Surprise & delight from southeastern Africa

Our first ever Malawi beans, though somewhat enigmatic, have bloomed into a truly delightful cup!  A little history before I expand on that thought…  Malawi is located in southeast Africa and is a landlocked country bordered by Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique.  Although coffee has been growing in Malawi since the late 1800s, it is still a relative newcomer to the specialty coffee scene and as of late more attention is being paid to grading the beans on size and quality.

The puzzling thing about this lot of beans from Malawi is that it consists of two arabica cultivars:  Catimor and Geisha.  Now I am no botanistMalawi, but I would likely describe this as a serious case of “opposites attract.” 

Catimor is a cross between Caturra and Timor Hybrid, which means there is some Robusta in its lineage (gasp!).  According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America and, it’s a strong, disease-resistant plant, but does not produce the best cup quality over 4,000 feet, and our Malawi was grown at nearly 5,000 feet (uh oh!). 

But wait!  The other part of this equation is Geisha, which originally grew wild in Ethiopia and is now widely cultivated in Central America.  Geisha was introduced to Malawi in 1932.  Although it’s more delicate and prone to leaf rust, it produces incredible cup quality with very floral and almost tea-like qualities. These two!!

Our first test batch of Malawi at a medium roast did not impress, but as we shortened our roast development and lightened it up, it really began to shine.  It draws you in with an enticing aroma and grapey acidity; then it keeps you interested with savory notes of tomato, raisin, and cocoa.  If you appreciate lighter roasts and African coffee as much as I do, give this newcomer a try!  Sometimes as in life, unlikely partners compliment each other the best.