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Rave Coffee, Old Spike Roasters and the rising popularity of Tanzanian beans

The two roasters describe how their latest Tanzanian single-origins sourced through Algrano were customer favourites with nothing shy from the quality of Kenyan or Ethiopian lots, sustainable farming practices, a good shelf-life with a stable acidity until the last batches and an added bonus: outstanding synergy with milk.

Browse coffees from Tanzania

Ashlee Eastwood-Quinn of Rave Coffee in the UK (Photo: Rave Coffee)

Tanzania on the rise in Europe

Traditionally loved by the Japanese market, coffee from Tanzania has been on the rise in Europe for the last three harvest cycles. Now that producers are able to sell directly to international buyers, a push for quality is being felt around the country. Roasters are noticing it too. “People here don’t know Tanzanian coffee so well”, says Ashlee Eastwood-Quinn of Rave Coffee in the UK (photo). “In the past, I bought coffee from the country that tasted amazing to start and in three months time it showed signs of age.” This bad experience made Ashlee weary of the origin. However, when she sourced a washed lot from Gaia Farm in 2020, her opinion changed. Now, she is a convert. "Despite my personal concerns about Tanzania then, Gaia's coffee sold well and kept well."

More about branding than quality

For Kavita Vohora, quality control manager of Edelweiss Estate and Gaia Farm, the big problem of Tanzania is not having invested in the country’s “brand name” enough when compared to its neighbours. Growing coffee next to the Ngorongoro Crater for the past six decades, the Vohora family strives to change this perception by promoting sustainability (the farms are Rainforest Alliance certified and a haven for wildlife), experimentation and by hosting buyers on regular cupping events. 

Coming out of a successful crop, Kavita highlights the quality from Gaia’s cup: “This year, the flavour of Gaia’s Fully Washed was like bright pears. Absolutely delicious! We had a cold spell that delayed ripening and helped bring up the acidity and notes of black currant, Ribena, strawberry and stone fruits.” Gaia’s next flight crop will start in June and the coming harvest is expected to be a bumper one. The Vohoras have invested in a cold room to keep their fermentation containers at stable temperatures and have even better micro-lots later in the year.

Gaia Fully Washed AA roasted by Ashlee (Photo: Rave Coffee)

Using subscriptions to introduce new origins to traditional coffee drinkers

As Rave's model is heavily focused on sales of subscriptions, Tanzania's brand name wasn't such a big problem. In fact, including a lesser-known origin as the monthly coffee for subscribers was a great way to generate more demand for it. “These customers are eager and ready to get what you choose for them. It's a really big benefit. ” 

Rave has two subscription options, one for traditional coffee drinkers and one for adventurous ones. “Gaia's lot was the most adventurous coffee in the traditional subscription. We roasted it a bit darker to highlight all the sweetness and the body you get in Tanzanian coffees. It turned out jammy and sweet with nice liquorice notes. The synergy with milk, which had to be there for these customers, created a good balance for espresso ”, Ashlee says. 
 
After being sent to subscribers, Gaia's coffee went to Rave's regular online offer list in a lighter roast. “People shopping on a single origin list tend to be those who like lighter roasts, so I adopted the curve and reduced the exit temperature by a few degrees.” 

The coffee sourced by Rave had been delayed due to the Suez Canal disruption and only arrived in the UK by August. It was sold from August to December 2021 and did well, with the acidity beginning to fade only in the last couple of weeks. “The coffee roasted really well. It was super uniform in colour and screen size. After roasting, the beans took on a nice even colour, making a good impression on customers when they would open the bag. ”

This was the second consecutive year that Rave sourced coffee from the Vohora family, led not only by quality but also by sustainability. Roasting on an energy-efficient Loring and members of 1% for the planet, the environmental practices promoted by Gaia make the farm a good match for the roastery. 

Good coffee sold to protect animals

Diversity and protection of wildlife were also important for Marcus Wood of Sanctuary Coffee , a roastery that invests a share of its profits into animal rescue centers and sanctuaries in the UK, and Old Spike Roastery , a social enterprise coffee business in London that combines good coffee with environmental practices and putting money towards a good cause: to help reduce homelessness in the UK through training and employment within the specialty coffee industry.

“Our stance is that you can do specialty and can do a good thing at the same time”, Marcus explains. When he first spoke to the owner of Glenmalure farm Vera Stücker in 2018, he went straight to asking about the elephants. Glenmalure, in Karatu, is also Rainforest Alliance certified. One of Vera's biggest concerns was to create a natural habitat for wildlife, so she fenced her coffee trees and kept 80 hectares of cloud forest for elephants to wander. “Vera was very sweet”, Marcus remembers. She was happy to talk to him about her work despite the fact that he, roasting for Kiss the Hippo at the time, was still not buying her coffee.

Wildlife captured near Glenmalure farm in Tanzania (Photo: Vera Stücker)

Marcus Wood at Old Spike Roastery in London, UK (Photo: Old Spike)

“It tastes like an Ethiopian”

The coffees came later, in 2020 and 2021, at Old Spike. Last year, the roastery sourced two micro-lots from Vera: a Fully Washed SL-28 and a Honey processed Kent. “Vera’s coffee was one of our strongest sellers”, says Marcus (photo). The Honey proved to be more popular than the Washed lot with his customers and both coffees kept “absolutely fine” until Christmas when the last batches were roasted. “Tanzania doesn’t have that high a reputation in the UK and it’s used more as part of blends but the feedback I got was that Vera’s coffees tasted more like Ethiopians.”

After a very stressful 2021, when she had to reduce prices to cope with less demand on top of a smaller than usual crop due to the dry weather (around 50% less than 2020), Vera is currently preparing her farm for the coming season. “We are planting more Gesha, Pacamara and SL-28 and introducing more shade trees”, she says. Eight of Vera’s coffees were featured on the 2021 Tanzania Ngorongoro Private Collection Auction in partnership with the Alliance for Coffee Excellence and she continues to develop her post-harvest. 

Read more about Tanzania

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Glanmalure and Gaia’s investments are definitely in line with Tanzania’s country-wide strategy to increase yields, quality and marketing systems. We hope to see more of this origin on roasters’ shelves in the coming years, especially as consumers become more concerned about the environment. 

Roasters can speak with both sellers through Algrano all year round and create an Interest in Tanzania to receive updates about this origin. As Ashlee puts it: "The potential of a relationship with these producers is huge and we are just scratching the surface".

Latest Tanzanian offers

Samples in stock
Lot 1282 gaia farm fully washed batian varietal
Lot 1282 gaia farm fully washed batian varietal

Offered by Edelweiss Oldeani Estate & Finagro Plantations Ltd Verified Seller

  • Tanzania
  • Fully washed
  • 86.25 points
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Lot 1287 gaia farm anaerobic underwater controlled ferment
Lot 1287 gaia farm anaerobic underwater controlled ferment

Offered by Edelweiss Oldeani Estate & Finagro Plantations Ltd Verified Seller

  • Tanzania
  • Other
  • 86.5 points
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Lot 1281 gaia farm fully washed microlot
Lot 1281 gaia farm fully washed microlot

Offered by Edelweiss Oldeani Estate & Finagro Plantations Ltd Verified Seller

  • Tanzania
  • Fully washed
  • 85.75 points

Samples in stock
Lot 1285 gaia farm fully washed microlot
Lot 1285 gaia farm fully washed microlot

Offered by Edelweiss Oldeani Estate & Finagro Plantations Ltd Verified Seller

  • Tanzania
  • Fully washed
  • 85.0 points
Samples in stock
Lot 1284 gaia farm fully washed malic ferment
Lot 1284 gaia farm fully washed malic ferment

Offered by Edelweiss Oldeani Estate & Finagro Plantations Ltd Verified Seller

  • Tanzania
  • Experimental
  • 85.25 points
Samples in stock
Lot 1286 gaia farm anaerobic underwater citric ferment
Lot 1286 gaia farm anaerobic underwater citric ferment

Offered by Edelweiss Oldeani Estate & Finagro Plantations Ltd Verified Seller

  • Tanzania
  • Experimental
  • 85.5 points

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