Equatorial Guinea Coffee: A Journey through History, Flavour, and Challenges
Updated: 2 days ago
Formerly the colony of Spanish Guinea, Equatorial Guinea is one of the smallest countries in Africa. It is located at the west coast of Central Africa, bordering Gabon and Cameroon. Its post-Independence name evokes its location near both the Equator and Gulf of Guinea.
The country is just under 11,000 square miles made up of a main inland region called Rio Muni, and an insular region which consists of the islands of Bioko in the Gulf of Guinea, and Annobón, a small volcanic island.
Economic stagnation has affected Equatorial Guinea since the 1970s, when Guinea experienced an economic collapse that resulted in a lot of its population moving to rural areas. Currently, a burgeoning oil and timber industry is currently helping to reignite the country’s economic development.
Equatorial Guinea’s turbulent political history has had some dire effects on its once strong coffee industry. Nowadays, it is rare to find this country’s coffee on the market.
Equatorial Guinea's Coffee Growing History
Between 1926 and 1959, the success of Equatorial Guinea’s coffee and cacao plantations provided a healthy economy for the country. The spread of coffee cultivation during the 1930s offered an alternative to paying taxes, which made it a very appealing enterprise for its population.
For a time, coffee was one of Equatorial Guinea’s leading exports. Spain, Germany, and the UK were among the main trading partners. Worker numbers were bolstered by migrants from Asia and other African countries, making up the bulk of farmers and processors.
Coffee Farming in Equatorial Guinea
With heavy rainfall and average consistent temperatures of 26 ºC, Equatorial Guinea assures a great tropical climate for coffee farming. While the entire country rests at an average elevation of 577 m.a.s.l, some of its mountainous regions reach as high as 3000 m.a.s.l. These altitudes, along with volcanic soil, provide excellent conditions for growing coffea.
Nowadays, the majority of coffee farming is carried out on small plots of land. Recently, there have been calls for aligning some of these farms with the country’s tourist industry. Such initiatives would attract more attention to the mainland farms, allowing visitors to taste Equatorial Guinea’s coffee beans. Additionally, this would also attract more interest in the country’s agricultural sector.
Where is Coffee Produced in Equatorial Guinea?
Coffee farming is predominantly carried out in the northern regions of mainland Equatorial Guinea. Although information on specific farms is scarce, the Bantu ethnic Fang people are known to run smallholder farms to the east and produce the bulk of the country’s coffee.
Farms run by the Fang people are connected to the northern regions, such as Mikomeseng. This region is known as the heart of coffee production in Equatorial Guinea. This area also connects to Bata port, located to the northwest of mainland Rio Muni. Baka’s proximity to Mikomeseng provides a trade route from which green coffee beans are then exported.
Types and Varietals of Coffee in Equatorial Guinea
Like other countries in west Africa, Equatorial Guinea mainly cultivates the robusta varietal. Guinea’s robusta is known for its glossy, dark leaves that are between 10-15 cm in length. A fully grown tree reaches approximate heights of 5m, with fruits of around 1.5 cm in diameter.
There are also reports of arabica farming in some smaller plantations, however documentation of this is difficult to find. The country’s highlands and climate do imply that this varietal can be cultivated.
What does Equatorial Guinea Coffee taste like?
Coffee from Equatorial Guinea typically has a bitter taste with mild acidity and a slight tobacco flavouring. A well extracted cup can make for an excellent strong black espresso based coffee, or even a punchy yet vibrant filter.
Equatorial Guinea's Coffee Harvest Date
Guinea’s location and climate typically allows for two harvests per year. The first period is between October and December, then followed by a second harvest from June to August.
Annual Production of Coffee in Equatorial Guinea
From the late 1960s onwards, Equatorial Guinea’s coffee production fluctuated drastically. Figures from its pre-independence era were 8,959 tonnes, but by 1978, the quantity fell to only 500 tonnes. This decline was caused by a forcible transfer of coffee farmers to the Bioko cacao plantations. Interestingly, by 1999, production was on the rise again, with figures at an estimate of 4,000 tonnes.
Around this time, production was being carried out on large, albeit very inefficient plantations. This had a dire effect on the quality of produce; a result of economic mismanagement during a period of authoritarian rule.
More recently, the country has remained consistent in its figures. The year 2020, for example, saw around 4,187 tonnes being produced. It is also worth noting that actual figures are higher, as official figures do not account for quantities smuggled abroad rather than being delivered to official marketing agencies.
Annual Export Volume of Coffee in Equatorial Guinea
Guinea’s export of green coffee has declined considerably over the years. In 1961, 8,800 tonnes of Equatorial Guinea coffee was being exported, a figure which dwindled to 117 tonnes in 2007. Some of its lowest export figures have been recorded at a mere 21 tonnes during 2010. Today, It is now rare to find substantial amounts of Equatorial Guinea’s coffee on the market, with only a few coffee plantations offering up their coffee for export.
In 2020, Equatorial Guinea exported $4.17k in coffee. In this year, it was the 69th most exported product in the country, with its main destination being Bosnia and Herzegovina.
While Equatorial Guinea’s coffee industry was once a thriving sector, political events resulted in a steep decline.
Guinea’s climate, soil and altitudes do offer the potential for some great quality beans. However, due to the country’s lack of economic support, there just aren’t the facilities to currently develop a healthy and profitable industry.