About 20 years ago when I was first starting to write about coffee I came across a magazine article that spoke of the “Super Coffee” from Zimbabwe. It was between 1994 and 1995 and without knowing much about coffee except for drinking it, I was immediately intrigued by the article about this coffee from a little known country in Southern Africa. It said results with quality had been outstanding with a number of original Arabica coffee strains known as “Super Coffee” which had been brought into Zimbabwe from Kenya.
After exactly 10 years more of coffee and conflict reporting, I found myself back on the dusty roads of a country thrown into war and armed struggle all around, with people from all walks of life, social and racial groups living through terrifying days and nights. A country that once had stood as the role model of an African nation embracing social development, real economic progress and peaceful ethnic and racial coexistence, Zimbabwe had seen its economy ruined and inflation running at over 10,000%. This was in March of 2004, but despite the political upheaval and chaos, there was no holding me back to visit some of the few coffee growing areas still producing that Super Coffee in Zimbabwe — and here as seen all my other coffee travels during the past 20 years, the coffee communities were at the heart of the struggle and coffee people were suffering the worst of the consequences.
My Coffee of The Day is an Estate blend of AA beans from the Chipinge area in Zimbabwe, a blend that I found at U.S. roasters The Sensuous Bean in down town New York. The cup flavor has what Sweet Maria’s coffee gurus describe as a coffee with “very much of an East African cup profile, an excellent complexity and depth, and a unique origin flavor” that in this medium roast is nothing short of beautiful.
“The best estate Zimbabwe coffees are prized for their balance in the cup …which might sound like it is mild, but that is not the case. Balanced coffees are a “complete cup.” They have all the desirable qualities. A really good Zimbabwe has moderate acidity, rich flavors, good body and after-taste,” says Sweet Maria’s.
This estate blend from The Sensuous Bean is one of those. But Zimbabwe coffee is rare, so chances are that if you come across a coffee shop that sells Zimbabwe as a single origin it’s going to be a great coffee and we recommend you to pick up a pound.
The picture here is from one of the only coffee regions still producing coffee in the Chimanimani region in central Zimbabwe near Chipinge, where a handful of farms are struggling to stay in business. Total coffee production from Zimbabwe has in recent years hit new lows at levels between 15,000 and 20,000 (60-kilograms) bags. This compares to the peak of production of over 250,000 bags in the early 1990s, according to statistics from the International Coffee Organization.
For more on Zimbabwe, please read on in this special report by SpillingTheBeans: