Coffee was introduced to Zambia in the 1950s, by missionaries. They’ve brought Bourbon seed from Tanzania and Kenya. However, the production started to grow only in the late 1970s. The growth can be linked to the help of the World Bank. Because the pests and diseases adopted the Catimor hybrid, which is less delicious than Bourbon, but it’s much stronger. This was only a temporary switch, the government went back to recommending Bourbon. However, there is still a fair amount of Catimor in the country.
Zambia’s coffee exports in 2005/2006 moved around 6,500 tonnes, but after that, it started a dramatic decrease. The cause of this was the drop in low prices and the lack of long-term financing in the industry. The largest producer in the country closed in 2008 after defaulting on its loans.
In most cases, Zambia’s coffee comes from larger estates rather than smallholders. Although there has been an encouragement to the smallholders too. The estates are equipped with modern equipment (because coffee production started relatively late here), and many of them are owned by multinationals. That’s why the smallholder is at some disadvantage there. Another influencing factor is the lack of access to water and decent post-harvest processing has further hindered the production of clean, sweet coffees.
The best coffees in Zambia tend to come from big estates. Although there are very few who really produce good coffee. The overall production is small in Zambia, and high-quality coffees are not commonplace.
Those few rare, excellent coffees are bright and floral, with a clean fruit-like complexity.