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Tanzania is a country famed for its diverse culture, national parks, Mt Kilimanjaro and the stunning coastline which borders the Indian Ocean – it is, however, less known for its impressive coffee production when compared with some of its neighbouring countries, Kenya and Rwanda.
Coffee is Tanzania’s largest export crop and it is thought that ninety-five percent of the coffee produced is done so by smallholder farmers and their families (supporting roughly 4.5million people) who often have small plots of 5 hectares or less. Coffee is grown alongside subsistence crops such as bananas and maize and the remainder of the countries production comes from larger, privately owned estates. It is the fourth largest producer in Africa with nearly 75% of its annual production being Arabica.
Arabica seedlings were first introduced to the country in the 16th century from Ethiopia and Réunion (Bourbon) Island and were traditionally ‘chewed’ as a stimulant by The Haya tribe who came to use them as money. Following German colonisation in the late 19th century, coffee began to be cultivated as a cash crop and exports increased three-fold in the early 20th century. The British then took control of what is now modern-day Tanzania after World War I and started a coffee program which saw over ten million seedlings being planted, increasing production further. Today, both Arabica and Robusta are grown in the areas of Kilimanjaro, Manyara, and Arusha in the North-East, Kagera, Mara and Kigoma in the North-West and Mbeya in the South. Traditionally, Tanzania’s potential for producing quality coffee has been challenging to fulfil due to the logisitical difficulty faced when trying to export. However, there is a clear commitment to the creation of a profitable coffee industry in Tanzania and the TaCRI (Tanzania Coffee Research Institute) was established in 2001 with this aim.