Tanzania is the southernmost of a trio of coffee-producing giants on Africa’s eastern flank (the other two being Ethiopia and Kenya). Coffee is enormously important to the economy here, with around four-hundred-thousand families relying on revenue from the crop, which accounts for around a fifth of Tanzanian exports.
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Coffee Production In Tanzania
The country’s landscape is highly suitable for growing world-class Arabica coffee, which requires cooler temperatures and higher elevation than its hardier cousin, Robusta. Tanzania’s borders contain to an abundance of suitable mountains – especially near the northern border with Kenya, where we find the continent’s tallest and most famous peak, Kilimanjaro. It’s on the slopes of this particular mountain, and those of its near neighbour Mount Meru, that much of Tanzanian coffee is cultivated – though we do find smaller Arabica farms dotted around further south, between the country’s famous lakes of Tanganyika and Nyasa.
Tanzanian coffees are, for the most part, grown at altitudes between 1,400 and 1,800 masl by smallholder farmers. They’re then shipped down to central washing stations, where they’re processed using the washed method, which sees the cherries fermented over the course of around forty-eight hours, washed and dried on raised beds underneath the sun (as per the traditional African method). This process removes much of the mucilage around the bean, ensuring a flavour that’s clean and transparent.
Since this sort of processing demands a great deal of time and money, smaller farmers must either pool their resources in co-operatives, or sell their cherries to independently-owned washing stations. Getting adequate traceability into place, then, is often difficult. What we can be sure of, however, is that some of the world’s best coffees are grown in this part of the world – and tasting them is always a pleasure!
Grading Tanzanian Coffee: What Is Peaberry Coffee?
Tanzanian coffee is rated according to bean size (as is the case in Kenya) with the largest grade being AA, and the next being A, and then B. Among the most popular Tanzanian cherries are ‘peaberries’, which boast a single round bean inside the fruit rather than a pair of flat ones. This aberration occurs when one of the beans isn’t properly fertilized, allowing the other to develop fully with nothing to flatten it. Some markets, like Japan, trade exclusively in ordinary, flat beans, which allows others to collect and enjoy the peaberries. The peaberries’s shape lends itself to more consistent, even roasting, and so they’re preferred by many roasters.
Tanzanian Coffee: The Flavour
Tanzania’s coffee output is much the same as that of its northerly neighbour, Kenya. Each cup carries the same sharp, clean acidity and depth of flavour. In the cup you’ll tend to find a fuller, intense and creamy body, with notes of sweet berries and fruit. Those grown in the Kilimanjaro region tend to boast a subtle floral quality that’s reminiscent of washed Ethiopian coffee. Depending on the roast, these qualities can be accentuated or downplayed – lighter roasts tend to emphasise any natural floral nose, while darker ones tend to bring out the deep berry and spiciness of the finish.