Tanzanian coffees can be a more balanced version of neighboring Kenya, which is loaded with top end, bright acidity. Tanzanias can also be high-toned, but the acidity is usually more integrated into the cup flavors, less dominant, while fruited notes and body play a greater role in the overall cup character.
Tanzania has been considered by traders as a "lesser Kenya" in other respects. In the commercial business, it is the source of less spendy, mildly acidic coffees via the weekly marketing auction in Moshi. But the quality potential of Tanzania coffee has been difficult to realize due to a number of factors.


My experience and frustration in trying to source Tanzania coffees has revolved mostly around the cup quality itself. The potential is there; the altitudes, the varieties of coffee shrubs, the type of processing, even the expertise of the farmers and advisors.  But actually exporting and receiving that coffee in Oakland has been difficult or impossible using the normal channels. A primary problem is lack of water at the farm in many areas, but the dry climate (which is good for processing coffee) also results in over-drying on the raised beds and in the local warehouses. Then the coffee is sent to the humid port of Dar Es Salaam where bureaucratic snags and logistic inefficiences can delay a container of coffee departing for weeks. In the meantime the over-dried coffee will gain moisture, and this gain and loss results in an observable loss in cup quality.


There are many reasons to be optimistic that we can break these quality barriers, and offer some beautiful coffees from Tanzania. 2014 is the first year we will be working direct in Tanzania, meaning we are selecting lots in Tanzania with the help of exporters, visiting the farmer groups and estates that cup well, and thinking ahead to longer term relationships. In part this is possible because the Coffee Board allows direct sales now; every coffee lot is not required to go through the auction. And secondly, we have found some good partners on the ground who understand quality. While it means we take greater risk on the coffee delivered to us, having exporters in the country who are clear about the expectation of cup quality, and are taking steps to mitigate the short-comings of the "usual way" coffee is handled, means it is a good time for me to take a more active role in sourcing in Tanzania.

With the coffee we are bringing in this year, the farmer receives prompt payment for parchment coffee delivered to the warehouse at fair local price level. Then when the coffee finds a buyer who pays a premium, there is a second payment distributed to all farmers in the group. That can go toward household needs, educating the family, wherever the need is. But in the off-season there is also targeted assistance to improve the health of the coffee shrubs, improve the wet-mill, and dedicated assistance from an agronomist. This means motivated farmers, who have an increasingly better chance with each harvest of improving their yields, producing coffee that scores better in the cup, for which we will pay more ... a much more positive cycle for them, and great coffee for us, now and in the future. 


Tanzania Map

Photo of the Isende Farmer Group. You will see their coffee on our offering list later in the season.

Flowers will only last 3-5 days on the tree before they wither. Mbozi Mission variety. Irrigation means even flowering.

Cupping room with Flora and Michael. It's great to cup in the morning, then head out to find the farms that scored well.

Michael the agronomist and Rashid of Igamba FBG, talking about pruning, mealybug prevention, and water!

Old Mbozi Mission variety is the original type of Bourbon coffee here, with clumping fruit set.

At Maligane FBG I find 40-50 year old stumps that have been poorly treated, resulting in wood rot and ant invasions.

Eliot Swila, assistant manager at Kanji Lali farm, propagating N-39a - Mbozi compact onto Mbozi old variety, called Nylon.

Sons of a village coffee collector. He re-dries coffee he buys. But he does it too fast, so he can sell it quick and get paid.

Canine elegance: No matter what type of local mutt you are, you can still be stylish. At Isende FBG, Mbeya

Farmers of the Isende group. Sadly, I couldn't understand because I don't speak Swahili!

One of the most important steps for quality coffee is the skilled labor involved in hand sorting. CMS warehouse, Mbozi

Where everything seems frozen in time. I like it this shot. At the site of Welu-1, the Hakima Farmer Group.