Origin Story: Tanzania Itumpi Peaberry
Producer: Itumpi Agricultural Marketing Co-operative Society (AMCOS) composed of 174 smallholder farmers within the Co-operative
Region: Songwe, Mbozi District
Variety: Kent, Bourbon
Processing: Washed and Sun-Dried on Raised Beds
Elevation: 1600-1680 masl
Wet Mill: Itumpi AMCOS Central Processing Unit (CPU)
Dry Mill: Itumpi AMCOS Central Processing Unit (CPU)
Harvest: July-December 2020
The Itumpi Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Society (Itumpi AMCOS) is located within the Mbozi District amongst 175 villages. Located about 70 km from the Zambian border, about 1/3 of the households produce coffee, amongst other crops such as maize, peanuts and beans.
The cooperative first formed in December of 1983, under the Tanzania Cooperative Act and combines produce from its 174 members from the villages surrounding farms.
Most of these are small scale farmers, ranging from 1 to 5 hectares in farm size. These small sustainable farms grow maize to lock in moisture on the high sloped contour farms, and their varied cash crops also provide mulch. Most farms have some livestock as well which provides their primary source for fertilizer.
The coffee cherry is selectively handpicked by the family at each farm. Once the day of picking is complete, processing will begin by separating any under/ overripe cherry, along with any foreign matter such as sticks or gravel. Next, the coffee cherry is delivered to the CPU to be pulped: removing the outer layer of fruit. Typically, the cherries are picked, sorted, and pulped all in the same day. Next, the coffee is placed into fermentation tanks to remove the remaining mucilage where theywill remain for 2-3 days depending on the atmospheric temperature. Once fermentation is complete, beans are washed in cool clean water to remove remaining mucilage.
Once clean, beans are taken to the raised beds to be dried. Here the parchment coffee is spread across the raised beds and turned regularly to ensure an even dry. The tables are covered at the high sun (noon) so that the beans are not scorched, as well as when it rains to prevent re-wetting. During the night, the coffee is also covered with polythene to prevent the build-up of any moisture. The process of drying typically takes anywhere between 9 and 12 days; the beans are removed once their moisture content reaches 11% or lower. The beans in parchment are then taken to the dry mill to be milled and bagged for export.
This coffee has been graded ‘PB’ – or peaberry. Peaberry coffee is a naturally occurring mutation present in Arabica coffee varieties, where only one bean is present inside of the coffee cherry instead of two.
Itumpi AMCOS is currently facing a number of difficulties. One of the primary challenges facing the group is the high cost of inputs needed to farm the land, making the cost of production expensive. Combined with the low market price for coffee, coffee farming in the region is becoming unprofitable. Along with the difficulties relating to the cost of farming, the association is also facing a new battle; brought on by climate change. With inadequate rains and longer dry days, the reduced yield is now exacerbating existing challenges for Itumpi AMCOS and the wider Mbozi District.
Sourcing information and photos courtesy of Mercanta..