Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Coffee Tour!

This past weekend, Marc and I were able to get-away for a few nights.  Back in November, a local airline, FastJet, had a big sale. I was able to buy two round trip tickets for us to Moshi, Tanzania for $40. Our kids got to enjoy staying with two different families while we were away - they had so much fun - I'm not sure they missed us at all!

While we were in Moshi, we visited the Union Cafe (a few times!),  Milans Indian restaurant, the YWCA to swim for an afternoon, the Mountain Inn for another great (and super cheap!) Indian meal, Shah Industries (local leather manufacturer that employs those with disabilities), stopped by some local shops and took more taxis in a weekend than probably my whole life combined.  

Walking through the village. It was beautiful and peaceful. 
Our favorite activity, however, was a coffee tour that we took on Sunday morning that our hostel arranged for us.

This was the home we were able to visit. 
We ate a quick breakfast at the hostel and got picked up in a taxi at 9am. We travelled about 45 minutes towards Mt. Kilimanjaro. We could feel our ears pop and the temps drop as we climbed the hills. We turned off the paved road onto a dirt road which we followed another 15  minutes or so, our guide leaning out the window and greeting a lot of the people who we passed walking on the road.

We finally pulled up to a bright green house with a large tent outside of it. It seemed out of place in the peaceful and simple village we had just passed through. We discovered it was built by a family in Dar Es Salaam and given to use by this particular coffee union/co-op. We sat in plastic chairs under the large tent, drinking weak coffee and listening to Peter, one of the Tanzanian men involved in the co-op . He shared with us different facts and figures - the climate for growing coffee, what happens when the coffee leaves the farm, where the coffee is processed and sold and about the local farms like where we were to visit.
Her chicken coop. On the mat next to it is mazie/corn
that she is drying out in order to grind and turn into Ugali..
After Peter, we were handed off to Denis, a Babu (grandfather) who then took us on the actual tour. We began by walking back down through the village, greeting people as we went.                                                                                           We arrived at the home of one of the farmers. Whenever they do a coffee tour, they rotate between the farmers homes, so they all get an opportunity to host. I'm not sure we ever learned the name of the woman who hosted us - she was very quiet - I'm not sure I heard her speak at all while we were there. She let us look around her garden/yards where she kept a cow, a few goats and chicken. 

Why, hello cow. 

The goats. 

Looking at the back of the house. A traditional home, made out of sticks and mud with a tin roof.
Dirt floor throughout. There was a door on the bedroom, but no doors anywhere else. You can see
in the top right corner of the pic a brick structure. This is a home being built for this women.
Here, you build as you have money, so I'm sure this has been in process for quite some time. There were
plants overgrown all over it, as if it hadn't been worked on for a while. 

Inside the house. 
Babu began by showing  us a coffee plant being grown in a small plastic bag. They start their plants like this until they are about 9 months old, when you transplant them into the ground. At month seven, you're supposed to dig a hole 2 feet by 2 feet and leave it for one month. At month eight, you fill the hole with manure/dirt and put a stick in the middle of it, to mark the place for the seedling. At month nine, you transplant.
Babu (Denis) showing us a young coffee plant.
We learned that farmers plant banana trees among the coffee plant for shade/protection and also because banana trees retain a lot of water, so during the drier seasons, the coffee plants can get water from the banana trees. 
Here you can see the banana trees and coffee plants together. 
We then walked out to the coffee plantation/farm. They typically end the harvest season in January, so a lot of the coffee plants were picked over, some starting to grow new fruit already. We spent some time checking out the plants, trying to find some of the red fruit - ready for picking. 

Harvesting coffee. 
A branch from a coffee plant. 
Here you can see a coffee plant that is not very healthy.
Babu showed us ways that they deal with insects or disease in their plants. 
What a fun adventure to share together! 
Ready to pick! 

Farmers will often harvest by themselves, or alongside their families. Some farmers have to hire workers as well. Typically, picking a bucket full will earn you 1500-2000 shillings, or between 68 - 90 cents. And this is a fair trade farm.

I asked how many buckets can someone pick in a day. Babu said that women are better pickers, because they have smaller hands to pluck the berries. A good and fast picker can maybe reach 10 buckets a day. A man might only pick 3-5 buckets. So a full days work of picking, if you're really good, can earn you tops of around $9/day. Which, when you compare to the wages of many other Tanzanians, really is a fair wage. I'm not sure what the wages are on a non-fair trade farm. 

Let's pause the coffee tour & let that sink in a minute. 

 When you pay $5 for a cup of coffee in North America, that's more than 1/2 days wage of the exact people who picked the very coffee you are drinking. It's an entire days wage of a not-so-quick-picker. I'm not advocating you give up your Starbucks (though, truthfully, some of you really might need to for many different reasons). I'm advocating for you to buy and drink fair-trade coffee. While I'm dutch, and fulfill the stereotype of being cheap/thrifty, I would rather spend more on wise and ethical purchases than less on non-ethical purchases. Including coffee.  I encourage you to do the same. 

Okay, welcome back to the coffee tour. Let's continue. 

Inside one fruit/berry is typically two coffee beans.
There is a special type of bean, called peaberry, which
only contains one bean and is a slightly different shape.
After picking the coffee, we headed over to the neighboring farm, the only one in the village who has the crank/machine to get the outside fruit off of the beans. You pour the fruit up top, then slowly pour water in as you crank the machine. It spits the beans towards the front, into huge cement 'holding tanks' while the fruit part gets spit out the back.
Babu poured the water while Marc cranked the beans through.  

The outside fruit being spit out the back. 

Beans shoot out the front. 
When the fruit is peeled off, the beans are left extremely slimy and slippery. At this step, the beans are left in the holding tanks in clean water for 24 hours to clean them off. They then get spread out in the sun to dry for about 24 hours. We obviously couldn't wait for our own beans to be washed and dried, so we had to switch over to some previously dried beans.

This is the point where the farmers job is mostly done and the beans are taken into the city to be processed and sold at auction. We, however, got to continue the process to make our own coffee like the villagers would. Here, like many places in Tanzania, however, chai (tea) is consumed more than coffee.

The next step is to use a mortar and pestal to crack the shells off the beans.

Here you see one of the green beans without its shell on it and a few with the shells still on. 
Marc pounding the beans to get the shells off. Again, you can see the drying maize in the background. 
Here the shells are off.
You use this woven plate to toss the beans in the air to get rid of the shells,
much like you do with rice. 

 Once the shells are off, it's time to roast the beans! We were told it is best to use a clay pot, not metal. You have to continually stir the beans with a wooden spoon over the open fire. You can hear the beans 'POP' as the moisture is dried out from them. Marc and I took turns with our host stirring the beans to a medium roast.
A traditional stove - 3 stones. 

Now it's time to grind. The beans go back into the mortar to grind them up.

Finely ground & read to brew!

Marc took three scoops of the finely ground coffee and added it to the boiling water our host had ready for us. She stirred it around very quickly and we strained it into the plastic red carafe. We went back into the house, sat on our little wooden bench, and enjoyed our coffee together.

Not only did Babu share all his knowledge from years of being a coffee farmer, he also shared about life and customs in the village. Marc was able to record some of that, so hopefully that will be a post for another day.

I'm pretty sure Marc and I would say this has been our best Valentines Day yet!

From plant to cup in pictures: 

Young Coffee Plant
Coffee Fruit 
Beans with the shells still on. 
Green beans without the shells. 
Roasted beans 
Ground Coffee 
Brewed Coffee. 
Complete life cycle of coffee - from plant to cup!