SPECIALIZING IN AFRICAN COFFEE

ABOUT OUR COFFEE

Malawi

MALAWI HISTORY OF COFFEE

Coffee was introduced to this former British colony in the 1890s, supplementing an agricultural economy that was controlled to fit the needs of the empire and its various properties. Unfortunately, coffee was a hard sell at the time, and with mismanagement, climatic obstacles, and a saturated marketplace, the cash crop did not gain an immediate foothold the way it did in Kenya. Compounded with the plantation culture created by the British ownership of large coffee estates, it wasn’t until after the country achieved independence in 1964, and the combination of redistribution of land and the rise of organized cooperatives, that coffee seemed like a crop with a viable economic future for growers here.

Today, coffee is still produced on a mixture of large, privately-owned estates and small 1–2 hectare plots by smallholders. These smaller farmers utilize centralized mills for delivering, selling, and processing their crops. Although landlocked, the country’s size and its vibrant export economy make logistics somewhat easier and more reliable than in other similarly port-free countries such as Rwanda and Burundi. Specialty coffee is gaining popularity here, especially as producers plant coveted varieties.

Burundi

HISTORY OF COFFEE IN BURUNDI 

During colonization, Belgians forced the people of Burundi to grow coffee to pay taxes, an all too familiar story. So, it is understandable that after independence, the farmers of Burundi were less than enthusiastic about growing coffee and there was almost no focus on quality. When world coffee prices dropped to historic lows 20 years ago, prices paid to farmers by government run washing stations were so low that coffee was smuggled into neighboring countries to be sold as Rwandan or Tanzanian coffee. When prices began to rise and become relatively stable, Burundi coffee farmers in the northern highlands did not forget that Rwanda received better prices for quality. The coffee farmers of Burundi began to emulate some of what was happening in Rwanda, forming cooperatives and seeking ways to improve quality.

 

GROWING COFFEE IN BURUNDI

One clear indicator of a focus on quality is an increase in washing stations in a country where transportation is a challenge. The closer a washing station is to coffee trees, the greater control over quality and micro-climate specific separations. Burundi has seen a significant increase in the number of washing station over the last ten years and in recent years internal economic structures have liberalized enough for growers to experience increased income for increased quality. The cool highlands, soil, and altitude are ideal for growing excellent coffee.

 

ABOUT THIS COFFEE

This natural-processed coffee comes from smallholder farmers located on Migoti Hill, near Migoti Washing Station.

Pontien Ntunzwenimana is majority owner of the Migoti Washing Station in Mutambu, Burundi and was born and lived through his childhood in Mutambu. The multi-generational coffee farmers in Pontien’s home community had all but abandoned coffee as a source of income due to the 12-year civil war (1993-2005) when their Arabica coffee trees were neglected and destroyed. With peace in the country and a state-of-the-art coffee washing station that Pontien built in 2016, the local community has new-found hope for the future, and farmers are again investing in their coffee farms. Pontien’s six years of green coffee production in Mutambu (2016-2022) have proven the local coffee to be some of the best in Burundi. Migoti Coffee’s vision is to see the local coffee-growing community grow in health and economic prosperity, with quality coffee production as one of several entrepreneurial activities underway.

Ethiopia

ETHIOPIA

Ntaba Coffee is proud to support the co-operative society SCFCU (Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union), which allows our supplier to bring Fair Trade– and organic-certified Sidama coffees from specific farmer co-ops.

HISTORY

Ethiopia holds near-legendary status not only because it’s the “birthplace” of Arabica coffee, but also because it is simply unlike any other place in the coffee world. Unlike most coffee-growing countries, the plant was not introduced as a cash crop through colonization but were endemic to the country. In Ethiopia growing, processing, and drinking coffee is part of the everyday way of life, and has been for centuries. Coffee trees were discovered growing wild in forests and eventually cultivated for household use and commercial sale.

Culturally, politically, economically, and culinarily, Ethiopian coffee is hard to fully comprehend. Add to that the fact that the genetic diversity of coffee grown in Ethiopia is unmatched globally. There is 99% more genetic material in Ethiopia’s coffee alone than in the entire rest of the world—and the result is a coffee lover’s dream:

Because the beverage has such a significant role in the daily lives of Ethiopians, another unique aspect of Ethiopia’s coffee production is the very high domestic consumption.  About 50% of the country’s 6.5-million-bag annual production is consumed at home, with roughly 3.5 million bags exported.

Still commonly enjoyed as part of a “ceremonial” preparation, coffee is a way of gathering family, friends, and associates around a table for conversation and community. The most senior woman of the household roasts the coffee in a pan and grinds it fresh before mixing it with hot water in a brewing pot called a jebena. She serves the strong liquid in small cups, adding fresh boiling water to brew the coffee two more times. Taking about an hour from start to finish, the process is considered a regular show of hospitality and society.

Most if Ethiopia’s farmers are smallholders and sustenance farmers, with less than 1 hectare of land each. In many cases it is almost more accurate to describe the harvests as “garden coffee,” as the trees do sometimes grow in more of a garden or forest environment than in large fields. While there are some large, privately-owned estates and co-operatives comprising of a mix of small and more mid-size farms, the average producer in Ethiopia grows relatively very little for commercial sale.

PROCESSING AND PROFILE

There are several ways coffee is prepared for market in Ethiopia. While there are large, privately-owned estates which are operated by hired labor, “garden coffee” is brought by a farmer in cherry form to the closest or most convenient washing station. The washed beans are then sold and blended with other farmers’ lots and processed according to the desires of the washing station. Co-op members will bring their crop to be weighed and received at a co-op washing station, where there is more traceability to the producer.

The profile of Ethiopian coffees will vary based on several factors, including variety, process, and microregion. Typically, natural processed coffees will have much more of a pronounced fruit and deep chocolate tones, often with a bit of a winey characteristic and a syrupy body. Washed coffees will be lighter and have more pronounced acidity, though individual characteristics may vary.

Harrar coffees are almost always processed naturally, or “dry,” and have a distinctly chocolate, nutty profile that reflects the somewhat more arid climate the coffee grows in.

Sidama is a large coffee-growing region in the south and includes Guji and the famous Yirgacheffe.  Yirgacheffe coffee is a wet processed coffee grown at elevations from 1,600 to 2,300 meters above sea level and is the considered the best high-grown coffee in southern Ethiopia.

Tanzania

HISTORY OF COFFEE IN TANZANIA

Like other coffee growing regions in East Africa, it seems likely that coffee may have been known as a garden crop grown for barter and consumption (chewing rather than brewing) as early as the 16th century. German occupiers introduced commercial cultivation of at the end of the 19th century and coffee became an exported cash crop. Following WWI, the British took control of the region and the estate model was firmly established for coffee. During the transition years from British “protection” to independence, coffee farming cooperative began to emerge and would eventually dominate coffee production after formal independence in 1961. Today, 95% of coffee farmers are smallholders, growing coffee on less than 5 acres of land.

GROWING COFFEE IN TANZANIA

Exports from nearly every coffee growing country in Africa are lower now than they were twenty years ago. The most notable exception is Ethiopia, where coffee exports have reached 3 million bags, nearly double the number in 1997. Less dramatic, but nevertheless unique for Africa, is the strong and steady growth in Tanzania. Taking the average number of bags exported annually 2007-2017—to account for crop fluctuations—Tanzania experienced an increase of 11 percent over the previous 10 years. That might not seem like much until you consider that only two other African countries have experienced growth by the same measure, Ethiopia (37%) and Uganda (1%). Tanzania broke the million bags exported ceiling for the first time in 2009 and did it again in 2013. This increase in exports has coincided with a near 600 percent increase in domestic coffee consumption over twenty years. The only coffee growing country to experience a more dramatic increase is Vietnam, where domestic coffee consumption has grown by 700 percent over the same period.

ABOUT THIS COFFEE

Tasting Notes: With subtle tasting notes of cashews, bittersweet chocolate, and oranges, this dark roast is full bodied. There are about 61 members of the Iganda group within the AMCOS Coffee Cooperative. This cooperative grows and produces this AB washed coffee within the highlands of Southwest Tanzania. AMCOS produces coffee in the region north of Lake Malawi, and south of Lake Rukwa.

Democratic Republic of Congo

COFFEE FROM THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Coffees from the DRC are distinct from other African coffee-growing nations in the area thanks to the growing regions around Lake Kivu—Burundi, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of Congo. Although these countries are relatively close geographically, the lake and its surrounding landscape has an incredible diversity of microclimate and profile.

Ntaba Coffee’s supplier sources it’s beans from a partnership with SOPACDI (Solidarité Paysanne pour la Promotion des Actions Café et Development Intégral), an organization of nearly 6,000 smallholder farmers. Founded by coffee farmer, Joachim Munganga in 2002, he recognized the need for other smallholders to have access to a broader market and technology that would help them improve their quality. Now, with the ability to source more and more coffee from this region each year, Ntaba Coffee is proud to partner with this grassroots level cooperative.

HISTORY

Not to be confused with the neighboring country of Republic of the Congo, the DRC has a long and established coffee-growing economy, with an emphasis on high-quality Arabica coffee is just gaining a foothold among producers. The country itself is the fourth most-heavily populated on the African continent and is the second-largest nation in Africa as well. Unfortunately, resources and infrastructure such as roads, potable water, and electricity are scarce, and development within the agrobusiness sector has been slow.

First introduced by European colonists, who owned and operated large coffee plantations using local labor to tend to the fields, DRC has a history like that of Kenya, Tanzania, and other colonized African nations. When independence from Belgium was gained in 1960, the land was broken up in redistribution schemes, with each new farmer getting a very small plot of land. 

Until 1976, the national regulatory authority held a monopoly on the coffee-export market. In the early 1980s liberalization and the elimination of price controls created both opportunity and some chaos as the market equalized to determine pricing levels and structure. In the coffee industry itself, the transition from a primarily plantation-based coffee-farming industry to one comprising thousands of smallholder farms was a somewhat difficult time for producers, as they struggled to market and to manage their own land and operations. DRC is a country that is still very much dominated by rural agriculture, and access to the coffee market is exceptionally difficult. Political and economic unrest over the past few decades has made specialty-coffee growing and sourcing a challenge, but thanks to projects, organizations, and cooperatives such as SOPACDI, networks and infrastructure are improving and are bringing top-quality lots to the international market.

DRC has seven provinces, and coffee is grown throughout most of the country. It is a significant cash crop, though most of what is grown and exported is either full Robusta or not specialty-quality. Thanks to investment projects and direct-sourcing projects, a general increase in profile and availability of better coffees over the next few years looks very hopeful for Congolese coffees.

Zambia

Zambia is not a coffee growing country we see many samples from. There is plenty of coffee being exported from the region, but their coffee-growing history is much younger than those that surround them. The first coffee was planted in Zambia in the 1950s, however, it wasn’t until the last few decades that it became a major contributor to Zambia’s agri-business sector. Isanya is one of a cluster of coffee estates are very close to Kasama town, in Zambia’s Northern Province. Estates and “plantations” make up the bulk of coffees that are exported from Zambia.

For the Natural-processed ‘Gold’ coffees, the best cherries are carefully selected with double handpicking (ensuring a consistency of over 98% of fully formed red ripe cherries) before being dried on raised beds. The cherries are spread across the beds in thin layers to ensure even drying, and regularly turned over a period of 3 to 4 weeks.

The Northern province has the best conditions for arabica coffee cultivation in Zambia with its relative proximity to the equator and abundant altitude (Mafinga Hills being the highest point in the country at 2,300 masl).  Most coffee grows from 1,300 – 2,300 masl.

Kateshi Coffee Estate, as one of the first coffee estates in Zambia, was established in 1972 close to Kateshi village. Sustainability is at the heart of Kateshi Estates operations, and they strive for excellent community relations and protection of natural resources. Almost 600 ha of land are protected forest areas with high conservation value.

From the Mafinga Hills region of Zambia and grown at an elevation of 1,300 – 1,500 masl, this Light-Medium roast has subtle tasting notes of Walnut, Pineapple, and Brown Sugar.

The Mafinga Hills in Zambia’s Northern Province are home to the country’s highest peaks, where altitude and ancient volcanic soils help produce the bright and citrusy flavor profiles that characterize this coffee. Beans both estates are then washed using the Swiss Water® Process and milled at the Kateshi mill and coffee to create this unique coffee.

Kateshi has also been recognized for boldly challenging the gender stereotypes in Zambia, being the first and only coffee estate to employ women for traditionally male-dominated roles such as driving tractors and even larger equipment like road graders and bulldozers. A strong focus on gender equality makes this coffee directly contribute to the empowerment of women – and this is not restricted to the farm; the newfound sense of independence and pride also spills over into the neighboring communities.