Feature #54: The final monthly feature.
The decisions to diverge away from monthly features was a tough call, one that was a long time in the planning.
Since the beginning of The Snobby Collective, we have connected with some incredible people through a shared passion for coffee, just look back through our collaborations. But some connections go beyond business, and it is with great pride that we can call Empire Coffee Roasters, friends. It is for this reason that we teamed up one last time, to end an era and begin another, while simultaniously nfeaturing a new single origin to their line up.
Ranked 15th globally for coffee production, Tanzania is the fourth biggest coffee producer in Africa, ahead of its neighbour, Kenya (ranked 16th globally).
Much like Kenya, Tanzania traditionally processed coffee (90%) as a washed processed, although Tanzania cultivates a combination of Arabica (70%) and Robusta (30 %), something not reflected by its neighbour.
With the majority (95%) grown by small lot holders on plots between 0.5-1 hectare. processing is undertaken at Coffee Processing Units (CPU), typically owned by AMCOS (Agricultural Marketing Cooperatives), a new structure introduced by the government during a wave of drastic and disruptive changes to the industry in 2018.
As a result of these changes, most coffee is sold at auction, and only licensed traders are allowed to bid.
Large estates have been granted licences to sell directly, as are some high-quality producers, who are given concession to trade directly with roasters, allowing the formation of long-term relationships.
For some producers, transport of the picked cherry to the CPU can be challenging, and pulping takes place at the farm with a hand pulper, often sold domestically to private buyers and cooperatives at “farm gate” prices.
COFFEE IN TANZANIA:
Coffee made its way to Tanzania via Reunion Island (Formerly Bourbon) as early as the 16th century.
However, it wouldn’t be until the 19th century that it became a critical earner for the African nation. At the peak of coffee production in the 90s, coffee provided Tanzania with its greatest export earning.
Over the years, a decline in coffee production has seen coffee lose its accolade of breadwinner to the nation to tourism
(and mining) in a similar way to that of its neighbour Rwanda.
Tanzania’s declining production is the result of many familiar factors. Poor access to credit for farmers, an issue
exasperated by the 2018 reforms, results in an inability to reinvest in critical areas such as low herbicide and pesticide
use impacts the ability to control pests or combat disease.
Old trees provide declining yields and are susceptible to coffee wilt disease. Replanting is a cost many cannot afford, with coffee shrubs taking three years to maturity, further reducing already low production over this period.
COFFEE WILT DISEASE:
Arriving in Tanzania in 1997, Coffee Wilt Disease is a fungal disease that infects coffee shrubs of all ages and varieties of both arabica and robusta.
Transmitted by infected soil and contaminated dead plant material, the problem is easily transferred and can spread fast. The infection enters the plant through wounds on the trunk or branches in a similar way to potato taste defect enters the coffee cherry through a split in the cherry.
Once in the host plant, the fungus prevents water movement; without water, the plant begins to wilt, hence the name Coffee Wilt Disease. Infected plants exhibit early symptoms of leaves yellowing and beginning to wilt on one side of the tree, ahead of leaves dropping and the tree dying. Coffee Wilt Disease differs from other wilt diseases as it doesn’t affect the root structure, meaning
the tree remains firm in the ground.
Unable to be treated with chemical fungicides, Coffee Wilt Disease is managed with education on best practices to minimise the spread. Management begins with careful handling of trees to avoid wounding. Additional steps include washing farm tools in a bleach solution after
pruning and other maintenance activities to limit the spread. In the event of trees becoming infected, they are removed and burned. When diseased shrubs are removed, replacements must not be planted for 12 months due tothe lifecycle of the fungus in the soil.
Region: Mbeya and Mbinga
Altitude: 1300-1700 M.A.S.L
Process: Fully Washed
Variety: Bourbon, Kent, Blue
Mountain and Typica
Tasting Notes: Citrus, Winey
Looking to understand more similarities between Tanzania and Kenya? Check out our March 2020 Collaboration with Empire Coffee Roasters