I spent two months of this year, from May to June, in Tanzania, where I worked two weeks as a volunteer at a coffee farm. World Unite, a nonprofit that organises learning opportunities with coffee farmer Dennis, provided this chance. You can read about my travel experiences and lessons learnt on my blog.
The coffee farm, where I spent two weeks, is close to Moshi, a town, and Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa. One of the primary means of subsistence in rural regions and on coffee fields is agriculture. The region and farm where I was working grew coffee, bananas, and to a lesser extent, avocados and maize. Even while kids still attend school, they assist their parents with harvesting when it’s time.
Dennis, a coffee producer with whom I spent two weeks living and studying, is 76 years old and has worked in the coffee industry every day for the past 40 years. Dennis’ coffee farm in Tanzania is a tiny, conventional farm with 200 coffee trees spread across 3 hectares.
In Northern Tanzania, harvest season typically lasts from July to December. White blossoms are produced by the coffee tree, but they wither after a few days and are replaced by cherries. During my visit, the majority of the coffee trees were still in bloom.
The coffee crop had not yet begun at the time I volunteered, therefore my tasks involved caring for the coffee trees because the coffee cherries were still unripe and green. For instance, it’s crucial to prune coffee bushes to get rid of extra leaves that “rob” the plant and cherries of their nutritious value.
I once got lost while out on a run and ended up in Kilimanjaro Plantation, Tanzania’s largest coffee field. A farm with 565 hectares and 1.2 million coffee trees qualifies as a major coffee farm, according to the definition given.
On the same farm, other types were also developed. The variety developed by university students was the most thrilling since, in comparison to conventional types, its yield was insane. The tree’s limbs were hefty and uneven. The variety still has to be bred and developed, though, as the local Q-grader Dennis pointed out, as the cherries are tiny and consequently have less flavour than, say, Batian or SL28.
It is important to regularly inspect the quality on a farm with such a significant production of coffee. Every morning, Dennis and his colleagues hold cuppings to evaluate coffees from various regions and kinds. I got the chance to participate in the cupping on the day I visited the farm and also to offer coffee from Paulig Kulma.
Only Arabica is grown in the region where I spent two weeks living and studying. However, Robusta makes up almost 30% of the coffee farmed in Tanzania. Tanzania’s northwest is where Robusta is farmed.
The drying of coffee cherries utilising African drying beds that are elevated above the ground to allow for better air permeability is a crucial stage in the production of coffee. With the exception of Ethiopia, coffee consumption throughout Africa is quite low. Tanzania has seen an upsurge in coffee consumption in recent years, but the majority of customers at the neighbourhood café Union Coffee in Moshi, where the coffee was also roasted, were tourists.
In Moshi, Kilimanjaro Region, the Moshi Coffee Exchange conducts a weekly auction for a nine-month period. Weekly Thursday auctions are held, and any local exporters without a permit must use them if they want to avoid the exchange. Licensed exporters can participate in the auction, and there are no restrictions on how much a single exporter can buy.