An Overview of the African Coffee Region
The first rule of African coffee is that there is no one African coffee. Rather, there are about five general profiles included in this region. These are summarized below.
East African-type coffees hail from Kenya, Tanzania and the “Great Lakes” of Africa, especially Rwanda and Burundi. These coffees are rising stars and can among the best on the planet in my opinion. Their taste profiles that are most certainly NOT like Central Americans. This group has some citrus notes or astringency like black tea, but they usually have a brown sugar and raisin/fig base that is just delightful. At lighter to medium roasts, these are lively but not too assertive, very elegant indeed.
Ethiopia/Yemen Mocha-type coffee is grown from heirloom varieties which are the ancestor trees to those grown everywhere else and often dry-processed to take advantage of their inherent heirloom qualities. Northeastern Ethiopia and Yemen produces coffees that are wild and slightly pungent in character, earthy, complex and interesting instead of sweet. On the light end of the roast spectrum, they can have berry and tropical fruit notes, and on the darker end, they have pleasant rustic, bittersweet chocolate notes.
Ethiopia Sidama/Yirgacheffe, depending on whether they are washed or dry-processed, can be floral or powerhouse berry bombs with a nice dark chocolate backbone. All have a silky body and clean, refined taste profiles. These are elegant coffees! Most of these shine at lightest roast, but some washed ones can be quite fine at darker roasts as well, though their fruitiness will be muted.
Kenyan-type coffees are sweet/tart, citrusy and complex, often balanced with dark chocolate that comes forward as the roast progresses. They are elegant, winey, with bold and bright acidity. For those used to Central or South American coffees, the bracing acidity bordering on puckering quality of a classic Kenya can be a surprise, but they are wonderfully addictive, too. Some have called Kenyans the Divas of Coffee because they are brilliant, in your face and cannot stand to be ignored. Kenyans often benefit from several days rest between roast and cup so that the flavors can meld and balance. This type has the most in common with other East Africans Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.