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Your guide to Tanzania Coffee
Tanzania's most famous landmark is Mount Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano rising 19,340 feet (5,895 metres) and the highest peak in Africa. This majestic mountain plays a large part in the nation's coffee cultivation, thanks to the altitude of its slopes and richness of its volcanic soils. The country's situation, near the Equator and bordering the Indian Ocean - and its mists to the east, create the ideal conditions for farming coffee. Like Kilimanjaro (which translates as Mountain of the Springs), Tanzania coffee is big: regularly scoring high marks for the strength of its aroma and robust, fruity taste; it also has hidden treasures. Add the beans coming from the Zanzibar highlands, and you have some of the best coffees in the world.
History of Tanzania Coffee
Coffee cultivation in Tanzania is centuries older than the nation itself. It is believed the plants were brought into the country as seedlings in the 16th century from Ethiopia, by the Haya people. They typically used coffee as a medicine and stimulant - chewing it rather than making a drink from the beans. For them, coffee beans were a currency. It wasn't until the late 1890s, when the country was under German colonial rule, that commercial cultivation began on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro not far from the capital Dar-Es-Salaam. Following the First World War, Britain took control of Tanzania (then known as Tanganyika) up to 1961 when it gained independence.
At that time, the coffee production industry was still fairly dormant but was given a boost when the new government targeted an increase in production as one of its key economic strategies. Many of the largest coffee farms were nationalised as a result of the expansion plans, but the initiative wasn't a great success. It was not until the business was taken out of state control that it started to make any headway. Nowadays, coffee beans are one of Tanzania's most important crops, second only to tobacco in value; it accounts for $60 million (£44 million) of its annual export earnings. It is the world's 19th biggest coffee producer and the fourth biggest in Africa.
Coffee in Tanzania today
Agriculture is the backbone of the country's economy, with tea, cotton, cloves and cashew nuts making up most of the remainder of its exports. It is generally acknowledged that Tanzania has not reached anything like its full potential as a grower of high-quality coffees.
It may not be as well-known as neighbouring favourite Kenyan Coffee, which at present outscores it on quality, but they both produce about the same amount- 60,000 metric tons annually. The Tanzanian Coffee Board wants to increase its nation's output to 100,000 tons (1.66 million bags) in the next few years, by targeting the high-quality, specialist market, elevating this portion to 70 per cent of the total. This will push Tanzania coffee prices up, benefitting many of the coffee producers and farmers who rely on coffee exports for their livelihood.
With this in mind, the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute (TaCRI) was set up in 2000 with the goal of stimulating and expanding the coffee industry by educating coffee farmers in advances in technology and more efficient and productive ways of cultivating coffee - a serious undertaking given the fragmented and small-scale nature of cultivation. New plants with greater disease resistance have been planted in some farms, and ultimately, the institute wants to replant ALL of Tanzania's 200 million coffee trees.
Tanzania Coffee Farming
Most of the coffee that is produced in Tanzania is grown on smallholder farms that make up about 90 percent of the crop. All-important, it supports about 450,000 smallholders working on five-hectare (12-acre) plots and 4.5 million wider family members. The remaining 10 per cent comes from co-operatives and larger coffee plantations.
Coffee farms in Tanzania are all in highland regions, where the altitude, pleasant climate, even rainfall and fertile soils combine to create an ideal environment for a coffee plantation and for cultivating high-quality coffee. About three-quarters of the crop is Arabica coffee beans, the rest being Robusta, particularly in the Kagera area. Some species of wild coffee have been found, such as Coffea Kihansiensis in the Udzungwa Mountains. The chief growing regions, apart from Mt Kilimanjaro, are Arusha, Bukoba, Morogoro, Ngara and the Usambara Mountains. It is fairly common to see coffee plants growing on farms among banana trees whose leaves help to shade them from the sun's intense heat. This shade growing reduces the temperature but increases the humidity around the plants, so the coffee cherries mature and ripen more slowly: this gives Tanzanian coffee a delicious aroma and sweeter, full-bodied flavour.
The Arabica beans are harvested mainly from July to December and wet-processed (washed to remove the skins before drying). The Robusta harvest is in April-November and the crop is naturally processed (left to dry).
Tanzania Peaberry Coffee
Although Tanzania produces some high-quality Arabica beans, such as Bourbon, its most sought-after coffee crop is peaberry coffee beans. Normally a coffee cherry contains two seeds, or beans, each with one flat side and one curved, but in less than 5 per cent, the cherry is a mutation - containing a single bean. Grown at elevations of around 4,000 feet on the Kilimanjaro slopes, these precious peaberries (also known as caracoli, or little snails) develop a softer texture, stronger taste and more acidity. Coffee connoisseurs love the distinctive and complex Tanzania peaberry coffee flavour.
What does Tanzanian Coffee taste like?
In the east of central Africa, Tanzania shares borders to the north with Uganda and Kenya, and its coffee shares characteristics with the crops of those countries. Generally, East African coffee tasting will reveal fruity, acidic and sweet flavours and the Tanzanian cupful is no exception. Noted for its lovely aroma, it is a medium-strength coffee and offers a quite complex flavour. Its aficionados rave about its creamy texture and its notes of berries.
Our Tanzania coffee is roasted to order, with a mild acidity and beautiful, sweet flavours. It is ideal for cafetieres and filter coffees.
How much coffee does Tanzania produce?
Tanzania is the world's 19th biggest coffee producer, with a high quantity of coffee exports every year. Producing 60,000 metric tons each year, it is the fourth biggest producer in Africa.
What does Kilimanjaro coffee taste like?
Kilimanjaro coffee is just one example of coffee from Tanzania, and while the exact taste profile will differ according to the region, beans and cultivation methods, most coffees from this country will have common features. They will have an overall sweet, fruity taste, bursting with flavours and a relatively high level of acidity. You may detect slight floral notes in a brew from Kilimanjaro.
Not sure which size bag you need? See How Many Cups each size provides.