Tanzania is a beautiful country found on the Eastern coast of Africa. It happens to produce some of the world’s most exceptional coffee.
Tanzania is a hidden gem. It is also a nation with a brilliant cultural history. It is prized for its high altitude coffee production and its rare Peaberry coffee. This may sound pretty foreign, but luckily this post has all you need to know about Tanzania coffee. Who knows, it might become your new favorite single-origin brew!
Together, let’s dive into the world of Tanzania coffee. Don’t worry if you are short on time – we included 5 quick facts on all things Tanzania coffee at the end of this article!
The Tanzanian Landscape
Tanzania is a natural beauty. The country is located in East Africa, just south of Kenya and north of Mozambique. Tanzania is plentiful in diverse land formations, from volcanoes to river valleys. It lies just south of the equator. This explains its hot tropical climate. Cooling coastal breezes from the majestic Indian Ocean tames this heat. Off the coast is where you will find the stunning Zanzibar Archipelago. Its palm tree-studded islands are anyone’s ideal vacation destination.
Tanzania has a magnificent terrain. Most of the country has a high elevation. Tanzania lies in the middle of the East African Rift System. This system created rift valleys, lakes, and other bodies of water. These contrast Tanzania’s magnificent mountain chains. In fact, the nation is home to the highest mountain in all of Africa. Its name may sound familiar to you! Mount Kilimanjaro reigns tall at 19,340 feet high. It is also a volcano. It is dormant, although Tanzania does possess some active volcanoes. The mountainous regions contain a more mild climate than the rest of the country. This is a more ideal habitat for animals and certain crops.
It is important to note the important soil variations in Tanzania. With volcanoes comes fertile volcanic soil. This reddish earth is mineral-rich. It also makes a great home for crops like coffee, bananas, and nuts. This soil also provides a food source for Tanzania’s animal population. In the highland forests, you will find a vast animal kingdom. The low human population density allows for a variety of animals to rule the lands!
Tanzania has a vibrant and diverse culture. In fact, over 100 groups of indigenous peoples live in Tanzania. The majority have roots from the Bantu people. These ancient peoples traveled from West to Eastern Africa nearly 3000 years ago. English and Swahili are Tanzania’s national languages. Swahili originated from the languages of the Bantu people. Ever heard of hakuna matata? This beloved Lion King phrase is actually Swahili! It means ‘no worries.’ Tanzanian people are known for their calm nature. They also prefer not to rush, making this statement a way of life.
Along with being laid back, the Tanzanian people are very family-oriented. A majority of the population is Christian, while many are also Muslim. The combination of culture and monotheistic religions results in strong family values. Elders are highly respected and are responsible for passing down Tanzania’s history. In many indigenous groups, there is a lack of written history. This inspired several art forms to tell stories from centuries past.
Tanzanian Food Culture
Tanzanian storytelling and its distinct terrain also mean there is some seriously delicious food!
While many Tanzanians live in cities on the coast, nearly 70 percent of the population resides in rural areas. Also, a majority of the population works in the agriculture sector. This evolved a cuisine based on local ingredients. Tanzania has a ton of starchy ingredients, like rice, coconut, and bananas. This makes for some tasty and substantial dishes like mchicha. This coconut-based gravy is chock full of fresh vegetables and served with rice or beans. Tanzanian cuisine also reflects its trade history, especially with Arab merchants. Spices are a key component of dishes. For example, mchuzi wa samaki is a classic dish from the coast. It features baked white fish and a variety of spices, like turmeric and coriander.
Understanding Tanzania Coffee History
Tanzania’s trade history birthed its coffee industry. Tanzania had coffee plants well before European colonists arrived. There is evidence that the plant arrived from Ethiopia. Yet, Tanzania’s coffee industry grew following the arrival of German colonists. In the latter 19th century, German colonists found themselves enchanted by trade possibilities in Tanzania. Therefore, they established the German East Africa Company. Like in Papua New Guinea, the Germans introduced the Arabica coffee variety to Tanzania. They planted mostly in the foothills of the famous Mount Kilimanjaro. This jump-started Tanzania’s coffee industry.
With Germany’s defeat in World War I, control of Tanzania shifted into British hands. The British were much more liberal in their occupation approach. This allowed more rights to locals. It resulted in smallholder coffee farmers forming cooperatives. These cooperatives were a new chapter in Tanzania’s coffee industry. Farmers now had a further representation in the coffee market. This could only lead to more growth following Tanzania’s independence in 1961.
Initially, independence did not yield profitable markets for producers. Over the decades, the Tanzanian government invested in agriculture. Tanzanian coffee steadily became the main cash crop for the country, alongside cashews and tobacco. Yet, coffee did not see itself as the main player in the global marketplace until the end of the 20th century. Knowledge of the country’s Peaberry coffee soon spread. This coffee mutation makes Tanzanian coffee stand out in global markets.
Today, the Tanzanian coffee industry supplies jobs for nearly 400,000 farmers, most of whom are smallholders. Coffee holds nearly 17% of the country’s foreign exchange. This means that it remains the lifeblood of the Tanzanian economy! The peaberry continues to be in prime demand. Currently, Japan imports most of Tanzania’s peaberry coffee.
The Coffee Production Process
You may wonder how Tanzanian coffee even tastes! The flavor is always a top priority. Fortunately, Tanzanian coffee is as rich as its cultural history. We must pay respect to the peaberry coffee beans. These beans are a product of a genetic mutation in the coffee cherry. Typically, there are two seeds inside the cherry. Each will become a coffee bean. A peaberry is when only one seed grows. This is the peaberry. Although pretty rare, there are many found in Tanzania. Tanzania coffee is also grown at exceptionally high altitudes. This is known to yield more refined and flavorful coffee beans. These qualities are further accentuated in peaberries.
It is important to highlight the growing and processing of Tanzanian coffee. Grown at high altitudes, most of the coffee is Arabica. It is also produced by small scale farmers. This lends quality to their beans. Farmers must carefully tend to the plants. They also must make sure the coffee cherries safely reach the mill. These farms can be found all across the country’s highlands. The most prominent lay in the foothills of the famed Mount Kilimanjaro. These regions are Arusha, Moshi, and Kiliminjaro. When you pick up a bag of coffee, make sure to look for these names.
Most Tanzanian coffee beans are wet-processed. This process removes the pulp from the seed. It also gives the beans a little more earthy tones. The peaberries are often processed separately. Their shape is different. This can cause some issues during processing. Therefore, these will be dried and sold to very specific markets.
The flavor profile of Tanzanian coffee is pretty dynamic. The beans definitively offer a bright acidity with aromas of toasted spices and herbs. Depending on the roast, the coffee can show floral and citrus notes when approached lightly. As the roast becomes darker, notes of berries, spice, and creamy chocolate arise. Either of these makes for a delicious cup of joe.
How to Best Enjoy Tanzanian Coffee
Choosing how to prepare your Tanzanian coffee depends on the roast. If you prefer the lighter roast, then we suggest the pour-over method. This gives you ample time to explore the delicate aromas and flavors.
If you edge towards a medium-dark roast, then we recommend espresso. The spicy tea-like flavors and toasty notes shine in this concentrated brewing style. Also, there is still enough acidity to lend a nice unique brightness to your espresso. We would enjoy it with a little splash of foam, making a delicious macchiato!
And, as we promised, 5 quick facts on all things Tanzania Coffee:
- Tanzania is home to the highest mountain and active volcano in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. In its foothills are several coffee plantations producing most of the country’s highest quality beans.
- Tanzania possesses potent volcanic soil that has excellent drainage and is rich in minerals.
- Coffee plants grew in Tanzania long before the arrival of European colonists. Coffee most likely arrived from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee.
- Tanzania is one of the only sources for high-quality Peaberry coffee beans.
- The flavor of Tanzania’s coffee depends on the roast. Lighter roasts showcase the coffee’s naturally bright acidity, herbaceous, and floral tones. Darker roasts, on the other hand, can bring out berry, spicy, and creamy chocolate flavors.
A Final Tanzania Coffee Note
Tanzania is an incredible coffee destination. Its brilliant terrain produces some of the world’s best beans. This makes a cup of Tanzania coffee more than just a caffeine rush. It is a flavorful cultural journey!
Have you tried Tanzania coffee before? Or peaberry coffee altogether? Let us known your thoughts in the comments below. We love a proper coffee chat!