“Coffee is the lifeline to a good day.” –Me
Coffee, Java, Black Gold, Kahawa in Swahili, whatever you call it, my days start with two things: coffee and a trip to the gym. Take away the second and I’m grumpy. Take away the first and I am not fit for human company. It’s gotten to the point where I travel with a stash of acceptable coffee in case I’m someplace (gasp!) that does not serve coffee. (There is a certain irony to this. While I survive on coffee, I cannot actually make my own cup of coffee. Seriously, but that’s another story for another day). Thankfully this wasn’t an issue in Tanzania.
Following bananas, coffee is Tanzania’s second biggest cash crop, and it’s readily available. Granted, you won’t find Starbucks at every corner but coffee is at all hotels and restaurants. Curiously, coffee at the hotels is instant. Outside of coffee at hotels, there are coffee shops or cafe’s, such as Union Cafe, popping up for residents, ex-Pats and travelers.
But there’s more to Union Cafe than welcoming travelers and locals. It’s part of the Kilimanjaro Native Co-Operative Union. This is Africa’s oldest co-op and represents more than 60,000 farmers around Kilimanjaro.
The co-op’s main focus is helping more than 800 farmers secure a fair price, of 2500/Tsch per kg, for their coffee beans at auction. Before picking season, the co-op offers workshops to help farmers provide the best quality beans. It’s these beans that generate the best price. And the best price can be traced back to how someone picks, washes and dry’s their coffee beans.
For curious coffee drinkers, you can visit part of the co-op called Kahawa Shamba, for a tour. A visit lasts about 90 minutes. During the time you will learn boatloads about coffee: how it’s harvested, how to pick the beans, how to wash them, how to roast and grind them, and how to brew a cup of coffee. Following the tour, guests are treated to a traditional Tanzania lunch.
If you liked the coffee, I highly recommend buying a bag of beans. They are fantastic and the coffee makes a thoughtful gift. You can purchase these at the co-op or Union Cafe. And, here’s some expert advice from Epicurious about how to store your coffee so it stays fresh long after you are home.