Making our own coffee at a cultural tourism project in Arusha, Tanzania, Africa

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September 18th 2018
Published: September 18th 2018
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Tanzania day 10

Making our own coffee at a cultural tourism project in Arusha, Tanzania, Africa

Coffee!!! Today was about coffee!! The world’s finest drink and we were going to learn all about it. I had found a company through Lonely Planet and then through the internet that does coffee tours and so we dicided to stay in Arusha an extra day. I wasn’t exactly sure what a coffee and villages tour entailed but I knew I’d be getting some coffee, meeting local people and giving something back to the community.
There are many cultural tourism programmes in Tanzania so Tengeru is just one of them. Each of them have to give at least 65% of their income to the local community so having tourists come is important. We were told today that Tengeru has set up orphanages, supports schools and has plans to set up centres for autistic and blind children. So when I gave them more money than they asked for the day I felt it was worthwhile.
We had breakfast at Hekima House and were then driven the 13km to the quite well hidden project. We had a warm welcome from Reuben and the wonderfully named Mama Gladness. We were given some lovely ginger and lemon grass tea and met our guide Elly.
A lot of the day was spent talking about what the programme does and discussing how awful Donald Trump is but we also got to learn a lot about the local people and local culture.
And then there was the coffee.... We walked to a coffee plantation and learned a lot about the various fruits and trees that were growing along the way. It was really interesting to learn about the different types of bananas, what trees are used for medicine etc so I’m glad I took the option of a distant plantation as one was right next door and we would have missed out on the extra part. Did you know for example that a banana tree has only one crop and that’s it? It is then cut down and the side stump grows and a year and a half later it will be fully grown again.
But a coffee bush can produce fruit for over 100 years and then be cut to the stump and start all over again. And we got to see some coffee bushes and were then told where coffee comes from, how and when they pick the beans, what they do with them next, what diseases the bushes can get and that bushbabies sometimes eat the beans in the night. The two diseases they can catch were treated with a mixture including cow urine and I wondered how they got hold of this. More on that anon....
The fruit was opened and two incredibly slippery beans were in each one. These would then be dried and then be ready for the next stage....for which we walked back to the centre....
Elly brought us a wicker tray of dried coffee beans and said that they next needed to have their skin removed so we set to it by hand. He asked us if we thought it could be done another way but wasn’t too keen on us getting the answer right. We plodded on while chatting before he said he was joking with us and there was a quicker way.
Starbucks use machines of course but here we used a large pestle and mortar and we all had a go at pounding the shells from the beans. The beans are so hard that they don’t get crushed at this point. He then winnowed away the shells before it was time for the roasting.
But before that it was back to the cow’s urine...
He asked us if we wanted to learn about methane gas to which we obviously jumped at the chance. As I live with Claire I live with a constant hazy barrage of it so I thought I should learn some more about it. (That’s quite rude! - Claire, your loving wife!) Turns out he was talking about it coming from cows so we went to a small area where three Fresian cows were stood chomping away on grass.
He called this zero grazing as the cows don’t get to go anywhere but get their food brought to them. Not good really but it’s a different culture and they do what they can to live and survive. The cows produce milk to drink and sell of course, but the main use comes fom their excretions.
There is an elaborate system that looks archaic but works really well. It collects the excretions, mixes them together, filters off the methane gas and then they use the gas to fire a hob on which they can cook....and roast coffee beans.... It was also used for powering a light so very interesting to see given it all comes from wee and poo.
So in an earthenware pot we began to roast the beans and he asked if we wanted it strong, medium or weak. There’s no way I’m having a cup of weak coffee anywhere and the possibly one chance to have strong coffee I make myself I am going to take! So we roasted the beans for a while by stirring them in the pot until, with seemingly asbestos fingers, he took the pot from the heat. While we continued to stir he put some water on the hob to boil.
It was now time to grind the beans and people need to sing a song while they do this. Elly said he had a terrible voice so he would get someone to sing for us. A lady, Reuben, Mama Gladness (what a fab name!) and a young boy then sang us a song as the lady and Elly ground the coffee beans in another large pestle and mortar type thing. A few beans then needed another go so Elly, Reuben and myself sang the Jambo song I still remember from 25 years ago.
What a great experience to have a live show just for you, especially while there’s coffee involved!
The coffee was then added to the water and left to finish off. Claire didn’t expect to like it as it was classified as strong but when we each had a cup she really enjoyed it and even had a second helping. It was absolutely delicious and to think we had taken it from a dried bean and produced it was an amazing experience.
We chatted a while and then had a hand washing ritual as dinner was ready. And what a meal! There were lots of pots with different dishes in them and all were delicious so we both had seconds, especially as we were told that all pots should be sent back empty. There was no way we could do this, especially as there was water melon and bananas as well but we had a good go. Elly ate with us and then Rueben joined us before telling us he would be back to give us some information. He told us about the project and that we would each have a tree planted near Mt Meru thanks to our money.
We will be invited to the planting in the rainy season and are free to come and inspect our trees at any time. Later we were given certificates to say we had done this and posed for photos with our certificates. We were then offered the chance to buy some coffee beans and, well, you have to don’t you! Can’t wait to get those in my machine at home!
The centre is a lovely place with many places to sit and we stayed with Elly in the tree house while we waited for our driver to come and pick us up. Our driver had the other guy from our lodgings with him and they were asking what we do for a living. When they found out what Claire does for a living their interest raised and she was soon having a look at their website and offering advice on that and how to market the safari company they run as well.
Back at the lodgings Claire tried to add Google Analytics to their website but the internet wasn’t working too well so she has promised to send information via facebook messages. They seemed very grateful for the advice we gave and the technical help from Claire so we will be getting our ride to the airport tomorrow for free! Maybe we’ll get a discounted safari one day as well....
We are now sat in the lounge of our lodgings chilling, writing and stuff. I think I may even upload this today as tomorrow it’s time to head for Zanzibar.


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