffee and see how the taste differs
Make your cup of African coffee even tastier by adding a delicious ground herb like cinnamon, cardamom, or ginger, or maybe lemon. Here is how:
Once your brew is ready, add fresh ground cinnamon, cardamom, or ginger and let it sit for a few minutes for maximum flavor extraction.
Heat your milk and add to the coffee mixture.
Enjoy your coffee either hot or cold.
To add lemon to your coffee, cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice of one half into your coffee cup. For a milder taste, add the juice of a quarter lemon. Do not add milk. You can drink this hot or cold.
African coffee is generally affordable. Prices begin at $0.40-$0.66 per ounce, meaning for a 36-ounce bag, you can expect to pay anything between $14 and $23, and go as high as $1.25, so you’re looking at paying up to $45 for the same 36-ounce bag. They may be slightly higher or lower than the figures we’ve given here, but this should give you a scope of what you can expect to pay, for whatever bag size you choose. Bear in mind that the prices for the bigger bags may be discounted, so you can make some savings by choosing a larger pack over a small one.
Features to consider while buying the best African coffee
Let’s now look at the specific features you should consider when choosing African coffee.
The roast you prefer
African coffee mostly comes in light or medium roast. These two bring out the rich flavors of the coffee, with the light roast enhancing the coffee’s soft, fruity flavors and the medium roast adding a punch to the sugary undertones. Dark roasting has the potential to mask the natural tones of African coffee and leave a bitter aftertaste, and this is probably why it is not a preferred option. If you like a mild coffee taste, choose a light roast. It has less caffeine and a more pronounced fruity taste. If, on the other hand, you prefer a richer taste of coffee, a medium roast will appeal to your taste buds better. It has more caffeine than what you get in a light roast and balanced acidity and flavor.
African coffee has fruity and flowery flavors. Expect lots of redwood, chestnut, berry, chocolate, milk chocolate, lemon, citrus, peach, and nutty flavors. Some of the coffee varieties have few flavors, some have more. Some are more pronounced than others, and in some, the flavors blend perfectly. The flavors you see listed on the packet are the most dominant flavors, and in most cases, the most dominant are listed first. So, you can use this to pick the one that has the flavors you desire the most. Again, the list of flavors indicated on the label may not be exhaustive, which is why you may get a taste of some flavors you didn’t see on the list.
The coffee comes in packages of different sizes, from packets that are as small as 12 ounces to ones as big as 5 pounds. This is just to make it easy for consumers to pick the sizes that correspond to their lifestyle. The bigger bags are the best option for large families and offices, while smaller bags are best suited for individual use and families who only take coffee occasionally. By choosing the smaller size, you ensure that you’ll exhaust it before the flavor weakens completely due to oxidation. Some of the bag contents are even further packed in single-use quantities measuring only a few grams and individually sealed as a way of preventing exposure to air.
Beans or grinded?
Some of the coffee is pre-ground and some comes with the beans whole. Whichever one you choose depends entirely on your preference, but whole beans have an advantage over ground coffee in that they tend to retain their aroma and flavor longer because only a small portion of their surface area (the epicarp through which air penetrates into the bean) is exposed to air when the bag is opened. By comparison, the oxidation rate is higher in ground coffee since the entire content of the bean – now in granular form – is exposed to oxygen. If you do not particularly enjoy grinding your coffee, the pre-ground variety is ideal for you. Just choose a size that you can exhaust within a short time.
In Africa, coffee is grown widely, from the North to the South and the East to the West. For example, the East African region is the largest producer of Arabica coffee, which is the most popular type of coffee in the market. This includes countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda. A number of countries down south like Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa also grow Arabica coffee. The Francophone region, including the Congo, DRC, Ivory Coast, and Republic of Central Africa largely grows Robusta coffee. Other countries growing Robusta coffee are the Ghana, Comoros Islands, and Togo. And some African countries grow both Arabica and Robusta, among them Burundi, the Equatorial Guinea, and Madagascar. Just like the regions where it’s grown, the coffee type and coffee flavors can vary greatly from region to region.
Blended or not
Blended African coffee like the East African Blend from Westrock Coffee Company is sourced from different regions, whereas the non-blended variety is sourced from a specific region. Non-blended coffee is of a higher quality than the blended variety because all the coffee beans are grown under the same climatic conditions and agricultural practices, and they have similar flavors. Nonetheless, blending different coffee varieties is a good way of creating unique tastes as the different flavors combine to create new and varying undertones.
Certification indicates the kind of conditions and practices the coffee has been cultivated under. Some of the common certificates you’ll come across include the Kosher certificate and Rainforest Alliance certificate, which indicate that the coffee has been grown organically and sustainably. Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC., Tanzania Peaberry and Volcanica Kenya AA Coffee Beans have the former and the latter respectively. The Fair-Trade certificate shows that the coffee is sold under terms that are favorable to both the farmer and the buyer, not the buyer alone. The Direct Trade certificate indicates that, by trading with the buying company, the farmer benefits from long-term partnerships, farmer training and education opportunities, and support to access clean water and healthcare services.
Top African coffee brands include Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC, the name behind the delicate Tanzanian Peaberry Coffee. They are most notable for their advanced roasting technology which keeps carbon emissions low while preserving coffee flavor. Volcanica Coffee, which brings you Kenya AA coffee, roasted in its Atlanta, Georgia, factory is another leading coffee brand. Stone Street Coffee is another popular, New York-based brand. They specialize in handcrafted coffee and are responsible for bringing you the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe floral bouquet, light roast coffee.
Where possible, buy whole beans and grind them as needed for each serving. Whole beans are packaged in their original, flavor-preserving form (except for the roasting) and have a fresher taste as a result. Their flavors are also more concentrated and therefore richer. That’s not to say that ground coffee isn’t any good. The latter is also of good quality; the only caveat is that it loses its flavor and aroma quickly because of its powdered form, so you can’t afford to keep it too long as it will go flat in due time. Buy the ground variety if you’re sure you’ll use it all in a couple of weeks.
African coffee is grown in high altitude areas. Farmers use sustainable farming methods, with most of them growing the crop organically. When the coffee is ready, it is handpicked in preparation for processing. The coffee is then wet processed (some farmers may dry process their produce) before it is dried in the sun. Once dry, the coffee is now ready for roasting.
Our top choice is Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC. Tanzanian Peaberry Coffee, which stands out for its rich peaberry taste and fruity, lemon, and black tea undertones. We like the large pack it comes in and appreciate how it’s properly sealed to preserve flavors. And we like that it is sustainably sourced and Kosher certified.
Our second-best choice is AmazonFresh Rwanda, whose bright mild citrus notes stand out. Other features we like about this coffee are how it is batch roasted to preserve flavor and the one-way freshness valve used during packing for the same reason. We also like that it comes in a pack of three 12-ounce bags.
Our budget pick for best African coffee is Volcanica Kenya AA Coffee Beans. We like its rich berry taste and winey aftertaste. We also like that it is sustainably and organically grown, and comes in a medium, convenient-size pack that offers value for money.