Just like Nintendo’s favourite man in overalls Mario needs his golden coins to power up, many of us need a freshly brewed cup of java to boost our energy levels to combat our daily adventures.
The avid caffeine lover would know that the right bean certainly makes all the difference in what makes a good cuppa. But just like Mario’s magically appearing gold coins, have you given any thought to the origins of where the source of one of the world’s most consumed beverages comes from? High in the hilltops outside the Tanzanian town of Arusha, I took a leaf out of Mario’s adventurous playbook and ventured off to explore the region’s wilderness. The village of Tengeru is a filter of green, but its’ gold is the one that appears underneath its towering jungle; a plantation of the world’s most revered bean, coffee.
Arusha – the coffee hub
Sitting at the foothill of Tanzania’s second highest (volcanic) mountain, Mount Meru in Arusha is one of Tanzania’s largest coffee plantations.
The much-loved coffee bean is one of Tanzania’s biggest exports with it contributing USD $171m into the economy each year – now that’s a lot of gold coins! Arabica is the most popular bean grown in Tanzania, making up 70% of production. The rest of the 30% grown includes the Robusta bean, known for its bitterness and containing twice as much caffeine as Arabica. Tanzania is the fifth biggest coffee producer in Africa after Ethiopia, Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya.
Tanzania’s coffee culture
The production of coffee is deeply-rooted in the local culture due to the region’s temperate climate and fertile lands suitable for accelerated growth. As a result, Arusha is home to many coffee lodges, all vying for your coffee connoisseur expertise to taste each drop.
Tanzanian coffee is famously known for its rich, strong tastes and winey acidity, typically appealing to those who prefer darker roasts and intense flavours.
Discovering where coffee comes from
Instead of simply ordering a freshly brewed cup and calling it Game Over, I went straight to the source, to trek the hills to see what, where and how Tanzanian coffee was produced.
It was time to slap on the sunscreen and to give my legs a bit of a work out to explore Tengeru. Nearby volcanic crater Lake Duluti may be vast, but it was the sea of green of Tengeru that captured my eye in this remote location. The landscape features lush green hilltops, thick forests featuring trees with giant leaves and of course, plenty of towering coffee plants. It was not just about reaching the coffee plantation itself rather than the physical journey to get there. (Make sure you wear trainers and not cons!) Be sure to pack plenty of water as one needs to stay hydrated before being caffeinated!
I was taken through the village by a local guide, spotting mud-hut, thatched roofed dwellings and getting a glimpse into local life by meeting locals along the way.
Up steep hills and winding roads, it was a long walk and a bit too hardcore for my liking, especially crossing wide open plains in the heat of the day.
The easy part was taking refuge from the sun by strolling under the mixed banana plantations that dotted the area. Fun fact:
Banana trees are the perfect partner in crime when it comes to farming coffee plants as they protect the coffee plants from sweltering temperatures.
Besides coffee and bananas, other fruits and vegetables are farmed in the Arusha region including maize. Under the canopy, it was incredible to see the many coffee plants with their Christmas-like mini baubles batched up together in fruition. If anyone gave me a coffee plant for Christmas, I’d be happy! Upon closer inspection of the coffee plants’ thin stems and palm-sized leaves bares fruit to the bean that satisfies our caffeine fix.
Learning the process of making coffee
Forget machinery; I was going to learn how to make the perfect cup from scratch!
Making coffee is a two-stage process as the beans first need to go through a fermentation process, then need to be dried off. I didn’t need to go to the gym as my arms were given a workout with using a large wooden pestle and giant mortar to ground the beans into a fine powder. Despite it being a labour-intensive affair, in true Tanzanian spirit, I still kept singing and laughing to make the hard work that extra bit easier.
After all that sweat and hardcore grinding, it was then time to sample the hard work – let’s just say it was worth it!
Sipping my own freshly brewed cuppa had never tasted better as I appreciated every drop.
The day was not only an energy hit but a mood booster that any adventurous soul would crave – even Mario!
Disclaimer: I travelled as a writer for Urban Adventures.