Kilimanjaro Day 3

Today we spent the day in the city of Moshi, jumping off point for Mt. Kilimanjaro treks as well as the coffee center of Tanzania.  Annabel and I first visited the office of Tudeley Estates in Moshi, where a very kind Eric showed us Tudeley’s cupping lap and sample roasting facilities.  Although I wasn’t able to snap a photo, I was shocked to see that their sample roaster was the same Probat model as ours at Coffee Bean International, although with 6 drums instead of 3.

Eric showed me the coffee from Boloti Estate as well as Kikafu Estate, both of which he scored in the 86 range.  Eric is not a Q- grader, but he has been in the coffee industry for a very long time, previously employed by Interamerican’s East African group, and he did seem surprised at how well these coffees cupped given their slightly rough appearance.  The coffee was ungraded, meaning that it had not yet been separated into Peaberry, AA, A, B, C, AF and F (seconds) grades, so the possibility of having some nice top quality coffees is there.  Boloti was the most surprising, given the sorry state of the trees there and the weathered look of the beans.  He agreed to prepare some samples to take home with me of AA, AB, and screen 15 of each of the two estates so that we can sample them back at the office and see what we think.

Annabel and I then took a quick tour of the dry milling plant, City Coffee, which Tudeley Estates uses exclusively.  The operation was fairly well organized, however much smaller than the mill in Peru, and they seemed to be fairly backed up and without room to store more coffee.  Coffee is graded there only once through a 7-layer screen with the only backup method being hand-sorting (a hefty order for a whole container of coffee!)

After the mill tour we watched the coffee auction in Moshi, where all Tanzanian coffee must pass through before it can be exported.  In the case of Tudeley Estates, all of their own coffee passes through the auction, where Tudeley Estates Ltd. purchases it, and then Tudeley Estates is paid for their own coffee.  A slightly strange order of things, but to go around the system is apparently so unbelievably complicated that this is actually the simplest option!  The auction is conducted in a silent room with a large screen in front.  The coffee price starts at C-market price and will drop until someone bids on it.  From there, the bidding will not stop until the final bid has been standing for 5 seconds or so.  The auction takes place once a week, and lasts all day.  We arrived around 2 pm and they were not even through half of the coffees of the day.  A long and tedious task for buyers!

Following the auction, Annabel, Jensen and I set off to TaCRI (Tanzanian Coffee Research Institute).  This institute is funded partly from a .075% tax from the weekly auction as well as the Tanzanian government, and their purpose is to research and develop new strains of coffee.  They have a “mother garden” which grows these new varieties, which are then cut and transplanted on to existing coffee stems to grow new plants. Each mother-plant can create 100 new plants, which are then either sold or given to farmers to plant.  The strains they are developing are rust and other disease resistant plants, as well as certain types of high-yielding plants.  There are 9 varieties in development at the moment.  Our trip was quick as we had to return to the city so that Jensen could catch a bus back to Arusha for his MBA class this evening.  Annabel and I got back to Kibo Estate right at sunset, a perfect, cool, and beautiful time of day.  There are hints of the rains starting, isolated rain clouds in the distance and these large, purple flowered trees shedding a light cloud of purple over the red dusty roads, a real delight to look at while listening to the insects and birds of dusk.

I will leave you here for today.  Annabel is leaving tonight to return to Switzerland, so Adam and I will venture out together tomorrow for some more pulpery visits.

Fun facts of the day:

  • I can say a few things in Kiswahili now, including Jambo (hello) and asante sana (thank you very much).  That’s about it so far…
  • Monkeys and Bush Babies clamber on the tin roof of the Estate house all night. 
  • You should block the bottom of the front door if you don’t want a house full of crickets.
  • Tanzanian women can balance anything on their heads while walking.
  • The Masaii, dressed up in traditional gear with spears and all, typically carry cell phones as well.
  • Bugs here laugh at my 100% deet and bite me twice as hard just out of spite.

To learn more about Project Direct™ visit www.projectdirectcoffee.com.

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