With its relatively close proximity to Ethiopia, and its shared border with Kenya, some of Tanzania’s population has had a long history and culture relationship with coffee, namely the Haya people, for whom the plant was not used so much as a beverage as a chewed fruit. Coffee (probably Robusta) was grown for this domestic purpose until German colonists essentially mandated that farmers grow Arabica coffee as a cash crop, spreading the plants’ reach within the country and developing the industry around Mount Kilimanjaro.
- Size – 947,300 sq km
- Capital City – Dar Es Salaam
- Main Port City – Dar Es Salaam
- Population – 52,482,726
- Language/s Spoken – Kiswahili/Swahili (official), Kiunguju (name for Swahili in Zanzibar), English, Arabic, various local languages
Coffee production in Tanzania
- Population Involved in Coffee – 450,000 smallholders
- Typical Farm Size – 0.5–2 hectares
- Bags Exported Annually – 790,000 bags
Tanzania Coffee Profile
- Growing Regions – Arusha, Kigoma, Kilimanjaro, Mbeya, Ruvuma, Tarime
- Common Varieties – Arusha, Bourbon, Blue Mountain, Kents
- Processing Methods – Washed
- Country-Specific Grades – Sorted by size, with AA the largest followed by A, B, PB, C, E, F, AF, TT, UG, TEX
- Bag Size – 60 kg
- Harvest Period – June–December
History of Tanzania Coffee
Coffee was introduced into the Tanzanian region from modern day Ethiopia in the 16th century. Coffee was not really brewed in the region but was used as a stimulant. Through oral sources in the region the Haya tribe located in northwest Tanzania in modern-day Kagera region was the only recorded tribe that used the beans. The tribe boiled the Robusta beans and steamed them with various herbs and chewed on the mixture as a stimulant. The tribe also used the coffee beans as a form of currency and the growing and cultivating of the beans were highly controlled by tribal leaders.
Coffee During Colonization
The German colonization of the region in the late 19th century changed the value of the crop in the region. The Germans introduced various laws that reduced the control of tribal leaders over the cultivation of the crop and the coffee seeds were made widely available. The Haya tribe was forced to grow different food crops such as bananas and pineapples and were pressured to grow the new Arabica variant introduced by the Germans.
After World War I when the British took over Tanganyika they further accelerated the campaign to grow coffee in the region and introduced various land reform laws. The British also continued to receive resistance from the Haya people and coffee production in the north-west region remained stagnant.
With the expansion of the railway into the country the British expanded their network of coffee farmers. In 1925 the Kilimanjaro Native Planters’ Association (KNPA) was formed and it was the first of many coffee cooperatives formed in the country, formed to help farmers obtain a better price.
Post – Independence Production
After independence the socialist government of Tanzania saw a lot of promise in the crop and aspired to double the crop production.The government expanded the idea of farmers cooperatives into areas that had no prior cooperative experience or need. Most of the cooperatives failed and the mass movement of the population due to Ujamaa in the early 1970s hampered production.
Before, 1976 all coffee trades were handled by two cooperative owned coffee processing factories one in Moshi (arabica) and the other in Bukoba (robusta) and then it was sold at the Moshi auction. in 1977 all coffee cooperative unions were dissolved and the government mandated the Coffee Authority of Tanzania. The coffee production in the country suffered drastically due to major governmental interventions and high cost of growing.
Reform in the early 1990s which privatized the industry drastically increased the efficiency of the system. The Tanzanian Coffee Board was reinstated to issue permits and licenses and coffee growing and selling was made entirely independent. Moreover, they are responsible for grading beans and running the Moshi Coffee Auction.
Tanzania Coffee Growing Regions
Three of the most distinctive coffees of Tanzania are Moshi, Arusha, and Kilimanjaro, all grown on the hills of Mt. Kilimanjaro near the Tanzania’s border with Kenya. Tanzania’s high elevation qualifies almost all of its coffee as Strictly High Grown (SHG).
Coffees that come from southern Tanzania tend to benefit from better drying conditions as well as better access to transportation which is a big advantage since a lot of the criticism of defective Tanzanian coffee batches comes from being “steamed” in the shipping containers in transit. Also see Tanzania Peaberry Coffee; Tanzania Kilimanjaro Coffee.
Tanzania coffee grading
All Tanzanian coffee is wet processed (washed), and the Tanzanian coffee grading system is similar to Kenya coffee grading, with Tanzania AA being the highest grade followed by A, B, etc.
Peaberries Coffee Bean
Peaberries are a naturally occurring mutation of the coffee seed that forms a single, small, rounder unit than the two “flat beans” that typically sit face-to-face inside a coffee cherry. While somewhere between 5–12 percent of any yield can be expected to naturally develop peaberries, some coffee varieties and origins tend to see higher occurrence of them, while in others they are uniformly sorted out of each lot in order to maintain screen-size uniformity.
In the case of Tanzania, the majority of the coffee exported is bought by Japanese roasters, who prize bean-size uniformity and see peaberries as being an undesirable defect. For this reason, the peaberries are often unsold to the Japanese market, and are the majority of what is available to Western buyers. Some swear by peaberries having a degree of flavor potency that normal flat beans lack, and others can’t tell the difference. They do tend to be slightly pricer on account of both their more limited quantity (since peaberries occur in a smaller percentage of coffee overall) and the labor involved in sorting them out.
Tanzania Coffee Research Institute
The Tanzania Coffee Research Institute was founded in 2000 as a non-profit government company and began operations in September 2001. The institute is primarily government owned and other members of the coffee community have a stake in the company. The company is a non profit and is entirely reliant on government funding, donors and the sale of farming materials and tools. Due to the declining output of coffee in Tanzania since the 1990s the institute is tasked to rejuvenate the coffee industry in the country and help increase revenue from coffee exports. The institute provides a service to the 1000s of farmers in the industry with relevant technological advances and educating farmers on better farming practices