Coffee Origins: Zambia

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter
Coffee Origins: Zambia

Zambia? For a long time, Zambia has been disregarded by much of the specialty coffee business. One could argue that it’s a chicken-and-egg situation, because historically, low specialized buyer interest has led to low-quality investment, and low-quality investment has led to low specialty buyer interest.

Missionaries who brought Bourbon seed stock from Tanzania and Kenya introduced coffee to Zambia in the 1950s. However, with the help of World Bank support, the sector did not ramp up production until the late 1970s and early 1980s. Due to pest and disease issues, growers switched to the Catimor hybrid, which is less tasty than Bourbon. Although the government returned to favoring Bourbon after this switch, there is still a significant amount of Catimor in the country.

Zambia’s coffee exports reached around 6,500 tonnes (7,150 tons) in 2005/2006, but have subsequently plummeted. Low prices and a critical absence of long-term finance in the business are blamed by some. Furthermore, the country’s major producer went out of business in 2008 after defaulting on its financing. At the time of its shutdown, the Northern Coffee Corp was producing one-third of the country’s 6,000 tons (6,600 tons) of coffee. In 2012, total production fell to just 300 tonnes (330 tons), although it currently appears to be recovering.

The majority of Zambia’s coffee comes from larger estates, while smallholders have been encouraged as well. The estates are generally well-run, have good access to contemporary technology (due to the late beginnings of coffee production in this region), and maybe controlled by global corporations. Smallholder farming has failed to gain traction, with limited access to fertilizers and equipment, and often poor quality. The shortage of water and adequate post-harvest processing has hampered the production of pure, delicious coffees even more.

Single estate coffees seem to be the best in Zambia, though you may have to work hard to find them. Zambia’s coffee production is not only limited, but it also lacks high-quality coffees. Frustratingly, the country has the undeniable potential to produce stellar coffees, from its seed stock to its geography.


Population: 16,590,000

Number of 60kg (132lb) bags in 2016: 2,000

The regions in Zambia are not well-de ned and are typically just referred to as Southern, Central, Copperbelt, and Northern regions. Coffee is mainly grown in the Northern district of the Muchinga Mountains (an area that includes the regions of Isoka, Nakonde, and Kasama) and around the capital city Lusaka.

Altitude: 900–2,000m (3,000–6,600ft)
Harvest: April–September
Varieties: Bourbon, Catimor



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