Preaching the gospel of specialty coffee can often feel like an uphill climb. You can have a beautifully floral Yirgacheffe or a Kenya that just tastes like pomegranate juice that just don’t seem to move because customers favor the comfort and familiarity of a more straightforward Central American profile. It can be frustrating to say the least. But have heart, SCW (specialty coffee warrior), a new article in Grub Street states that thanks to third-wave coffee shops, demand for African coffees is increasing and it is a boon for farmers.
The 70s were the last hay day for coffees coming from Africa; Ethiopia, Uganda, Angola, and the Ivory Coast were all top-ten countries in terms of coffee production. But in the last 40 years, numbers have dropped pretty significantly. As a continent, Africa’s total coffee exports have dropped by 25%, and only Ethiopia and Uganda remain the in top ten.
But the tide is turning. Since 2003,
Africa's global coffee yearly coffee exports have increased by 35 millions bags, from 95 million to 130 million. Leading the charge in this growth is the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia, but the article notes that Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, and the Congo are also seeing increases in demand. This increase is crucial, as a Bloomberg article notes that coffee farming in Africa is facing a handful of threats: young would-be farmers are pursuing more profitable careers (the average age of a coffee farmer in Africa is 60), some farms are replacing coffee with subsistence crops, and even more still are choosing to sell their land entirely.
Nonetheless, demand for African coffees is trending upward, and that is thanks in no small part to the growing popularity of specialty coffee. So keep up the good work. Though it may not always seem like it, people are coming around.
Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network.
An earlier version of this article stated African coffee exports had reached 130 million bags per year. This statistic refers to all global coffee exports.