Zimbabwe Coffee

Much like its northern brethren Zambia, Zimbabwe has a relatively more recent coffee history having started commercial production only in the 1960s. But unlike the usual African profiles that comprise of bright acidity and powerfully deep flavors, Zimbabwean coffee appeals to a milder, more balanced profile. Zimbabwean coffee is perfectly balanced in the cup treading a fine line between the acidity and sweetness. Its characteristic features include excellently balanced acidity that is complemented by a smoky roasted taste and a hint of pepper.


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Zimbabwe Coffee

History of coffee cultivation in Zimbabwe

Coffee farming began in Zimbabwe in the 1960s and flourished for a few decades. This is mainly due to the location of Zimbabwe within Africa, resting as it does on the Central African plateau. Due to the abundance of highlands with moderate temperatures scattered across the countries, there is no dearth of suitable farmlands for coffee cultivation.

This led to the initial boom in coffee production that lasted a few decades and resulted in Zimbabwe coffee becoming a darling in specialty coffee menus across the world. But this boom did not last long, and soon Zimbabwean coffee saw a major decline in coffee production. This was attributed to political turmoil, an economic downturn that had farmers unable to afford the long production periods, and lack of government incentives to tide farmers over for their losses incurred.

In recent years there has been a revival of the coffee industry in Zimbabwe due to a return to a more stable political and economic scenario in the country. The soil and climate in this landlocked nation were always suited to high quality coffee yields. Now with renewed interest for Zimbabwean coffee in specialty coffee circles, it is no wonder that local farmers are scrambling to meet the demands of international clients.

Why Zimbabwean Coffee?

Coffee makers and providers in most big cities tend to keep a wide variety of different coffee sourced from around the world in their menus. As coffee is widely consumed by a diverse group of people with a diverse palette, coffee makers too have had to innovate in a number of ways to cater to their customers’ tastes. As such, in most specialty coffee shops, you are likely to find a few esoteric choices alongside the more popular options when it comes to the source country.

Zimbabwean coffee is one such source that offers coffee aficionados a break from the rich but opts repeated monotonous flavors of the well-established coffees. While Zimbabwean coffee belongs to the African Arabica family, the same high-quality variety as the renowned Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees, the Zimbabwean batches are quite unique. Their distinctive taste and complex flavor profile set them apart from their fellow African sources.

So, while you may not have heard much about this coffee source, it is largely because of its near complete disappearance from the international market. But since its recent rise and rising profile, you might like to know more about the coffee, its features, and profile. So, let us take a closer look at what sets this coffee apart and makes it a must try.

The complex flavors

Zimbabwean cups are brewed from high quality Arabica coffee that resembles some of the famed East African profiles. The Zimbabwean coffee batches of the older days were characterized by their sweet taste which would be complemented by the tart notes of cherry and nutty undertones. All three combined to make Zimbabwean brews distinctly different from the acidic and heavy toned Kenyan and Ethiopian brews.

The recent resurgence of Zimbabwean coffee saw it develop a medium bodied profile that still contains some berry and wine tones. Some Zimbabwean varieties also contain additional notes of chocolate along with a roasted aftertaste. All these flavors are perfectly balanced with bright acidity that lends it that trademark coffee punch.

Coffee varieties

The major variants of Zimbabwean coffee are derived from the Eastern Highlands and the Smaldeel Estate that grows the Catimoor variety. The variety produced in the Eastern Highlands is characterized by their medium roast coffee that contains notes of peach, lime, and rhubarb. The profile of this coffee is very balanced which adds to its appeal in the international market.

The varieties produced in the Smaldeen Estate has its own processing mill that ensures consistency of profile. The estate is a self-sustained farm that provides housing and medical facilities to its farm laborers. The Catimoor variety was developed in 1959 and requires shade and careful supervision during the fertilization process.

The favorable backdrop

Zimbabwe is situated on the same mountain belt that runs through Ethiopia and consequently, has many lush hills and mountains spread throughout the country. It is this mountain belt on which most of Zimbabwe’s coffee farms are located. These regions include Chipinge, Vumba, Honde Valley, Chimanimani and Mutasa.

The farms located there receive an average rainfall of around 1400mm a year, which makes coffee farming very convenient for the farmers. The soil found in these regions also contains the perfect mix of nutrient rich components further acting as an incentive for good quality coffee yields.

Recent setbacks

Coffee cultivation in Zimbabwe fell to ruins sometime in the 2000s when political unrest leads to economic decline with insurgents seizing farms. Many of the medium sized farms which accounted for a significant portion of Zimbabwe’s coffee yield were left deserted and their laborers left unemployed and destitute by these militants. With stability returning to the country and the original favorable climactic conditions still prevalent, Zimbabwean coffee is expected to soon regain its popularity.

The processing method

The method and quality of processing undergone by a batch of coffee determine its quality and flavor profile to a great degree. As such, the human element is an essential factor in the roasting process along with steady supervision and maintenance of quality.

Zimbabwean coffee is processed through the wet method as the country has no scarcity of water that is essential to this process. The wet processing method entails washing the coffee fruits and then drying them. It lends the coffee beans a characteristic green coloring.


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