Zambia

From the country formerly known as upper Rhodesia, and now named for the Zambezi River, Zambian coffees range from Kenya-like brightness, to subtle, balanced coffees with complexity and body. Zambia has variable quality: it has the potential to be outstanding (which is why we offer particular lots when we find an excellent coffee), and it can be very off-tasting and defective (which is why we're usually out of stock for long stretches).

Coffee was introduced in the 1950's with cultivar seedstock from Tanzania and Kenya. It is grown mainly in the Northern district of the Muchinga Mountains (regions of Nakonde, Kasama and Isoka) and in the vicinity of the capital city of Lusaka.

The past few crops produced some real duds ...do not expect every coffee with an exotic East African name to be good! In fact, I think the logistics of shipping these coffees can result in a marked loss of flavor, or in the case of Tanzanian, baggy flavors from being stored in shipping containers for long periods at port! If it is good coffee, it has to be handled properly and shipped quickly. When this isn't done, the defective coffee is easily detected on our cupping table. Anyway, when we have a Zambian in stock you can bet it is good!

We started offering Zambian coffee in a different era: The 2000 crop ranged from unremarkable estate coffees to very poor quality generic stocklots of peaberry and flatbean. These were widely available, and I thought they were all very poor in the cup. It is sad to know that these low quality lots are ruining a good origin's reputation, and that some "specialty" roaster somewhere is buying this stuff and selling it as "good" coffee.

The 2001 crop was a mixed bag, but we found an excellent coffee from the Isanya Estate - very potent and perhaps not for every palate due to distinct wild notes in the cup. In 2003 we thought the Lupili was quite nice, but the following year it was flat as cardboard. In 2006, we found again a fine cup, with that balanced character we appreciated in the past. Even from the exact same farm, you can expect these variations from crop to crop, year to year. Since that time we have found little to get excited about though. But we remain hopeful.

No coffees are currently available from this origin. The review is our most recent offering, provided for reference.
Zambia AA+ Lupili Estate
Appearance0 d/300gr, 18-19 Screen
GradeAA+
Processing
RegionNorthern - Muchinga
Varietal(s)
RoastThis can take darker roasts and the wild note in the coffee will turn into a bittersweet pungency, but I like it at the lighter City stage and rested for 24 hours, where the aftertaste comes as a surprise in a balanced and somewhat sweet caramelly cup. But there is more balance and softness as the coffee nears 2nd crack.
Zambian coffees recent to the Specialty trade and perhaps yet to emerge from the long shadow cast by the East African powerhouse, Kenya. But like their cousins from Zimbabwe they can be uniquely endowed with both balance, sweetness and interesting wild notes emerging in the aromatics and aftertaste. It takes some searching and patience to find a good single-Estate Zambian though. There were some generic lots in the U.S. last year, peaberry in particular, where off flavors dominated to cup, and there was no sweetness to provide balance. The Lupili has a range of flavors within the cup, and can produce a range of cups: it can take a wide altitude of roasts and produce interesting cup character as a result. Roasted to a lighter City Roast stage (through first crack completely, stopping before any hint of 2nd Crack) the cup is lively, zested with a bit of tangerine acidity (with a bit of rind), caramelly, and having that distinct East African wild note (sage/goldenseal herbiness, a little leathery-?-) emerge in the aftertaste. And on the subject of aftertaste, it is extremely long given the balance of the cup. Candy-malty caramelly roast taste shift to bittersweet tones as you go from a City Roast to a Full City+, a few snaps into 2nd crack. The coffee is excellent in an case and invites your interpretation in terms of "degree of roast". The drum roaster create nice roasts of this coffee too. Espresso: I made incredible straight roast espresso with this, roasted to a light Vienna and rested 2 days.