On the last day before we left, Anj and I decided to visit the coffee plantations of Marangu.
Not only we love coffee, but we also wanted to explore the plantations as a quarter of Tanzania’s GDP is based on coffee production and exports. The main contributors to this are people like Oscar (see below) who run small-sale often family owned farms.
Oscar, the self-proclaimed coffee priest (oh yes, he has an amazing taste of humour) belongs to the Chagga tribe and is the 3rd generation in his family to run the farm; he takes a lot of pride in carrying on the tradition his grandpa once begun.
Oscar, the coffee priest.
Oscar took us around the farm to explain how coffee is made and then engaged us in making our own coffee – the majority of process is manual and requires patience and accuracy.
Oscar first showed us around the coffee bean trees and explained that they need to be grown next to banana trees as the shade provided by the banana trees protects the coffee beans.
He also explained that about a third of the harvest each year is lost as they do not use pesticides.
The process has as follows:
- Coffee beans come in two colours: red and green; the red ones are the mature ones to be picked off the trees. Oscar explained that this is why someone who is colour blind would not be able to produce good coffee.
- Following that, they are put in a manually operated metal machine which skins the outer shell of the beans.
- The skinned beans are then added to a bucket with water; the good ones sink and the ones that have gone off float.
- The good ones are then added in a mortar and pestle to be pounded and remove the outer layer.
- Once they are pounded, they are put on a sift, and then by observation more gone off ones are removed.
- After that, they are put in a metal pot over fire to be roasted for 15 mins.
- Roasted beans are in turn grounded using a mortar and pestle.
- Grounded coffee is then brewed in a way that reminds me of the Greek way of making coffee; the powder is added to a metal pot which is placed over fire. The coffee is heated until it froths and then served in cups with brown sugar.
- A voila!
The last thing Oscar made us do was have a shot of roasted coffee beans and sugar – yes I had to chew on a mixture of that and I have to say it wasn’t nice. I was once challenged to have a shot of olive oil which I happily did and would choose again over having a shot of coffee beans and sugar – yikes!
Before we left, I asked Oscar about fair trade products and I was left disappointed as he explained that the majority of the extra money the consumer pays goes to the ‘middle man’ aka the trader. He then explained that they cannot afford to lose a third of the harvest to make the best possible coffee and then not be paid what they should be paid for so what they often do in order to survive financially is to bypass the soaking phase that differentiates bad from good coffee beans, and thus include even the gone off ones in the coffee made, otherwise they do not make a profit. Therefore, next time you are buying ‘excellent’ fair trade coffee off the shelf be reminded that the only excellent quality coffee you can have is at the actual farms back where coffee is harvested.
To close the day, we visited the Marangu Falls.