A roaster’s guide to Zimbabwean coffee beans

Pavel Corena
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December 14, 2022
The turbulent history of Zimbabwe coffee

Settled in the heart of the sub-Saharan region of Africa, Zimbabwe finds itself in an ideal location to grow coffee. 

The country boasts warm temperatures year-round, giving it an ideal climate for coffee production. The eastern and northern regions have high-altitude terrain, helping to provide balanced temperatures and optimum levels of humidity. 

Furthermore, the country enjoys abundant rainfall in the later months of the year. All these factors contribute to the coffee plant’s growth and production. 

That said, the region has had a long and complicated with the plant since it was introduced in the mid-1800s. Political intrusions and economical turmoil all but put a chokehold on coffee production. 

Until recently, that is. Zimbabwean coffee seems to be making its way back into the market as the country regains stability.

Roasters working with Zimbabwean coffee must ensure they find the ideal profile that highlights the unique attributes of these rarely available offerings.

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An image of coffee farmers at a coffee plantation in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe coffee farmers, in an article on Zimbabwe coffee

Understanding the history of coffee in Zimbabwe

During the 17th century, coffee production and cultivation expanded globally because of colonisation and increasing demand in Europe. 

However, it was only during the 1850s that coffee took more prevalence within Zimbabwe’s economy, and plantations began to expand across the country. 

Then, in the 1920s, a plague destroyed almost all the plants in the region, effectively ending coffee’s popularity in the country for the next 40 years.

Encouraged by an expansion of global coffee consumption after World War II, Zimbabwe’s coffee sector was reignited during the 1960s. Coffee production increased, and Zimbabwe began exporting products around the world. 

Notably, Zimbabwean coffee became coveted around the globe, including in cities such as London and New York. 

By 1988, Zimbabwe’s coffee production peaked at around 16,000 metric tons, and the country was placed among the 30 coffee-producing countries in the world. 

However, during the 1990s, coffee production dropped sharply. It is estimated around 97% of the country’s total coffee crop was lost, with annual production dropping below 400 tonnes. 

This has been attributed to a series of governmental agricultural reforms, chief among which was the redistribution of some of the country’s most successful coffee farms.

In recent years, local farmers have started to return to coffee cultivation. Investment from the Swiss coffee brand Nespresso, the NGO TechnoServe, and other public sector initiatives from across Europe have supported the revival of Zimbabwe’s coffee sector.

Important to note is Zimbabwe’s coffee industry is still small compared to other African countries, such as Kenya and Ethiopia

While committed coffee producers, Zimbabwe is predominately a tea-drinking nation. This may be because Zimbabwean society tends to be divided by classes, and coffee is mainly a drink for the wealthy. 

That said, this seems to be changing, as the local coffee sector is mainly driven by small, family-run coffee farms.

What are the characteristics of Zimbabwean coffee?

While Zimbabwean coffee is often overshadowed by other East African origins, such as the bright and powerful coffees of Kenya, its flavour profile is unique and exotic.

Zimbabwean coffees are usually wet processed, and while the cup profile may vary, it is often well-balanced and medium-bodied, with bright berry-like or citric acidity. 

Zimbabwean coffee generally has a rich, complex flavour and aroma, with common tasting notes including chocolate and wine.

Interestingly, Zimbabwe’s region of Chipinge is gaining recognition in the specialty coffee industry. The region boasts a climate that is similar to an altitude of about 1,600 meters. 

Chipinge coffee tends to exemplify a fine East African coffee, with a vibrant and winey acidity. Coffee grown in this region is highly respected, and within Africa, is exceeded in quality only by Kenyan coffees. 

Knowing the profile, characteristics, and attributes of Zimbabwean coffee is essential for roasters, as it will help them develop an adequate roast profile that guarantees a high-quality product.

An image of a Zimbabwe coffee roaster roasting Zimbabwe coffee in a large-scale coffee roaster in an article on Zimbabwe coffee

What is the optimal roast profile for Zimbabwean coffee?

How a cup of coffee is perceived by consumers is the result of many variables and processes during the coffee journey. 

However, it is during the roast that the real character of a coffee is defined. 

Zimbabwean coffees are single origin coffees with specific attributes. Therefore, it is essential roasters understand the raw material in order to highlight the tasting notes and find a balance between sweetness and acidity to define the body of the beverage.

Many variables define the profile of the coffee bean. An important one is the density of the bean. The denser the bean is, the stronger its structure will be. High-density beans usually need more time and higher temperatures in a roast.

Zimbabwean coffee has a medium density due to the altitude and climate. Additionally, Zimbabwean coffees are well-balanced and tend to have a citrus acidity and a chocolaty profile. 

Therefore, it is recommended to use a medium roast for Zimbabwean coffee. This will help roasters find a balance between the sweetness and acidity in the final cup.

By offering their customers Zimbabwean coffee options, roasters can do their part to help this incredible coffee-producing country recover and fit its place within the specialty sector. 

Additionally, roasters can pique their customers’ interest by custom-printing coffee bags for their Zimbabwean coffee. 

To ensure your coffee reaches the consumer as fresh as possible, you’ll need to choose packaging that not only showcases Zimbabwean coffee in all its glory but also protects it from exposure to external factors.

An image of a Zimbabwe coffee roaster packaging roast Zimbabwe coffee in kraft paper coffee bag, custom printed kraft paper coffee bags, kraft paper coffee packaging for Zimbabwe coffee  in an article on Zimbabwe coffee

At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of 100% recyclable coffee packaging options that can be fully customised to reflect the uniqueness of your Zimbabwean coffee offerings. 

Roasters can choose from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining, all of which minimise waste and contribute to a circular economy.

Our design team is available to work directly with you or your marketing team to create the ideal coffee packaging for your brand. Plus, we are able to custom-print coffee bags using innovative digital printing technology, with a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time. 

MTPak Coffee also offers low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters who are looking to remain agile while showcasing brand identity and a commitment to the environment.

For more information on sustainable custom-print coffee bags, contact our team. 

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A roaster’s guide to Zimbabwean coffee beans

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