Coffees from this growing region are the most distinctive in the world, characterised by dry, winy acidity, chocolate and fruit undertones, rustic flavours and intense aromas. Ethiopia is the native land of coffee, and it was in Yemen that coffee was first cultivated and prepared.

Cameroon Congo Ethiopia
Ivory Coast Kenya Madagascar
Tanzania Uganda Yemen

Cameroon produces the Java and Inéac varieties of Robusta as well as Blue Mountain Arabica, which comes from Java and Jamaica. The production from the plantations, however, is not always as high as expected because of the subsistence crops, grown inbetween the coffee trees, which absorb much of the fertiliser used. Cameroon is placed fifteenth in the world for production and fifth on the African continent.

The twelth biggest coffee producer in the world, Congo sells its Canephora and Kwilu varieties to most of the large Western European countries. Around 80% of its production is carried out on small farms of no more than six hectares.

850,000 families make a living exclusively from coffee. Unfortunately, in the last few years, the plantations have produced a poorer quality coffee than they should.

Ethiopia is the birthplace of the Arabica tree, and wild berries are still harvested by tribes-people in its mountains. It is Africa's top arabica exporter and leads the continent in domestic consumption. About 12 million Ethiopians make their living from coffee, whose name is said to be a derivation of "Kaffa", the name of an Ethiopian province.

In Eastern Ethiopia, coffee trees are grown between 5,000 and 6,000 feet on small peasant plots and farms. These coffees may be called longberry Harrar (large bean), shortberry Harrar (smaller bean) or Mocha Harrar (peaberry or single bean). They are all cultivated simply, processed by the traditional dry method, and are no doubt organic. Ethiopian Harrar is characterised by winy and blueberry undertones, with good body and high acid.

Eastern Ethiopia produces a washed coffee called Ghimbi, that has the winy undertones of Harrar but can be richer, more balanced, and have a heavier body and longer finish.

Souther Ethiopia produces washed coffees with fruity acidity and intense aromas. These coffees are known by the names of the districts in which they are produced, such as Sidamo, or by terms like Ethiopian Fancies or Ethiopian Estate Grown. The most famous of these coffees is Yirgacheffe, which has an unparalleled fruity aroma, light and elegant body, and an almost menthol taste.

Ethipoia is still recovering from years of internal strife, which had a profound, negative effect on its ability to produce quality coffee. However, in recent years there have been improvements in quality, and there is hope for a full return to the time when Ethiopia produced some of the finest coffee in the world.

Ivory Coast:
The Ivory Coast almost exclusively cultivates Robusta. In the mid 1990s it was the largest African coffee producer, fifth in the world overall and second for the production of Robusta. Since then it has dropped to number nine in the world. Some speculate that this is due to an emphasis on volume and a lack of investment and planning have lowered quality and per-acre productivity. Today, most exports end up as mass-market coffee in Europe, especially France and Italy.

45% of the working population make a living from coffee. However, this vital source of revenue is at the mercy of droughts. Moreover, farmers sometimes prefer to grow cocoa as it requires less work and is often more profitable.

Kenya works diligently to assure quality in all beans that are exported and, as a result, its reputation as East Africa's top quality coffee producer is unsurpassed. The coffee is cultivated on small farms, and the growers are rewarded with high prices for quality beans. They have a government-run system which rewards growers for better quality, and which over the years has resulted in steady improvements.

The main growing region in Kenya extends south of 17,000-foot Mount Kenya to near the capital of Nairobi. Kenyan coffee is wet-processed and sold by the size of the bean, with AA signifying the largest beans, followed by A and B. The best Kenyan coffee, called Estate Kenya, can cost twice as much as regular AA's - but it is worth the price. The tremendous body, astounding winy acidity and blackcurrant flavour and aroma make Estate Kenya one of the finest coffees in the world.

The island of Madagascar, which is in twenty-second position in the world, produces Robusta, Arabica and Excelse. But the history of Madagascan coffee is strewn with setbacks. In 1878, the Arabica plantations were decimated by orange rust, and were replaced by Liberia and Robusta coffee trees.

The former proved to be of inferior quality and the latter gave too low a yield. Since 1900, Kwilu from the Ivory Coast and Robusta from the Congo have been introduced. Unfortunately, they suffer from the danger of cyclones as well as the inadequacies of the island's road network.

The coffee industry of Tanzania initially was closely tied with that of Kenya, since early in their national histories they were run by the same countries: first the Germans, then the British. Over the last decade, however, the Tanzanian coffee industry has languished, while the Kenyan continues to improve and prosper.

Most Tanzanian coffees are grown near the border of Kenya on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and are sometimes referred to as Kilimanjaro, Moshi or Arusha. Other coffees are grown further south between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa, and are usually called Mbeya, after one of the region's cities or Pare, the market name. All coffees are wet-processed and graded by bean size, with the highest grade being AA, then A and B.

Tanzanian coffees are characterised by a winy acidity, medium to full body, and deep richness. Peaberries are often separated from flat beans and sold at a premium for the enhanced flavour characteristics they possess.

Most of the coffee produced in Uganda is robusta, and is used for instant coffee and inexpensive blends. Uganda does produce one fine arabica called Bugishu, and is grown on the western slopes of Mt. Elgon on the Kenyan border. This coffee is winy in its acidity, and is similar to Kenyan coffee in flavour, though lighter in body.

Mocha is one of the more confusing terms in the coffee vocabulary. The coffee we call Mocha today is grown, as it has been for hundreds of years in the mountains of Yemen, at the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It was originally shipped through the ancient port of Mocha, which has since seen its harbour blocked by a sandbar. The name Mocha has become so permanently a part of the world's coffee vocabulary that it sticks to a coffee that should really be described today as Yemen or even Arabian.

The other ambiguity derives from the famed chocolate aftertaste of Arabian Mocha, which caused an enthusiast to use the same name for the traditional mixture of hot chocolate and coffee.

Arabian Mocha, grown in the northern mountains of Yemen, is one of the oldest and most traditional of the world's coffees. It is also one of the finest. This coffee has been cultivated and processed in the same way for centuries, grown on mountain terraces and naturally dried. No chemicals are used inits production, and it is no doubt organic. Mocha is a balanced coffee with medium to full body, good acidity and chocolate undertones. Two famous market names for this coffee are Mattari and Sanani. Sanani mochas have a wild, fruity acidity, while Mattari mochas are known for their full body and chocolate undertones.

Coffee is grown on medium-sized farms and is a less potent version of Kenyan coffee, containing less acid and less body. The best come from the Chipinga region.