If you are considering making your own trip to Africa
, starting your trip in Tanzania will give you somewhat of an overview of the entire sub-saharan Africa. Tanzania offers many of Africa’s natural highlights, a mostly safe and stable political climate, beautiful coffee plantations and national parks and a cultural mix constituent of dozens of African tribes, Arab traders, Indian constructors and European colonists. It is located on the eastern coast of Africa, born from the unification of two short-lived independent states, Tanganika and Zanzibar, which is also the source of the country’s current name - Tanzania.
Regarding the produced species, both robusta (20%) and arabica (80%)
are grown. For robusta, lower altitudes around 800 – 900 m.a.s.l.
are typical, while arabica can be found in the range from 1400 to way above 2000 m.a.s.l.
. The harvest itself is also highly dependent on altitude
and geographical location. Robusta
harvest takes place between May and October, while arabica
between June and December.
The typical area for growing robusta
is Bukoba in Kagera region on the western coast of Lake Victoria. Coffee has been grown since the 16th century there by a tribe known as Haya. It was somehow brought over from what is today Ethiopia, but quickly took on a life of its own, being chewed with various herbs as a stimulant and used as a form of currency. Arabica
can be found in these 2 most important regions: Northern, which encompasses the Kilimanjaro area with Moshi and Arusha, Ngorongoro, Pare mountains and Usambara mountains. The most important southern coffee regions are Mbeya and Mbinga and this is actually where 80% of Tanzanian Arabica is currently grown. That's also why Kilimanjaro covering most labels of Tanzanian coffee is mostly a marketing trick. The northern production areas have been hit by a political and economical crisis a few years back, most farmers have abandoned coffee growing whatsoever and uprooted their trees.
Almost all coffees in Tanzania are washed
. Thanks to this procedure, the taste of the coffee beans is not overshadowed by the natural coffee pulp sugars.
Northern Tanzanian coffee is, to a certain degree, similar to coffee from Kenya
, given the similar volcanic soils and climate. There is a much prominent acidic taste
, sometimes compared with wine. The southern regions, on the other hand, do not only produce the majority of Arabica production these days, they also manage to maintain a general higher and more stable level of quality. Their specific taste is an intense sweetness, caused by growth on alluvial soils of the African Rift Valley surrounding the lakes Rukwa and Malawi.
Despite the fact that coffee is a major export of Tanzania, more than 90% of farmers only own a few hectares of land. After a harvest, the farmer sells it at a negotiated price to a cooperative which bulks the small produces into a sellable volume of coffee. If a farm has a large enough crop, it can sell on its own. Since 2018, all coffee production of Tanzania has to be solid through the centralized auction in Moshi, a city located directly below the slopes of Kilimanjaro. The auction takes place every Thursday during the 9-months long harvest.
This system has been set up to fight the increasing influence of the so-called “middle-men”, unregistered coffee buyers who would go around the country, buying the production of small scale farmers at a bad price, while at the same time inhibiting them for accessing a better market with better prices. This noble goal has at the same time, unfortunately, made trading transparent and traceable specialty coffee much more difficult, because whether you want to or not, you have to go through the auction. That means many more levels of bureaucracy, additional costs and weeks of wasted time. And it also means much smaller incentive for the farmers to improve and uphold their quality, as they don’t have the means to create stable trade relationships.
This all led to the fact that currently, the most reliable and quality-oriented production of Tanzania comes from larger-scale farms, which comes as a huge surprise considering the African context. Only those have the means to keep in touch with their buyers, discuss and monitor the desired quality and navigate the auction system in order to make sure that the coffee they produce reaches the buyers it was produced for.
Tanzanian coffee is famous worldwide for its peaberry beans
. What are peaberry beans? As you might know, in each coffee cherry, there are two coffee beans. You can see this fact in the shape of coffee beans, which are round on one side, but flat on the other, where they are touching their sister bean. In the case of peaberry, only one bean develops inside the fruit. Why would this be any good? People believe that this one seed contain the complete, full taste of a coffee cherry, which would otherwise be split in two beans, and thus the taste should be more complex and intense. Peaberry beans are sorted separately and can yield a higher price on the market. Truth be told though, Tanzanian peaberry coffee is, just like using Kilimanjaro everywhere, only a matter of marketing. The peaberries are no more likely to occur in Tanzanian cherries than elsewhere, and neither is their quality in any way higher than elsewhere. That of course doesn’t mean they can’t be delicious and outstanding coffees anyway!
If you hear the call of African wilderness, but don’t happen to be lucky to have the opportunity to make such a trip, at least let our Tanzanian coffee take you to the plains of Serengeti, the Ngorongoro crater or the island of Zanzibar and, through its taste, also experience the taste of its homeland.