Malawi is one of the world’s best-kept secrets when it comes to specialty coffees. The country produces some amazingly high quality Arabica coffees which are carefully processed and graded before export. In addition to growing high quality coffees, Malawi also has a well-developed tea industry.
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Popuar Malawi Coffees
All of the coffee that is grown in Malawi is a form of Arabica coffee. The coffee growers in Malawi have carefully invested in quality control to ensure that from green to bean the coffee is handled in the best possible way to produce a fresh, flavourful coffee that has that distinctive East-African flavour.
The Modern Coffee Industry
Malawi as a nation takes its coffee seriously, and that is why the Coffee Association of Malawi (CAMAL) was formed in 1981. This association works to further the interests of all coffee growers – both large producers and smallholders – in Malawi. The work that they do includes promoting the industry, performing quality control checks, certifying the origin of specific lots, hosting coffee competitions in association with the East African Fine Coffee Association, helping to put buyers and sellers in touch with each other, and providing coffee growers with the information that they need to improve their business.
Fair Trade Coffee
Malawi is home to a lot of smallholders and co-operatives, and the smaller farms are staffed by both men and women. Many of the smallholders and co-operatives are working with organisations such as Fair Trade International in order to improve the quality of life for the workers, as well as to sell the best quality coffees possible.
One example of this is the group of farms that operate in the Mzuzu region. In Mzuzu, women play a very important role in a the co-operatives. They currently account for 20 percent of the farm workers, and it is expected that within the next five years they will account for half of all workers.
Mzuzu is working to move away from a single-crop system, and to start producing shade-grown coffee. This will help to prevent soil erosion, and will also increase the yield from the farm. For example, planting nitrogen-rich beans alongside Arabica coffee will make the soil more fertile, producing larger crops. The farmers can sell the beans, or can use them to feed their families. This simple change to how the crops are grown greatly increases the sustainability of the coffee industry in the area, and cuts costs for farmers since there is less need to by chemical based fertilisers.
Another interesting initiative that the Mzuzu co-operatives are running is a local coffee shop. The goal of this shop is both to showcase the local coffee and increase domestic consumption, and also to improve the education opportunities for people in the region. The coffee shop opened a few years ago, and was the first coffee shop in the whole of Malawi to offer free wi-fi. The shop has proven to be very popular, and there are plans to open more in other regions.