Mihkel Jürimaa //
// 1.12.2021

Trip to Coffee Origin - How is Tanzanian Coffee?

This year, from May to June, I was in Tanzania, where I volunteered at a coffee farm for two weeks. This was an opportunity offered by World Unite, a volunteer organization that offers opportunities to learn from coffee farmer Dennis. In this blog you can see what I experienced and learned during my trip.

The coffee farm where I spent two weeks is located near Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa and near to the town of Moshi. Agriculture is one of the main sources of livelihood in rural areas and coffee farms. The area and farm I was in were mainly engaged in coffee growing, banana growing and, to a lesser extent, avocados and maize. Children still go to school, but when it's time to harvest, they help their parents.

coffee farm worker
Coffee beans are often dried on beds in Africa.

Dennis, a coffee grower with whom I lived and studied for two weeks, is 76 years old and has been involved in coffee on a daily basis for 40 years. Dennis' coffee farm is a fairly traditional small farm in Tanzania - a total of 3 hectares and 200 coffee trees.

coffee farmer in tanzania
Dennis has been in coffee business over 40 years.

Harvesting time in Northern Tanzania is usually from July to December. The coffee tree produces white flowers which fall off after a couple of days and in their place a cherry appears. Most of the coffee trees were still in bloom during my stay.

coffee tree flower
Coffea Arabica plants flower usually once a year.

During my volunteer period, the coffee cherries were still raw and green so the coffee crop had not yet been started and my activities were related to caring for the coffee trees. For example, it is important to prune the coffee trees to remove excess leaves that "rob" the nutritional value of the plant and cherries.

One day I was on a run and somehow got lost, I found myself in Tanzania's largest coffee farm, Kilimanjaro Plantation. If you ask what a large coffee farm means, the answer is a farm of 565 hectares and 1.2 million coffee trees.

New varieties were also bred on the same farm. The most exciting was the variety created by the students from a university - the yield of variety was insane compared to the traditional varieties. The branches of the tree were heavy and bumpy. However, as the local Q-grader Dennis mentioned, the variety still needs to be bred and developed because the cherries are small and therefore less rich in flavour than for example Batian or SL28.

raw coffee cherries
High yielding coffee variety.

In such a large coffee farm, it is necessary to check the quality on a daily basis. Dennis and his team have cuppings every morning to check coffees from different areas and varieties. On the day that I visited the farm, I had the opportunity to take part in the cupping and also offer coffee from Paulig Kulma.

coffee cupping
Cupping is always super interesting, especially if there's something new to taste.

In the area where I lived and studied for two weeks, only Arabica is grown. But almost 30% of the coffee grown in Tanzania is Robusta. Robusta is grown in northwestern parts of Tanzania.

african raised coffee beds in tanzania
African raised beds in Tanzania.

An important step in coffee processing is the drying of coffee cherries, using African drying beds that are raised above the ground to allow better air permeability. In Africa, with the exception of Ethiopia, coffee consumption is rather modest. In recent years, the consumption of coffee in Tanzania has increased, but in spite of this, the local café  Union Coffee in Moshi, where the coffee was also roasted, most of clients was tourists.

specialty coffee cafe in tanzania
Union Coffee in Moshi.

Want to know more about different processing methods? Read our blog about different processing methods.

The Moshi Coffee Exchange is in Moshi, Kilimanjaro Region and holds a weekly auction for a 9-month season. Auctions are conducted weekly on Thursdays and all local exporters that do not have a license to bypass the exchange have to export through the auction. The auction is attended by licensed exporters and there are no limits placed on how much a single exporter can purchase.

coffee auction in tanzania
Coffee auction in Moshi, Tanzania.