Guinea Coffee: A Complete Guide to an Unusual Origin
Guinea coffee beans aren’t well known. Visit your local supermarket or Starbucks; I guarantee you won’t find a bag of specialty coffee from Guinea. But Guinea coffee has an unusual claim to fame; it is one of few places growing premium Robusta beans.
Keep reading to learn more about these unique Guinea coffee beans and the origin that spawned them.
A Complete Guide to Guinea Coffee
Guinea, officially designated the Republic of Guinea, is a small country on the west coast of Africa, not to be confused with Guinea-Bissau to its north or Equatorial Guinea further down the coast. It receives little attention from the specialty coffee industry as it produces almost exclusively Robusta beans, not the highest quality coffee beans around the world.
The History of Guinea Coffee
Guinea has been producing Robusta coffee since the 1800s. Arabica beans were introduced in the early 20th century but failed to thrive.
Guinea coffee beans remain a major cash crop for the nation, but the road hasn’t been easy.
Over the years, political instability and low coffee prices limited growth in the sector. More recently, climate change and the 2014 Ebola outbreak further hindered progress.
Production of Guinea Coffee Beans
You’ve probably never heard of Guinea as an African coffee region, but that’s not because it isn’t growing much coffee. It’s the world’s 34th-largest coffee producer, with 9,600 metric tons of coffee production.
Guinea coffee beans are not well known because over 99% of that coffee is low-quality Robusta, according to a report by the Centre for the Promotion of Imports (CBI) (1). These earthy, bittersweet beans are destined for instant coffee and cheap blends.
Guinean coffee is not well established on the EU and international coffee market due to its perceived low standard of bean quality.
Guinea has 15 regions for growing coffee scattered around the country, including the Fouta Djallon plateau, the Mount Nimba region, and the Ziama Massif. The latter of these contains the most well-known region, Macenta.
Ziama-Macenta Robusta is the only Guinea coffee beans to warrant a “geographical indication” for their exceptional flavour. They are among the most sought-after Robusta in the world (2).
Experts describe Macenta Robusta as similar to Arabica, with a sweet taste, bright acidity, and little bitterness.
Macenta Robusta shares another less appealing characteristic with Arabica beans; very low yields (3).
It’s a high-quality Robusta, but the region it’s grown in is unable to fill even two containers during a harvest season because of low production volumes.
Low coffee production is a problem throughout the country, with infrastructure deficits worsening coffee producers’ situation.
Guinea Coffee Culture
Guinea is historically a tea-drinking nation. Guinea’s coffee consumption is rising, but an authentic coffee culture has yet to develop. Most people buy instant coffee at roadside stands or drink basic black coffee in shops.
More coffee shops are opening in urban centres as popular locales for social gatherings, but sourcing quality coffee grown locally remains a low priority. The country has few roasters, little experience with specialty coffee, and no professionally trained baristas.
How Can You Sample Guinea Coffee Beans?
It is not easy to try Guinea’s coffee in the UK, and the only way to buy Guinea coffee beans online is to order green Macenta Robusta and roast it yourself. If that sounds too arduous, try Cameroon coffee, another West African coffee with similar earthy flavour profiles.
Even visiting the country won’t guarantee you a cup. Most Guinea coffee beans are exported to other African nations or Europe, where roasters process them into cheap blends or instant coffee.
Guinea is a major producer of Robusta coffee beans, but it has yet to make a dent in the specialty Arabica market. And it may not need to, as the uniquely high-quality Macenta Robusta is its most noteworthy contribution to the coffee world. Fast-forward ten years, and we may find that Guinea is the birthplace of the specialty Robusta revolution.
There are so many Guinea countries because “Guinea” initially referred to a large region in West Africa and its people. The separate nations today result from different European powers colonizing regions within original Guinea.
Papua New Guinea is unique. It got its name when Westerners first arrived and thought the natives of the island resembled the Guineans of West Africa. Coffee from Papua New Guinea is excellent.
Specialty coffee beans are defined as any coffee scoring over 80 on the 100-point coffee-tasting scale. However, the Specialty Coffee Association uses a more holistic definition that requires high standards throughout the coffee value chain – farms, farmers, processors, roasters, and baristas.
Yes, Guinea grows Liberica coffee beans, but not commercially. The Liberica coffee varietal is native to Liberia, which shares a border with Guinea. It grows wild in many West African nations, and you can find wild Liberica coffee cherries in the forests of Guinea.
- Salim. (August 18). The success story of GI labels in the OAPI region: Ziama-Macenta coffee. Retrieved from http://associatesbalemaken.cm/uncategorized/success-story-of-gi-labels-in-the-oapi-region-ziama-macenta-coffee/
- SureChain. (2020, June). EU Market Research – Guinea Coffee. Commissioned by The Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI). Retrieved from https://www.cbi.eu/sites/default/files/market_information/researches/EU%20Market%20Research%20-%20Coffee%20Guinea%20for%20Publication%20def%201_0.pdf
- Gakuo, P. (2022, November 24). Coffee production in Guinea. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2022/11/coffee-production-in-guinea/