Production volumes in Zimbabwe remain well below their peak a few decades ago, at just over 500 tonnes a year. But thanks to several public and private sector initiatives, Zimbabwe's coffee sector is recovering. Producers are starting to grow coffee again, and this is becoming a more attractive prospect. To find out more, I spoke with an agronomist in Zimbabwe and an expert in sustainable coffee.
AN OVERVIEW OF ZIMBABWEAN COFFEE
Zimbabwe coffee is grown in the eastern part of the country, near the border with Mozambique. The harvest season runs from May to September. Coffee farms in the country cover over 9,500 hectares, most of which belong to small farmers.
The eastern mountains of the mountain country are well suited for the production of Arabica coffee, offering healthy levels of rainfall, fertile soil, cold temperatures, and altitudes of about 1,000 m.a.s.l.
In the mountain area, there are a number of regions known for coffee production. Many of them are located in Manicaland, the second-most populous province in the country. These include the Chipinge, Chimanimani, Mutasa, and Mutare districts (including the Vumba Mountains).
There is also the Honde Valley, which runs from the eastern border of the country to Mozambique, at about 850 m.a.s.l. The valley is home to a number of tea and coffee estates, due to the fact that it receives good rainfall throughout the year.
Catimor is popular on coffee farms in the country, especially in the Chipinge district, due to its resistance to coffee leaf rust and good yields. Other popular varieties include SL-14, SL-28, SL-34, and Caturra.
While the cup profile of Zimbabwe coffee varies, it is often well-balanced and medium-bodied, with citrus-like or shiny acidity. It generally has a rich, complex flavor and aroma with common tasting notes, including chocolate and wine.