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Coffee in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a bit small country but is home to one of the precious coffees in Africa. The climate is very suitable for coffee growing and is characterized by mountainous regions with cool and lush vegetation. There is a time the country was very famous in coffee production of superior high quality beans (SHQ). The coffee was dried naturally under the sunshine giving a very smooth with strong fruit flavors.

Around 1990s, Zimbabwean coffee was very popular in the japan, New York, Johannesburg, London, and Amsterdam. The coffee significantly contributed to the country’s economy with a lot of farmers depending on the business for survival.

Flavor of Zimbabwean coffee beans

The flavor has hints of citrus acidity with bitter lemon notes. The coffees are gingery tasting with a bittersweet flavor. The coffees are usually medium bodied and medium density with sparkling citrus or berry hinted acidity. The coffees have a strong aroma with rich and well balanced flavor coupled with smooth undertones.

Something that best characterizes the Zimbabwean coffees like any other Africa Arabica beans is the winey acidity. Other common flavors to note are sweetness, woody, chocolaty and bright acidity with full body. The aroma is pleasant and chocolate like.

Coffee growing regions in Zimbabwe

Coffee is mainly grown in Chipinge region in Zimbabwe which is characterized by high altitudes of about 900 to 1100 meters above the mean sea level. The area is characterized by deep soils with just the right moisture and rich fertility. The rainfall and sunshine is moderate while the temperatures in the highland coffee growing regions are hot with cool nights. This helps the fruits to delay in ripening and have a long period of interacting with the coffee fruit giving the coffee natural fruity sweetness.

Chipinge coffee

Chipinge region is characterized by hot weather and lot of rainfall of about 11000 millimeters annually in average providing good favorable coffee growing conditions. The area located to the south east highlands where majority of Zimbabwean coffee is grown.

This regions coffee is one of the best Arabica beans in Africa and being may be beaten by the Kenyan coffees. Though they slightly disqualify as strictly hard and high grown coffee beans (SHB and SHG/ 900 to 11000 meters above the mean sea level) the country climate qualifies just like a climate with an elevation of 1600 meters. The coffee is vibrant with winey acidity which gives it a superior taste.

Chipinge coffee is a finer African coffee bean with winey acidity like the other east African coffee though light.

Coffee harvesting and processing

Coffees in Zimbabwe are usually harvested in the period between May and September. The coffee cherries are harvested using handpicking and also sorted manually. The coffees are then wet processed using water or dried naturally using sunshine.

Dry/natural processing- Using the dry processing method, the coffees are dried out doors until there is sighs of the pulp or coffee external skin coming off. This is the right moment for de-pulping the coffees. The coffees are then further processed to remove the mucilage that surrounds the coffee bean. This method allows the beans to acquire most sweetness from the mucilage and fruit characteristic from the cherry since they have been in contact for long.

Wet processing- this method involve washing the coffee cherries immediately after picking to forcefully remove the pulp. This method produces a fine and clean coffee. In Zimbabwe the washing infrastructure is not well advanced and most farmers manually wash the beans. The coffees are then dried before undergoing further processing.

Problems facing coffee industry in Zimbabwe

The industry today is almost in ruins with once famous and functional coffee mills going to waste with farmers abandoning coffee farming owing to very huge debts.

One of the reason for coffee failing in Zimbabwe in grabbing of coffee farms from private owners by the government in the early 2001 which resulted to drastic measures by the world market. On top of this some young people, militants, who were believed to be the then president loyal men attacked white people farms and seized their coffee. Some of the white farmers died while the rest went to exile in other countries.

This was said to be an act of getting the back farms back which the whites have taken during the colonial rule in the country. The workers at the farms were also left to ruin with their families with no wages or money to survive. Even the black people farms were burnt down and the lands were then used to grow wild and dangerous vegetables like the marijuana. The country economy went down with this and is yet to recover.

The European Union and US government responded to the unethical damage of coffee farms, businesses and other private properties destruction by militias by imposing trade penalties to Zimbabwe. With most foreign investors being chased from the country the new establishing coffee farmers some of whom who took over the left behind farms could not secure funds to sustain their farms. The ended up having very low products in terms of quality and grade with almost no well-defined market to sell the coffees.

Process of reviving the Zimbabwe coffee economy back to health

International charity organizations are training the coffee farmers on how to apply advanced technology to produce their coffees. This include using fertilizers, pesticides, registering their farms legally, how to sell and market their coffees and processes them without lowering the grade of coffee.

Other things that the country need to observe having the farmers gain new skills, make good containers to preserve the coffee, ensure quality is observed even during the harvesting periods and equipping the farmers with financial knowledge to ensure that they monitor keenly their produce.

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Last Updated: 07/22/2020