PRODUCER: Shari Cooperative Society
REGION: Hia District, Kilimanjaro
VARIETY: Bourbon, Kent
PROCESS: Fully washed
ALTITUDE: 1500 – 1800 MASL
TASTING NOTES: Rhubarb / Citrus / Caramel
The word ‘Kitamu’ is Swahili for “sweet” or “tasty”, an expression often used in Tanzania when cupping to say that a coffee is very nice, indeed. It is no coincidence that this AB lot from Tanzania’s Shari Cooperative group bears the name. As one of the best lots produced this year by the 200 member strong group, it has undoubtedly earned that moniker.
Shari Cooperative was originally a member of the Association of Kilimanjaro Specialty Coffee Growers (Kilicafe), a producer association that works throughout Northern Tanzania to promote sustainable growing practices and improved cup quality. The association also provides marketing and export services to its member organizations and plays a vital role in helping members obtain financing to improve the quality of their coffee so as to obtain better prices. Shari broke away from Kilicafe in 2003, but because of such services, the Shari group has been empowered to invest in more stringent processing practices, which has significantly improved the quality of the coffee and has, in turn, enabled the group to access higher-priced export markets.
The producers who comprise the Shari group began to work together in 2000 with the aim of increasing quality and productivity for all members. Over the ensuing years, they have made great strides towards both goals; annually the group processes coffee cherry equivalent to between 5 and 20 tonnes of parchment, much of which is currently made available through speciality markets.
Producer members deliver coffee cherry on the same day that it is harvested to Shari’s Central Processing Unit (CPU) near Moshi, where the coffee is hand-sorted to remove immature, over-ripe and discolored cherries. Most members’ farms are only around 2 km away from the CPU, which makes it more straightforward to bring ripe cherry frequently – a benefit for the quality of the coffee overall as it means that only the ripest cherries reach the CPU. During the harvest, most farms (which are very small at under . hectare) will be picked about 10 times over the course of 2 months.
After being sorted, the coffee is pulped in the group’s Penagos Ecoline pulper. This ecopulper, which uses less water than the average drum or disk pulper, was purchased in 2011 with a loan from Taylor Winch (who dry mills the group’s coffee). The group has already repaid the loan and has plans to improve their infrastructure further in coming years.
After pulping, the coffee is covered with plastic to conserve heat and is then dry fermented for around 12 hours. After this, the coffee is washed and run through sorting channels, where the beans are graded in terms of their density using wooden boards to separate the heavy and light beans. After sorting, coffee is delivered to dry on raised, African beds for between 10 to 14 days. The parchment is dried primarily in the open air; however, at noon it is covered to avoid exposure to strong sunlight. The parchment is then uncovered again after 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when the sunlight and temperature become more optimal for slow and even drying.
The group receives training from Taylor Winch extension officers in quality control at each stage of cultivation, harvest and processing. They hope to continue to develop the CPU’s capacity for quality processing and to increase outreach to farmers. One activity that they have undertaken in order to active this is establishing a nursery and providing seedlings at a very small fee to their farmer members. This defrays the cost of renovation for members and ensures that all producers have access to the best quality varieties. Furthermore, the group often struggles with drying the coffee because of lack of drying tables. The group would very much like to find a project which would support them with finance to buy more drying tables and are hoping to do so through sales to the specialty coffee sector.
One of the biggest challenges that the group faces is the prevalence of Coffee Berry Disease in the region. They have worked closely with the Tanzanian Coffee Research Institute (TaCRI), working their way through each member farm, one by one, to assess cultivation practices and recommend courses of action to stave off the disease.
With good labour practices and a great deal of natural forest in the surrounding area, Shari’s sustainability credentials are strong. In fact, some 20% of the region is already under natural conservation. Because of this, the group has ambitions to become UTZ certified in the future.
This coffee has been graded ‘AB’, the second largest bean size in Tanzania. Grading by size occurs at the dry mill.