Congo Coffee production has always been the way of life in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). But it was subject to the forces of civil conflict for decades together. Lacking both infrastructures like reliable electricity, clean water, vehicles and roads, and security for private investments, most of the coffee production has been reverted from capital-intensive and larger-scale plantations to small farms with less than 100 trees.
Since then, these small farms have been sustaining the coffee industry of the country and have all the required resources to produce great coffee like excellent varietal, good rainfall, and high elevation.
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The DRC has an interesting origin, but just barely on the radar of specialty coffee. An established Robusta economy is more prevalent in the coffee sector of the country, and more emphasis on the best and high-quality Arabica coffee is just gaining attention among producers.
Coffee was introduced by European colonists that operated large self-owned plantations using local labors to look after the fields and harvest the coffee crops. This was a common scenario even in countries like Tanzania and Kenya. DRC attained independence from Belgium in 1960.
The Office National du Café (ONC), which was the national regulatory authority, held a monopoly on the coffee-export market until 1976. Soon, elimination and liberalization of price control in the early 1980s ensured and created chaos and opportunities as the market was coming to terms with the pricing structures and levels.
In the same way, the transition from settled coffee plantations to small farms was also a difficult change, especially in a country that was dominated by rural agriculture. But soon, organizations and projects came in and started working to improve the infrastructure and networks to bring Congo’s top-quality coffee to the international market.
The taste profile of Congolese Coffee
DRC is one of those coffee producing countries in Africa that stay under the radar. It has a very unique taste profile that you probably must have not tasted anywhere before. Notes of chocolate and cinnamon are paired with a tangy bitterness of tart apple. The acidity in this region’s coffee is quite noticeable and is overall finished with hints of earth. You will definitely be intrigued by Congo Coffee.
Production of Congolese Coffee
DRC sits right upon the line of the equator. Because of this, you will feel a warm climate throughout the year. Coffee is mostly grown in the Kivu region of the country. This region is located near the borders of Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, and sits on a high plateau. It should be noted that Congo Coffee has a very distinguishing taste. The region has fertile and rich soil and coupled with good rainfall.
Many agricultural and coffee taxes have been levied on exported Congolese coffee goods, and this found its way to the borders of countries like Uganda and Rwanda. The coffee is then packed and resold to other countries, without any pieces of evidence that the coffee originated from Congo. However, this practice has been curbed in the past few years.
The international coffee community, with joined hands of the coffee specialty industry, has given a revisit to the coffee growing community in Congo. Since then, there have been a significant amount of investments made in the coffee processing and washing stations. In turn, this has helped coffee farmers in Congo learn how to cultivate and harvest only the best and high-quality beans. There has also been an increase in the number of coffee training facilities where they teach how to grow good quality coffee.
Quality of the Congolese Coffee beans
Although they are hardly known in the global specialty coffee market, Congolese coffee beans are some of the high-end coffees from Africa. The processing method is done very carefully, right from picking the right coffee beans to the packaging assembly. The beans are usually picked by hand, which further ensures that only the best of the best go through the next stages of production.
Once the beans are collected, they are sorted according to density using the floating sort method. The denser the beans are, the better is the quality. The next washing process makes sure the beans are cleaned thoroughly and the quality is preserved.
Processing of the coffee beans
The washing process removes the pulp from the coffee beans. Once the coffee cherries are de-pulped, they go through the fermentation and drying process for about 12 hours. Next, they are again dipped in water for another 12 hours, during which the beans are separated by density before the drying process.
Roasting process of the Congolese coffee beans
Congolese coffee is mostly dark roasted since they are dense enough to stand the process without losing out on its rich flavor. This roasting gives the coffee beans a very smoky, smooth and nutty flavor, with hints of citrus and fruits. The acidity is quite bright and is finished with a heavy and full body flavor.
Congolese coffee beans can also be medium roasted. As for light roasting, these beans might not be suited for the occasion.
Brewing Congolese Coffee
For brewing Congo coffee, you can make use of either the dripping or immersion method. You can also make use of the French press method since there is no paper filter to remove the coffee’s oily characters. This method will be able to boost the rich Congolese aroma and flavor.
Interesting facts about Congolese Coffee:
- Congolese coffee has a bright and citric acidity with a full body finished with a sweet and chocolaty aroma.
- The coffee beans have a sweet flavor with notes of dark fruits like berries, plums, citrus and hints of raisins.
- The coffee beans are processed by the washing method and left to dry naturally in the sun. The next drying process naturally and effectively de-pulps the coffee cherries.
- The most common type of coffee grown in Congo is the Arabica coffee. This is of the bourbon variety which is a high-end specialty coffee bean.
- The major coffee growing region in Congo is Kivu. This place receives ample sunshine and rainfall and always has a moderate temperature. These conditions are great for coffee cultivation.
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