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The East African basket’s coffee harvests

The East African bean basket may contain some of the world's biggest coffee-growing countries, despite it only covering one corner of the world, yet the coffee harvests within the region vary significantly in terms of season, method and exactly what is yielded. Some areas in the basket have two harvests each year, such as Ethiopia, where beans are gathered in both August and January from the country's main coffee-growing districts of Harrar, Ghimi and Sidamo. Tanzania also has two annual harvests, but different varieties of beans are yielded in each. Between October and December, Arabica coffee is ready for farmers to collect, while the country's Robusta harvest is a little longer, lasting from June until December each year. In nearby Uganda, Robusta coffee is gathered all-year round, although the peak season for gathering such beans runs from November to February. Malawian coffee is also harvested during the winter months, with the country's beans ready for collection between December and February every year. However, not all countries within the East African basket have winter harvests, as Rwanda's main season for collecting its coffee falls from March to June. It is not just variations in season that can be seen within the basket, as the methods used to harvest the beans from country to country can also differ significantly. In Tanzania, Malawi, Rwanda and Kenya, the wet method is used to process the beans ready for selling on to coffee traders around the world, like us here at DR Wakefield. This technique involves the fruit covering the bean being removed, before it is cleaned with water, resulting in what is known as washed coffee. Both the dry and wet method are used in the processing of beans sourced from Ethiopia and Burundi, creating variations in taste, acidity and cupping profile. The dry process involves the whole coffee cherry being allowed to dry in the sun, which creates the type of bean referred to as unwashed or natural coffee.