Tanzania is a country famed for its diverse culture, national parks, Mt Kilimanjaro and the stunning coastline which borders the Indian Ocean. It is, however, less known for its impressive coffee production when compared with some of its neighbouring countries, like Kenya and Rwanda.
Coffee is Tanzania’s largest export crop and 95% of coffee is produced by smallholder farmers and their families (supporting roughly 4.5 million people) who often have small plots of 1 to 2 hectares. Coffee is often grown alongside subsistence crops such as bananas and maize and the remainder of the country’s production comes from larger, privately owned estates. It is the fourth largest producer in Africa with nearly 75% of its annual production being Arabica.
Arabica seedlings were first introduced to the country in the 16th century from Ethiopia and Réunion (Bourbon) Island and were traditionally ‘chewed’ as a stimulant by the Haya tribe, who came to use coffee beans as currency. Following German colonisation in the late 19th century, coffee began to be cultivated as a cash crop and exports increased three-fold in the early 20th century. The British then took control of what is now modern-day Tanzania after World War I and started a coffee program which saw over ten million seedlings planted, increasing production further. Today, both Arabica and Robusta are grown in the areas of Kilimanjaro, Manyara, and Arusha in the North-East, Kagera, Mara and Kigoma in the North-West and Mbeya in the South.
Traditionally, Tanzania’s potential for producing top quality coffee has been challenging, but there has been considerable movement in recent years and there is a clear commitment to the create a profitable coffee industry in Tanzania and the TaCRI (Tanzania Coffee Research Institute) was established in 2001 with this aim.
With the help of our sister company, Tembo Coffee, we have been able to access fantastic, high scoring micro lots from the Mbeya region in the Southern Highlands this past season. This area produces over half of Tanzania’s Arabica coffee but has previously struggled to attract investment. Tembo have therefore invested in a green grading facility to improve and classify the coffee before it’s exported. In addition, their Agronomy Training Program has seen extremely positive results since it was established in 2013, improving quality, yield and, subsequently, increased revenue for producers throughout the country.