Zimbabwe Coffees

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Zimbabwe, known generally as Rhodesia before its independence in 1980, sits on the vast plateau of southern Africa. Early civilization in the country--dating to about 800 AD--was based on gold. Coffee, having originated nearly a half a continent northeast in Ethiopia, was not introduced ion Zimbabwe until the 1960s.

Growing Coffee in the Zimbabwe Veldt

With elevations in the region of 4,500 feet and annual rainfall of about 35 inches, Zimbabwe isn't ideal for coffee, which wants about 50 to 55 inches of rain, but the crop is healthy regardless. Characterized by a rich aroma, medium body, and a spicy aftertaste, Zimbabwe coffees have a great deal to offer. Unfortunately, the changing political fortunes of the country will spill over into agriculture.

Reliable sources of Zimbabwe's top quality AA beans are hard to come by in recent years. Nonetheless, the unique growing conditions and 40 years of developing coffee as a crop have left the country with a bean that stands well enough against the popular and world-renowned Kenyan crops. Definitely an east African varietal, Zimbabwe coffee overall varies significantly depending on how it's roasted.

The coffee does best at what is called a full city roast. By city roast, what's meant is one slightly darker than your average American roast, and tending toward the oil finish so characteristic of French and Italian espresso roasts. The highest quality Zimbabwe coffees--generally produced on estates such as Salimba--hints of lemon and alternates between those of bittersweet chocolate and caramel. Fine coffees, after all, strive for the complexity that does characterize the best of the Zimbabwes.


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