Tanzania is just south of Kenya, and it's no surprise that the coffee grown in northern Tanzania is very similar to its more famous Kenyan cousins. Both tend to be light-bodied, lively coffees, with the best also having balancing richness and/or sweetness.
In this country, Kenya is the more popular origin. In Japan and the rest of Asia, however, Tanzanian coffee is at least as popular, so popular that almost all of the larger bean sizes of Tanzanian coffee are sold at a premium to Asian connoisseurs, leaving the smaller peaberry beans for coffee lovers in this country. That's one reason we were interested to see a Tanzania AA available from one of our favorite importers.
A quick reminder about bean size. “AA” means the beans are large (18 screen size), like “supremo” means for Colombian coffees. Slightly smaller beans are “A,” while the next size down is “AB.” Coffee beans called “peaberry” come from coffee cherry seeds that fail to split into to halves, and instead form one, often smaller, oval coffee bean. All coffee plants produce some peaberries, but older plants tend to produce more.
Generally speaking, the larger the bean size, the better the green coffee roasts and the better the coffee tastes. Which doesn't mean there aren't some absolutely wonderful Tanzanian Peaberry coffees available, but it does mean we were interested in trying a Tanzania AA.
Tanzania Estate AA comes from the Mondul Estate in northern Tanzania. Part of the oldest specialty coffee plantation in the country, it was established by Mr. Rahn, a German settler, in 1899. The estate was nationalized after WWI and bought by Swiss investors. Two hundred people work on the estate year-round and another five hundred seasonal workers join them for the harvest.
Readers of this blog know we're usually more excited by coop coffees than by coffee from big estates owned by absentee landlords, because that dynamic often results in shortchanging the people who actually do the work of growing, harvesting and processing the coffee. The Mondul Estate is an exception to that rule. Mondul provides housing for its workers on the estate, along with medical services and even schools for the employees' children. In addition, it pays its workers at least 20% above the minimum wage.
Larger bean size and a socially responsible estate were good reasons to try the Tanzania Estate AA. We bought it for the flavor. At a light (City) roast level, Tanzania Estate AA brews into a very lively coffee with a light, tea-like body and sweet lemon blossom aroma. The flavor combines zesty lemon topnotes with chocolate richness and a lingering cocoa finish. For more body and sweetness, try the coffee darker. A Full City or Vienna roast level brings out more richness and turns some of the zesty topnotes sweet.
If you like your coffee very light and lively, this is the coffee for you!
Have you tried coffee from Tanzania, either peaberry or AA? If you've had both, how do you think they compare to other African coffees? If you have an opinion, please join the conversation and share it on the Facebook thread or in a comment on this blog. Or, if you'd like to share your thoughts with the wider world, leave us a coffee review on Google or on your favorite review site. Not only do we value your opinions, but reviews help more people find us. Help us connect coffee lovers to fresh, quality coffee!
~ Carrie, Paul and all of us at Coffee by the Roast