Fifteen years ago, I travelled to the Kilimanjaro region of Northern Tanzania to see the work done by smallholder farmers producing coffee on the slopes of Africa’s highest mountain. They were part of a program the non-profit organisation TechnoServe created. TechnoServe assisted these farmers to maximise their exceptional quality potential by building so-called “CPU’s”: centralized pulping stations where cooperative members deliver their ripe coffee cherries to consistently process them with modern yet low-tech, low-cost equipment. The new method not only maximized their quality potential, but it allowed buyers like myself to pay a better price than farmers had received before. They were also thus financed into owning the CPU’s themselves.
I was enamoured both by the model and the coffee itself. But I never made it to the Southern Mbeya region of Tanzania where I’d heard outstanding coffees also grow. A couple months back, I was offered a lot from exactly this region that I simply couldn’t resist buying for its smooth mouthfeel and juicy berry flavours. The Southern Star – Nyota Kusini in Swahili – is a washed Arabica producer by smallholder farmers at around 1600 metres above sea level. I am told that coffee here grows on high plateaus, and not steep slopes like Mt Kilimanjaro. Smallholder here means farmers usually have around 2-hectare land on which they grow subsistence food crops as well the coffee cash crop. This particular lot is of the heirloom Bourbon variety, plus one of its descendants, Kent, which helps explain the inherently sweet nature of the coffee. I’m not a fan of overtly citric or highly acidic coffees, but I am a sweetness freak, and this smooth yet juicy cup really satisfies my morning coffee craving. I trust you will enjoy it as much.
And for info on the photo, it was actually taken en route to Kilimanjaro, but nowhere near the coffee itself. We’d stopped by the roadside to admire a baobab tree in the dusty barrenness of the flat land stretches, when these girls appeared out of nowhere. Full of life, cheeky and curious, they wanted to try on my sunglasses, play with my camera and preen themselves in the car mirror. As my colleague said: “like teenagers the world over!”