Homegrounds is reader-supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home » N39 Coffee: Tasting Tanzania’s Arabicas

N39 Coffee: Tasting Tanzania’s Arabicas

Tanzanian coffee is known for its rich flavour and wine-like acidity. If you’re a fan of Tanzanian coffee, you need to try the N39 variant. Trust me, it’s more exciting than the name suggests.

Let’s learn about N39 coffee.

What is the N39 variant?

N39 is a strain of a Bourbon variety developed by the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute (TACRI). It’s a tall varietal that shows tolerance to some diseases and gives a good cup quality. These plants are resistant to CBD (coffee berry disease) (1) and CLR (coffee leaf rust) (2). Pretty tough little things, right? N39 was developed in the 1930s and intended to improve the production of coffee in that region.

N39 carries lively acidity with a rich body and a complex taste profile. It typically carries notes of almonds, honey, red berries, and apricots, but the flavour and aroma profiles change depending on where the coffee is grown (north vs. south). In terms of brewing, it’s best suited for espresso, with or without milk. You can also brew it using the filter brewing method such as Chemex or pour over.

N39 Coffee Brewing Methods

Tanzania’s Coffees

Tanzania produces Arabica and Robusta coffee and exports more than 90% of it. N39 primarily grows in Mbeya, Ruvuma, Songwe, and Arusha regions. All of them are situated in the Southern Highlands of the country.

In recent years, the consumption of coffee in Tanzania has increased, but in spite of this, the local café Union Coffee in Moshi, where the coffee was also roasted, most of clients was tourists.

The coffee grows at an altitude of 1,500 metres above sea level. Some N39 also grows on Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro, which lie in the northern areas of the country.

Harvest months run from July to December in the north as well as the south. This harvest season is the same as Kenyan coffee.

Once the beans are picked, processing can be difficult for local farmers who are geographically far from washing stations. Some farmers depulp using their hands and process the beans themselves. The ones who are closer to washing stations can send cherries to pulping units.

Northern coffee vs Southern coffee

Coffee from the northern regions has a comparatively pleasant aroma and a rich mouthfeel and acidity. It also offers a sweeter and more balanced taste. This is because of the mineral nutrients present in the volcanic mountain soils of the area. On the other hand, southern coffees have a medium body with lively acidity. They have floral and fruity aromas and flavours.

N39 Sub Varietals

The N39 has several sub-varietals and all of them produce a clean cup with good acidity, body, flavour, and aroma. Apart from N39, the area also produces Nyassa and some experimental varietals such as SC11, SC 3, and KP 423.

As coffee was brought to Tanzania by Réunion, a Bourbon-producing French island, N39 also has its roots in France, making it a French mission variety. Coffee came to Tanzania in the 16th century, but it received attention only after the German missionaries started arriving almost 200 years later.

Additionally, N39 is also a cultivar of Bourbon, Arabic’s hybrid with a deep chocolatey, buttery flavour profile. Because of that N39 carries slight notes of chocolate and nuts.

If you want to learn what is Arabica coffee, we got that covered, too.

Final Thoughts

N39 is an excellent varietal for those who prefer complex notes in their coffee. If you love your espresso, this is a coffee worth trying. Do you prefer bourbon coffee and if so, which varietal? Drop a comment and let us know.


The coffee industry in Tanzania is primarily run by more than 320,000 small farming households that control almost 95% of Tanzanian coffee production.

Yes, Tanzanian coffee industry gives a fair chance to small farms. Most of the farming households have small farms with not more than 0.5 to 1.0 hectares each.

There are some big estates in Tanzania’s coffee industry. However, only 5% of the coffee production is done by big estates.

  1. Coffee berry disease. Coffee Berry Disease – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Retrieved February 23, 2023, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/coffee-berry-disease
  2. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Coffee rust. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 23, 2023, from https://www.britannica.com/science/coffee-rust
  3. BLOG // Mihkel Jürimaa// Tallinn // 1.12.2021. (n.d.). Trip to coffee origin – how is Tanzanian Coffee? Paulig – Barista Institute. Retrieved February 23, 2023, from https://www.baristainstitute.com/blog/mihkel-jurimaa/december-2021/trip-coffee-origin-how-tanzanian-coffee
Summer Hirst
All cards on the table: I’m a coffeeholic. So much so that I don’t give a frappe anymore. I love tasting different types of coffees and writing about them. When I’m not obsessing over coffee, I’m obsessing over puppies. Sometimes I believe I can do anything, and sometimes the coffee stops working. If you like my work, leave me a comment!

Leave a Comment