Coffee from Zambia is known to be hit-or-miss. While it can often yield a clean, yet complex, and bright cup, it can also just as easily produce a very undesirable cup. This fluctuation in quality is due to several reasons. Firstly, is the climate. Zambia’s climate is very tropical, and often presents very variable wet and dry subtropical conditions. The rainy season typically runs from November to April, while the dry season runs from May to November. All the while, the temperature stays around 20 degrees Celsius. Secondly, the coffee is not shade grown because shade doesn’t work too well so far south of the equator. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, coffee is a relatively new crop in Zambia – it was only just introduced in 1950 by Tanzania. And lastly, coffee is not considered a sustainable crop yet and has no dedicated planters and harvesters yet. Instead, only part-time farmers and harvesters contribute to the coffee production.
When a crop comes out just right, the taste still fluctuates – but in a good way. After the coffee is first initially roasted it often displays a very fruity taste, bursting with cherry and pear notes. But, as it cools, it will often display a smokey, spicy, and chocolaty profile, with hints of floral. Because of this, it’s often aptly referred to as “the changeable coffee”.
Out of all the coffee produced in Africa, Zambia holds the title of the smallest producer. Only 53,000 bags a year typically come out of this country. Don’t rush past trying a cup if you can, though, because while it has it’s ups and downs, Zambian coffee always has the potential to be outstanding.