Coffee Origins: Tanzania

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter
Coffee Origins: Tanzania

Tanzania? Coffee was brought to Tanzania from Ethiopia in the 16th century, according to oral histories. This was possibly a Robusta type brought by the Haya people and known as ‘Haya Coffee’ or amwani. It has subsequently become heavily interwoven in Tanzanian culture. Instead of being made into a drink, the ripe cherries would be cooked, then smoked for several days, and chewed.


Under German colonial authority, coffee became a lucrative crop in Tanzania (then Tanganyika). The colonizers ordered that Arabica coffee trees be planted throughout the Bukoba region in 1911. The Haya was hesitant to replace their food crops with coffee because of their practices, which were considerably different from how the Haya had previously dealt with coffee growing. However, the region began to produce an increasing amount of coffee. Other sections of the country were less familiar with coffee, therefore there was less opposition to its cultivation. When Germany abolished the slave trade, the Chagga tribe, which lives near Mount Kilimanjaro, shifted entirely to coffee farming.

The British took control of the region after World War I. They initiated a drive in Bukoba to plant almost ten million saplings, but they, too, ran into trouble with the Haya, resulting in the uprooting of trees. As a result, in comparison to the Chagga region, the region’s production did not expand as quickly. The Kilimanjaro Native Planters’ Association, the first cooperative, was founded in 1925. (KNPA). This was the first of several cooperatives, and the farmers were pleased with their newfound ability to sell directly to London at greater prices.

After independence was granted in 1961, the Tanzanian government turned its attention to coffee, hoping to double production by 1970 – a goal they did not achieve. The government switched to a multiparty democracy after battling with low industrial growth, high inflation, and a weakening economy.

Reforms in the coffee business were introduced in the early and mid-1990s to allow for greater direct sales of coffee from growers to customers rather than going through the State Coffee Marketing Board. In the late 1990s, the coffee sector experienced a major setback when the coffee wilt disease swept over the country, causing huge losses of coffee trees in the north, near the Ugandan border. Tanzania’s coffee production is currently 70% Arabica and 30% Robusta.

Tanzania’s 450,000 smallholder farmers produce around 90% of the country’s coffee. Larger estates account for the remaining ten percent. Coffees can be traced back to a cooperative of producers and their washing station, or, if it is an estate coffee, to a single farm. The estates have produced some of the finer coffees I’ve tried in recent years, and I would recommend checking them out first.


Population: 55,570,000

Number of 60kg (132lb) bags in 2016: 870,000

Tanzania produces a reasonable quantity of Robusta, although this production is focused in the northwest, near Lake Victoria. The other growing regions are, in some ways, de ned by their high altitude.


This is the oldest growing area in Tanzania for Arabica, so it is fair to say that it has had the most time to develop its recognition internationally and build its reputation. The long tradition of coffee production here means there is better infrastructure and facilities, although a lot of the trees are now very old and have comparatively low yields. Increasingly, coffee is facing competition from other crops.

Altitude: 1,050–2,500m (3,500–8,100ft)
Harvest: July–December
Varieties: Kent, Bourbon, Typica, Typica/Nyara


Arusha borders the region around Mount Kilimanjaro, and in many ways is very similar. This region surrounds Mount Meru, an active volcano that has been quiet since 1910.

Altitude: 1,100–1,800m (3,600–5,900ft)
Harvest: July–December
Varieties: Kent, Bourbon, Typica, Typica/Nyara


This region takes its name from the Ruvuma River and is in the extreme south of the country. The coffee tends to be centered around the Mbingo district and is considered to have great potential for high quality, although in the past it has been held back by a lack of access to nance.

Altitude: 1,200–1,800m (3,900–5,900ft)
Harvest: June–October
Varieties: Kent, Bourbon, Bourbon derivatives such as N5 and N39


Centered around the city of Mbeya in the south of the country, this region is a key producer of high-value export crops including coffee, tea, cacao, and spices. The area has recently seen increased interest from certi cation groups and non-government organizations looking to improve the quality of the coffee produced, which traditionally has not always been very high.

Altitude: 1,200–2,000m (3,900–6,600ft)
Harvest: June–October
Varieties: Kent, Bourbon, Typica


This is a small region in the far north of the country, bordering Kenya, with a limited international pro le. It is starting to produce some higher-quality coffees and has the opportunity to expand its production. It has relatively low production and limited infrastructure for coffee processing, but the increased attention it has seen recently has led to coffee production being tripled in the last ten years.

Altitude: 1,500–1,800m (4,900–5,900ft)
Harvest: July–December
Varieties: Kent, Bourbon, Typica, Robustas


This region is named for the regional capital city of Kigoma and is situated on a plateau of gently rolling hills in the northeast of the country near the border with Burundi. The region has produced some stunning coffees, though the industry there is still in its infancy compared to the rest of the country.

Altitude: 1,100–1,700m (3,600–5,600ft)
Harvest: July–December
Varieties: Kent, Bourbon, Typica



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