Region: Southern slopes of the Ngorongoro Caldera, Karatu District, Arusha Region, Tanzania
Producer: The Vohora Family
Farm: Edelweiss, Ascona, and Helgoland Estates
Altitude: 1,600 – 1,850 MASL
Varietal: Batian, Blue Mountain Typica, Bourbon, Kent, SL28
Process: Fully washed after pulping and fermenting. Dried on raised beds.
Notes: Mango, red table grape, hibiscus, fig jam, peach
This South Slope Coffee micro lot is hand selected by the Vohora family in Tanzania. Since 1971, the Vohora’s have owned about 1000 acres of farmland on the southern exterior slopes of the Ngorongoro caldera near the town of Karatu in Tanzania’s lush rift valley. The farms possess Rainforest Alliance certificate, and the family and their 50+ full-time employees on the farm have done a remarkable job of upkeep and preservation of natural beauty while also running a thriving coffee business. They are diversifying into Macadamia, provide temporary housing for harvest labor, and even supply land on the farm for local smallholders to grow beans – a mutually beneficial crop as the legumes fix nitrogen in the soil, a critical step in a healthy cycle of crops.
Kavita runs the dry mill, roasterie, and export business from Arusha, a two-hour drive away from the farms. Their father, Ajai, lives in nearby Nairobi, Kenya, and is still very much involved in the business of exporting coffee as well, and has been instrumental in maintaining the relationship. Kavita is a licenced Q-grader, a meticulous cupper and quality agent, a lively companion for a glass of wine, and a mother. She keeps a small army of pets around the office, including terriers and ducks. Neel, an excellent cook and vivacious host, is also a knowledgeable farmer with a persistent drive to experiment, has staffed the estate with experienced management. He’s also fond of dogs and has a beautiful and rambunctious Rhodesian Ridgeback that stays on the farm.
The coffees the Vohora family produce achieve consistently high quality from year-to-year despite a number of uncommon obstacles. Water shortages prompted new rainwater basins at critical high points on the farm a few years ago. Animal damage of the coffee trees is frequent and traumatic – usually it’s the water buffalo that are most destructive in herds, though you can catch the sounds of an occasional elephant at night, making its way through the forest.
In addition, Tanzania presents a number of unique challenges for both growers, exporters, and importers. Beyond navigating the diverse population, the vast landscape, and complicated logistics, a revamped auction system in 2018 virtually removed any private access to export market and complicated an already intricate trading landscape. Tanzania, has long been beset by an inconsistent support structure, corrupt bureaucracy, and frequent delays at hot and humid ports.
All this would be enough to dissuade all but the most persistent of coffee farmers. Fortunately for us, the Vohora Family have persisted.
Photos and text courtesy of Royal Coffee