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Tanzania

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Tanzania Mbinga Ruvuma Flatbean

We have offered Tanzania coffees from the northern and southern areas, depending on weather patterns in the year, the chronic water problems in Tanzania, and the transportation issues to get the coffee out of the country without damaging it. I feel that, as far as Tanzania goes, you have to remain open-minded and flexible as to where the best coffee lots can originate due to all these factors. Here we have a nice lot from the Ruvuma area in the south, what is known as the Mbinga district. Coffees in the south have some advantages of better drying conditions and better access to transportation. They are classic wet process coffees, with the distinction being that fermentation to remove the fruity mucilage layer around the parchment and seed is very long. They tend to ferment for 2-3 days, with water being switched out at intervals to slow the fermentation activity. This is partly done for logistics as well; coffees are dried on raised beds as in Kenya, and there is only so much room on the beds at any given time. The long soak in water serves to hold coffees until they can be laid out under the sun. Flatbean? There is so much Peaberry (aka round bean) from Tanzania, we felt like when we offer a non-peaberry lot we need to be clear it's a flatbean!

This is a classic Tanzania, with acidity more muted than a Kenya, and a slight "East Africa wild note" lingering in the finish. The dry ground coffee has a honey, vanilla sweet smell, slight winey berry suggestions and apple in the lighter roast level. The wet aroma has a more distinct blackberry syrup sweetness, warming spice mix, and Zuckerrüben (i.e. beet syrup) as well. The cup works well at light and dark roasts. The dark blackberry flavor is present in all roast I tested, but obscured a but my a nice tangy chocolate roast taste that develops at Full City roast. Lighter roasts have much more dynamic brightness, but one that is well-knit into the other cup flavors, unlike some of the really citric coffees from neighboring Kenya. The body stands out as intense and rather creamy. There is a pleasant roast bittersweet tang in darker levels, soft chocolate, which pairs well with the berry-like fruit hint at this slightly darker level. There's a black pepper spice accent as this FC+ roast cools - a nice ending for the cup.





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Sorting coffee parchment on the drying beds, Tanzania.
Country: Tanzania
Grade: AA 17 screen
Region: Mbinga, Ruvuma, South Tanzania
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: May 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17+ Screen
Varietal: Arusha, and Hybrids
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Sweet, berry note, chocolate
Roast: City to Full City+ roast level.
Compare to: East African brightness (Kenya-like) with a milder, less acidic cup overall than most coffees from the Kenya plateau.
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Tanzania Mbinga Ruvuma Flatbean

We have offered Tanzania coffees from the northern and southern areas, depending on weather patterns in the year, the chronic water problems in Tanzania, and the transportation issues to get the coffee out of the country without damaging it! I feel that, as far as Tanzania goes, you have to remain open-minded and flexible as to where the best coffee lots can originate due to all these factors. Here we found a nice lot from the Ruvuma area in the south, what is known as the Mbinga district with Songea town as the commerce capital. Coffees in the south have some advantages of better drying conditions and better access to transportation. They are classic wet process coffees, with the distinction being that fermentation to remove the fruity mucilage layer around the parchment and seed is very long. They tend to ferment for 2-3 days, with water being replaced to slow the fermentation activity. This is partly done for logistics as well; coffees are dried on raised beds as in Kenya, and there is only so much room on the beds at any given time. The long soak in water serves to hold coffees until they can be laid out under the sun. Flatbean? There is so much Peaberry (aka round bean) from Tanzania, we fell like when we offer a non-peaberry lot we need to be clear it's a flatbean!

This is a classic Tanzania, with acidity more muted than a Kenya, and perhaps a slight "East Africa wild note" lingering in the finish. The dry ground coffee has a molasses sweet smell, slight floral suggestions and an apple fruit note. The wet aroma has a rustic note, but an interesting brown bread sweetness too. Darker roasts have berry fruit, while the lighter City+ level had floral-herbal scent, like a very nice shampoo(!) The cup is moderately bright, but not with those Kenya-like acidity levels. The body stands out as intense and rather creamy. Light roasts had nice aromatics, but it is the darker levels, toward 2nd crack, that have the best cup. There is a pleasant roast bittersweet tang, soft chocolate, which pairs well with the berry-like fruit hint at this slightly darker level. There's a black pepper spice accent as this FC+ roast cools - a nice ending for the cup.





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Testing coffee in the fermentation tank to see if it is ready to wash and dry.
Country: Tanzania
Grade: AAA 18+ screen
Region: Mbinga, Ruvuma, South Tanzania
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: June 2010 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 18+ Screen
Varietal: Arusha, and Hybrids
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Sweet, berry note, chocolate
Roast: Full City to Full City+ : Lighter roasts had nice aromas, but the cup flavors were best headed toward 2nd crack, FC to FC+
Compare to: East African brightness (Kenya-like) with a milder, less acidic cup overall than most coffees from the Kenya plateau.
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Tanzania Nyamtimbo Peaberry

Coffees from South Tanzania have a few advantages that result often in better cup quality. It might not be romantic to list "transportation" alongside "terroir" as major factors in cup quality, but indeed it is. With coffee, it matters little how loamy the soil was, how high the elevation of the farm, how ripe the cherry was when harvested, how carefully it was wet-milled, if it gets packed in a container that gets steamed for a couple weeks in a humid port city. Typically, Tanzania pebearry lots were from the northern districts near Kenya actually have a shorter trip to port in Dar Es Salaam, but somehow suffer so much more in the process. Southern district coffees from Ruvuma province, collected and milled in cities of Songea and Nyamtimbo face a longer trip but miraculously survive it better. The key might be logistics, or the fact the coffees are better treated in drying, and in particular the rest period when coffee remains in it's parchment shell for 30-60 days before being hulled, sorted, measured for density, and bagged for export. This period is crucial to allow moisture to be distributed evenly in the coffee, to achieve physical stability in the green seed. In any case, Tanzanias can arrive with the baggy burlap-taste defect from day 1, but not here. This is a great, sweet, bright, clean cup. City+ roasts have a juicy sweetness in the fragrance, partly apple-like, partly citric. My darker test roast has an intense chocolate and caramelized sugar scent, and this follows through in the wet aroma and cup as well. (While I personally don't like dark roasts on Kenyas, I think it suits this Tanzania very well). While Tanzanias can cup like lower-acid, diminutive Kenya coffees, they have other distinct qualities ...especially a lot like this far from the Kenya border, in the South of the country. ON both City+ roasts and darker, the heavy, thick, creamy mouthfeel is impressive, and something rarely found in Kenya. Warming spice notes mark the higher-toned flavors in the cup, as well as muted malic/fruited acidity. Darker roasts have a pungency and bittersweetness that is imposing, brooding, intense. But in the aftertaste, dark berry notes emerge at FC+ levels.





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Arusha nursery in Tanzania.
Country: Tanzania
Grade: Peaberry
Region: Nyamtimbo-Songea Ruvuma, South Tanzania
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: March 2010 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17 PB Screen
Varietal: Arusha, and Hybrids
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Excellent sweet citrus and floral notes
Roast: City+, see my review for notes about FC+ roasts
Compare to: East African brightness (Kenya-like) with a milder, less acidic cup overall than most coffees from the Kenya plateau. Slight wild notes.
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Tanzania Blackburn Estate Peaberry

Blackburn Estate is one of the higher elevation farms in Tanzania, and produces great coffee. But they face chronic water problems due to the local terrain, and higher transportation costs because they are more remote from the dry mills in Moshi. They also face unique vandalism problems due to the fact they are so near beautiful Ngorongoro Conservation Area: water buffalo and elephants. The farm is situated on the eastern slope of Mt. Oldeani. Blackburn Estate’s coffee trees, whose varieties include Bourbon and Kent are planted at an altitude of 1,760 and 1,950 meters. In search for water, elephants uproot water pipes bringing that precious resource to the farm. Water buffalo take a more direct route: they just step on the coffee shrubs, smashing the woody growth, shattering the trunks. Blackburn Estate has been a Black Apron selection from Big Green (aka Starbucks) and to give them credit where due, they have aided greatly in water projects for the farm and the people in local communities. I have cupped Blackburn in the distant past, and it faces some of the typical problems of all Tanzania coffees; it is sometimes damaged in transit out of the country by heat and excess humidity at port. In fact, we rejected the AA lots this year, as well as the Ngorogngoro Convent lot because they tasted faded and old. Oddly, the Peaberry lot that shipped in the same container was really nice. I can't explain it - perhaps it was in the center of the shipping box and less affected by ambient humidity and temperature (?). But cupping is believing when it comes to coffee, and the PB outcups the AAs from 2 different importers by a good distance. The dry fragrance has boysenberry fruit, and caramel-molasses syrup. Wet aromatics are very sweet, fruited, winey. The cup is bright and Kenya-like, but not as sour in acidity as most Kenyas. The cup is juicy and has cane sugar and panela (brown sugar/vanilla cake) sweetness. The body is sufficient, not super heavy or texturous. The cup is dominated by juicy berry fruit, and this undeniable sweetness, which lingers well into the aftertaste. The fruit has this very ripe, winey character, Syrah-like, but is not at all vinegary or fermenty (what happens when ripe fruited notes turn to bad overripe fruity notes). Initially, the intensity of the hot cup seems low, actually. Sweetness, fruit and winey flavors come to the foreground as the cup cools. I enjoyed the darker roasts too, FC to FC+, with dark fruit, brown sugar, and chocolate character in abundance.





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Parchment coffee drying on raised beds at Blackburn Estate, Tanzania
Country: Tanzania
Grade: Peaberry
Region: NgoroNgoro Area
Processing: Wet-Processed
Arrival Date: June 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Bourbon, Kent, Arusha
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Fruited, winey, sweet!
Roast: City+ to Full City+. This can take a darker roast, Vienna too. Espresso possibilities at darker roast levels.
Compare to: Winey East Africa cup character, berry notes, sweet.
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Tanzania Nyamtimbo Peaberry

Coffees from South Tanzania have a few advantages that result often in better cup quality. It might not be romantic to list "transportation" alongside "terroir" as major factors in cup quality, but indeed it is. With coffee, it matters little loamy the soild was, not high the elevation of the farm, how ripe the cherry was when harvested, how carefully it was wet-milled, if it gets packed in a container that gets steamed for a couple weeks in a humid port city. Typically, Tanzania pebearry lots were from the northern districts near Kenya actually have a shorter trip to port in Dar Es Salaam, but somehow suffer so much more in the process. Southern district coffees from Ruvuma province, collected and milled in cities of Songea and Nyamtimbo face a longer trip but miraculously survive it better. The key might be logisitcs, or the fact the coffees are better treated in drying, and in particular the rest period when coffee remains in it's parchment shell for 30-60 days before being hulled, sorted, measured for density, and bagged for export. This period is crucial to allow moisture to be distributed evenly in the coffee, to acheive physical stability in the green seed. In any case, Tanzanias can arrive with the baggy burlap-taste defect from day 1, but not here. This is a great, sweet, bright, clean cup. At a lighter City+ roast the dry fragrance has a vivid fruitiness to it with traces of flowers. There is a rose-water, perfumey quality, with a sweet barley grain backdrop. At FC roast these aromatics knit together a bit more, and there's a sweet gingerbread aspect. I recommend the lighter roast, which is simply more dynamic, but at this stage expect the coffee to have a wrinkled surface appearance, with some surface color mottling. In the cup the C+ roast has that malty sweet grain aspect, and orange notes to the acidity, with ripe fruit flavors from start to finish, into the long aftertaste. It has balanced fruity character, and a winey dimension to it. The body is in the middle range, similar to many Kenyas, but it suits the effervescent, lively, bright cup character overall. I am surprised by the substantial mouthfeel, which can often be lacking in a Tanzania, and the balance overall.





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Country: Tanzania
Grade: Peaberry
Region: Nyamtimbo-Songea Ruvuma, South Tanzania
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: March 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17 PB Screen
Varietal: Arusha, and Hybrids
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Excellent sweet citrus and floral notes
Roast: City+, see my review for notes about FC+ roasts
Compare to: East African brightness (Kenya-like) with a milder, less acidic cup overall than most coffees from the Kenya plateau.
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Tanzania Hassambo Macro-Lot Peaberry

This is a smaller lot rather than a pooled coffee from many washing stations. It's not exactly a "micro-lot," but from a single, distinct lot from a cooperative washing station nonetheless. So with a little tongue-in-cheek, we thought we would call it a macro-lot. After all, the term "micro-lot" seems like it is being stuck to every other coffee, whether the name truly fits or not. Since nobody has set distinct parameters for what a "micro-lot" is, we've all been left to define it for ourselves, and I suppose my definition is a bit stricter than others. When a lot comes from a larger capacity mill, and is 135 bags, I just think it has exceeded the term "micro". So here's our first "macro-lot" offering, and it's a great cup. It has lower acidity that other Tanzania coffees we offer and a fruited, round, full character. The aromatics are loaded with deep winey notes, almost Syrah-like in their fruited aspect. Full City roasts have dense plum fruit, with a slight peppery zest. While lower in brightness compared to our other Tanzania offering, the Hasambo has a rounded mouthfeel. The finish has distinctly winey character, hence the red wine comparison. City+ roasts of the Hassambo seem a bit "under-developed" which is why I advocate for going a bit darker here.





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Country: Tanzania
Grade: Peaberry
Region: Hassambo, South Tanzania
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: March 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17 PB Screen
Varietal: Arusha, and Hybrids
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Winey, ripe fruited flavor and finish
Roast: City+ to FC+ roast - see the notes in the review.
Compare to: Unique winey fruit, and lower acidity that Tanzanias, and other similar coffees like Kenyas. Those who like Indonesian coffees and find many Africans too bright might enjoy this lot.
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Tanzania Blackburn Estate AA

Blackburn Estate is one of the higher elevation farms in Tanzania, and produces great coffee. But they face chronic water problems due to the local terrain, and higher transportation costs because they are more remote from the dry mills in Moshi. They also face unique vandalism problems due to the fact they are so near beautiful Ngorongoro Conservation Area: water buffalo and elephants. In search for water, elephants uproot water pipes bringing that precious resource to the farm. Water buffalo take a more direct route: they just step on the coffee shrubs, smashing the woody growth, shattering the trunks. Blackburn Estate has been a Black Apron selection from Big Green (aka Starbucks) and to give them credit where due, they have aided greatly in water projects for the farm and the people in local communities. I have cupped Blackburn in the distant past, and it faces some of the typical problems of all Tanzania coffees; it is sometimes damaged in transit out of the country by heat and excess humidity at port. However, this small lot is, well, look at the numbers ... our highest rated Tanzania ever. The dry fragrance has winey fruit, boysenberry, sweet molasses syrup. Wet aromatics are very sweet, fruited, winey. The cup is bright and Kenya-like, but not as sour in acidity as most Kenyas. It has qualities of the Gethumbwini lots (when they are good). The cup is juicy and has cane sugar and panela (brown sugar cakes) sweetness. The body is sufficient, not super heavy or texturous. The cup is dominated by juicy berry fruit, and this undeniable sweetness, which lingers well into the aftertaste. The fruit has this very ripe, winey character, Syrah-like, but is not at all vinegary or fermenty (what happens when ripe fruited notes turn to bad overripe fruity notes). Initially, the intensity of the hot cup seems low, actually. Sweetness, fruit and winey flavors come to the foreground as the cup cools, along with that slight East African wild note, a bit dusty and hidey.





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Country: Tanzania
Grade: AA
Region: NgoroNgoro Area
Processing: Wet-Processed
Arrival Date: July 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .6 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Arusha, Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-Bold intensity / Fruited, winey, sweet!
Roast: City+ to Full City+. This can take a darker roast, Vienna too. Espresso possibilities at darker roast levels.
Compare to: Winey East Africa cup character, berry notes, sweet and winey.
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Tanzania Ruvuma Peaberry WP Decaf

Coffees from South Tanzania have a few advantages that result often in better cup quality. It might not be romantic to list "transportation" alongside "terroir" as major factors in cup quality, but indeed it is. With coffee, it matters little loamy the soild was, not high the elevation of the farm, how ripe the cherry was when harvested, how carefully it was wet-milled, if it gets packed in a container that gets steamed for a couple weeks in a humid port city. Typically, Tanzania pebearry lots were from the northern districts near Kenya actually have a shorter trip to port in Dar Es Salaam, but somehow suffer so much more in the process. Southern district coffees from Ruvuma province, collected and milled in cities of Songea and Nyamtimbo face a longer trip but miraculously survive it better. The key might be logistics, or the fact the coffees are better treated in drying, and in particular the rest period when coffee remains in it's parchment shell for 30-60 days before being hulled, sorted, measured for density, and bagged for export. This period is crucial to allow moisture to be distributed evenly in the coffee, to achieve physical stability in the green seed. For this decaf lot, surviving the trip is just the first challenge. Once here, it is sent down to the water process plant in Mexico to remove the caffeine using the non-chemical, water filtration method. While this (and all) decaf methods are traumatic to the coffee, and to the final cup quality, a few survive it like champs. This Tanzania PB Nyamtimbo Ruvuma is one of them. The acidity (the bright, effervescent, lively quality in the cup) comes through as if it had never been decaffeinated, even more so than some of our recent excellent Kenya decafs. The dry grounds has a lightly fruited cherry scent, while the wet aroma has a light molasses and caramel sweetness. (Molasses sweetness is often a product of the decaf method). The cup has a fruited, flame grape sweet flavor, turning to gingerbread in the aftertaste. It has fairly light body overall, and quite a sustained aftertaste.





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Harvesting near Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Country: Tanzania
Grade: Peaberry
Region: Ruvuma, South Tanzania
Processing: Wet Processed
Arrival Date: October 2008 Arrival
Appearance: ..2 d/300gr, 16-17 PB Screen
Varietal: Arusha, Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Excellent sweet fruited brightness.
Roast: City+ to FC
Compare to: East African brightness (Kenya-like) in a decaf coffee. For more info on decaf methods, see my article:
http://www.sweetmarias.com/health.eco.html
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