Congo Coffee: A Coffee Paradise With A Rich History
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was once a mighty African coffee producer and exporter before its industry was rocked by political instability. Fortunately, it is poised to make an exciting comeback. The DRC is home to Arabica and Robusta coffees, grown mostly on the Eastern side of this Central African country.
Curious about Congo coffee? Read this guide to learn more about the best Congo coffee and how to try it yourself.
At A Glance:
- Level Ground: Congo Single Origin
- Galloping Goose: DR Congo Hutwe Kivu
- Fresh Roasted Coffee: Organic Congo Kivu
A Complete Guide To The Congo Coffee Region
Let’s start with the history of coffee in Congo, the major Arabica and Robusta coffee-producing regions, and their flavour profiles. You’ll know exactly what to expect and how to choose the best Congolese coffee beans.
The Congo Coffee History
From the 1970s to the 1990s, the DRC made a name for itself producing Robusta coffee (1).
Coffee production was nationalised in the 1970s and grew successfully up to the early 1990s, by which time the DRC was producing 120,000 tonnes per year.
The DRC is rich in resources and potential. But it is now one of the poorest countries due to stunted social and economic progress brought about by civil wars. Delays, export taxes, pricing, financing, erosion of agricultural practices, Covid-19’s impact on logistics, and political turmoil are all issues that challenge the DRC’s coffee industry, says local industry expert Kamabale Kisumba Kamungele (2).
The farmers might be harvesting, pruning, or doing other agricultural work, but at any time, the rebels could arrive. That unpredictability means there are a lot of problems
Investments from the DRC’s government, as well as private sector support, have been revitalizing the coffee sector over the last decade, with quality Arabica taking the stage. With time, effort, and luck, the Congo will produce good coffee beans on par with the best specialty coffee in the world.
How Much Coffee Does The Congo Export A Year?
The Congo once exported as much as 120,000 tonnes of coffee a year. This dropped to only 10,000 tonnes yearly over a thirty-year span before increasing to 12,000 tonnes a year in the last ten years.
Growing Regions And The “Paradise For Coffee”
Arabica Congo Kivu coffee is grown in North Kivu (Nord Kivu), South Kivu (Sud Kivu), and Ituri. These three provinces are found in the Eastern Congo region, which is dubbed the “paradise for coffee” due to its nutrient-dense volcanic soils, stellar climates, and high altitudes.
The gorgeous Kivu area is adjacent to the neighbouring countries Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda and includes Virunga National Park, Maiko National Park, and the Ruwenzori Mountains.
The two most common varieties of Arabica grown here are Blue Mountain and Bourbon.
Robusta Congo coffee is more common in the Grand Nord area of the DRC at elevations just under 3300 feet. The most common variety of Robusta grown here is locally referred to as Petit Kwilu. It is renowned for being smaller and less bitter than other Robusta coffees.
Other prominent coffee-producing regions include Petit Nord, Bord du Lac, and Ruzizi. Grand Nord and Petit Nord are both areas in Nord Kivu.
Congolese coffee varies in its flavours, although the Arabica variety tends to have a prominent acidity.
You’ll get a lot of notes of apple, blackberry, chocolate, honey, jasmine, lemon, orange, and fruit.
The Robusta in Congo has a powerful aroma and full body, with nutty, chocolatey, and fruity flavour notes. The Arabica is milder and sweeter with a taste reminiscent of black tea, citrus, and spices (3).
Best Congo Coffee Beans in 2023
Where can I buy coffee from Congo in Canada, you ask? Luckily for you, we have some of the best Congolese coffee beans for you to try right here. And if you’re curious about coffee beans from different African countries, check out coffee beans from Cameroon and Guinea coffee beans.
|Congo Single Origin||
|DR Congo Hutwe Kivu||
|Organic Congo Kivu||
1. Congo Single Origin – Level Ground
Roast level: Medium
- Flavor profile: Chocolate, spice, citrus
- Ground or whole bean: Both
For an accessible introduction to the country’s coffee, try this Democratic Republic of Congo Single Origin. Farmed at 1,500-1,800 metres above sea level, this is strictly high-grown coffee, which offers a more flavourful cup. As with all Level Ground Coffee, these beans are organically grown, fair trade sourced, then roasted in small batches on Vancouver Island.
The flavour profile you can expect is both vibrant and complex, with sweet and aromatic notes of tropical fruit citrus, balanced by earthier favours of chocolate, tobacco, and peppery spices. Brew this as a pour over or Aeropress to get the most out of this unique coffee.
2. DR Congo Hutwe Kivu – Galloping Goose
Roast level: Medium
- Flavor profile: Blackberry, chocolate, cherry
- Ground or whole bean: Whole bean
The Kirumba region north of Lake Kivu is blessed with rich soils, but a lack of infrastructure makes growing and exporting coffee challenging. Thanks to the Virunga Coffee Company, who have invested in the farmers in the area, you can enjoy this rare treat.
This speciality coffee is certified organic and has been wash-processed and sun-dried. Bourbon beans can offer a wide range of favour profiles, but they do tend to have plenty of sweetness. In this coffee, you’ll find these sweet notes in fruity blackberries and cherries, and rich chocolate.
3. Organic Congo Kivu – Fresh Roasted Coffee
Roast level: Light
- Flavor profile: Blood Orange, Syrup, & Tobacco
- Ground or whole bean: Whole Bean
Coffee or tea? The Organic Congo Kivu from Fresh Roasted Coffee is the best of both with its light body, bright flavours, and smooth, tea-like, mild-mannered roast. It has a show-stopping zesty blood orange aftertaste, a syrupy body, and sweet tobacco vibrancy. Every bag is nitro-flushed to preserve freshness.
These single origin Bourbon variety coffee beans are grown in the Katanda Territory, where they are honey processed at local washing stations. They’re Kosher, USDA Organic Certified, and sustainably sourced.
There are many other great Congo coffee beans, like Congo Umoja coffee from Mighty Peace Coffee, Congo Lake coffee Starbucks edition, and Congo Muungano coffee from Atlas Coffee Importers.
The DRC has had a tumultuous history. But fortunately, in recent years, the country is re-emerging into the world coffee scene.
Every coffee enthusiast will find a taste they enjoy, from acidic, citrusy, fruity flavours to the creamier, nuttier, hazelnut ones. Pick up a bag of delicious Congolese coffee to try yourself!
There was no one specific most popular brand of coffee in Congo in 1964, as this was the time of the Congo Crisis, which took place between 1960 and 1965. It was characterized by a complicated political instability that took precedence over agriculture (4).
Ethiopia is the African country that grows the most coffee. It produces nearly 384,000 tonnes of coffee a year. On the global stage, Ethiopia is the 5th-largest coffee producer and is known for some of the world’s best coffee beans (5).
Ethiopian coffee is different from other coffees because of its intricate flavour profile of bright, fruity, and floral notes. Ethiopia is the homeland of Arabica coffee, and thousands of heirloom varieties exist there that are found nowhere else on Earth.
- Beeston, M. (2019, May 16). Understanding Congo’s Coffee Industry. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2019/05/understanding-the-democratic-republic-of-congos-coffee-industry/
- Guerra, G. (2020, November 5). Exploring Congo As A Coffee Origin. Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2020/11/exploring-the-democratic-republic-of-congo-as-a-coffee-origin/
- Wilkinson, J. (2022, August 8). DemocraticRepublic of the Congo (DRC) Coffee Production & Sourcing Guide. Retrieved February 15, 2023, from https://www.omwani.com/post/drc-coffee-production-sourcing-guide
- Office Of The Historian. (n.d.). The Congo, Decolonization, and the Cold War, 1960–1965. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://history.state.gov/milestones/1961-1968/congo-decolonization
- ASARECA. (2019, November 19). Ethiopia and Uganda among top Ten Global Coffee Producers and Exporters. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://www.asareca.org/news/ethiopia-and-uganda-among-top-ten-global-coffee-producers-and-exporters