Tanzania Coffee Beans (Guide and Reviews)
Have you ever tried Tanzania coffee? If not, you’re missing out.
From the sweet, balanced flavours of the coffee of Kilimanjaro to the bright, fruity beans of the Highlands, these coffee beans are an underrated single-origin coffee you need to add to your rotation.
Keep reading for your complete guide on Tanzania coffee.
At A Glance:
- Our Top Pick Source Climate Change Coffee Kilimanjaro Cloud Forest
- Runner-up: Cafédirect Kilimanjaro Tanzania
- Runner-up: The East India Company Kilimanjaro Mountain
A complete Guide to Tanzanian Coffee
The United Republic of Tanzania—or just Tanzania for short—is one of the world’s top coffee-producing countries. With Kenya to its North, Rwanda to its West, and Malawi to its South, Tanzania makes up 885 miles of Africa’s eastern coast along the Indian Ocean. And from the rich, volcanic soil of the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro to the fertile Southern Highlands, coffee production has played a huge part in Tanzania’s history.
The Influence of Coffee on Tanzania
Historically, coffee beans found their way to Tanzania via Réunion.
Since the 1800s, coffee has been one of the most important crops to Tanzania’s economy.
Small family farms produce 95% of the country’s coffee crop. But with the arrival of coffee wilt disease, these small coffee farms have struggled to remain productive (1).
Because agriculture makes up a quarter of Tanzania’s annual gross domestic product, coffee wilt has drastically impacted Tanzania’s coffee production. As of 2013, the country only exported 48,000 tonnes of African coffee (2).
But exacerbating the effects of climate change are historically low prices for Tanzanian coffees. Organizations like Communal Shamba Coffee and the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute work to find ways to make this industry more sustainable. Established by Tanzanian farmers for coffee farmers, Communal Shamba coffee collaborates specifically with coffee farmers in the Southern Highlands.
Communal Shamba coffee is a catalyst for long term social change…beyond direct trading and fairer pricing.
Together, they work with smallholder coffee farmers in the Southern Highlands to ensure an international market of coffee roasters and purchasers for their green coffee beans (3).
If you enjoy shade-grown coffees for their sweeter, more complex cup, then Tanzanian coffee beans are some of the best in the world.
Mount Kilimanjaro is located at the northern border of Tanzania, near Kenya, and is the tallest peak on the African continent.
Standing 5,895 metres above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro is a stratovolcano made of lava and rock. Its tallest point, Kivo, is a snow-capped peak and is one of three cones that make up the tallest free-standing mountain in the world (4).
Coffee beans cultivated here grow in the shade of banana trees and absorb the rich nutrients in the slopes’ volcanic soil. As a result, these coffee beans are sweet, well-balanced, and pleasantly acidic.
The Southern Highlands
The Southern Highlands—which includes the regions of Songwe, Mbeya, and Ruvuma—is home to shade-grown and coffee crops grown in pure-standing rows. Because of the difference in soil composition, the coffee beans produced in these regions are medium-bodied, fruity, and floral.
In the Southern Highlands, temperatures range between 10-20 degrees C, and the rainy season falls between October and April each year.
By contrast, except for Mount Kilimanjaro, the temperature in other parts of Tanzania does not usually fall below 20 degrees C. Also, the region extending East from Lake Victoria to the coastline has two rainy seasons per year—one between October and December and the other between March and May.
Arabica coffee beans—which make up 70% of Tanzania’s coffee crops—mostly grow in the Southern Highlands because of the cooler temperatures and single rainfall period. Generally speaking, Arabica coffee bean varieties are more susceptible to changes in climate and require a narrower range of precipitation and temperature.
However, because Robusta coffee beans are hardier, they’re primarily grown in the Kagera region near Lake Victoria. These beans only constitute 30% of Tanzania’s coffee crop.
Tanzania Coffee Harvesting and Processing
According to the Tanzania Coffee Board, farmers harvest coffee between July and December in the northern and southern coffee regions. However, in the western region, near Lake Victoria, coffee cherries are harvested from May through October (5).
Once the coffee cherries are harvested, most of them are wet-processed. In this method, water is used to remove the skin and mucilage, while the parchment and silverskin around the coffee seed remain. The only exception to this rule is the Robusta coffee beans, which make up only 30% of Tanzania’s exported coffee crop, and these are naturally processed to develop flavour.
Whether the beans have been wet or naturally processed, they’re put onto drying beds to dry out completely. Once the beans are completely dried, they can be exported or roasted.
General Cup Profile and Flavor Palette
Like Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees, Tanzanian beans are bold, medium-bodied, fruity, and floral, with a mild sweetness.
Because all the skin and mucilage are removed before roasting, the coffee bean has no added flavours. Essentially, you’re tasting the quality of the bean (6).
…with a washed coffee, you are tasting the coffee itself – the origin, the coffee variety, the terroir – and not the impact of the processing method.
In other processing methods—such as natural and honey—the mucilage is left on the bean as it dries. Over time, the sugars ferment and introduce flavours into the bean.
But in the washed method, the only factors impacting the flavour of the final cup are the soil composition, the Arabica variety, and the elevation at which it’s grown.
The Roast Level
Lastly, the roast level of the bean you buy impacts the cup, too.
In short, choose lighter roasts for bright, nuanced flavours and darker roasts for more complex ones.
On the lighter side, the beans will be fruitier, brighter, and more nuanced in flavour because they’ve been exposed to heat for less time. But from medium roast onward, the cup will be more complex with sweeter notes, thanks to the Maillard reaction.
The 3 Best Tanzanian Coffee Beans of 2023
Now that you’ve learned about how and where Tanzanian coffee beans are grown, keep reading for Home Grounds’ picks of the top Tanzanian beans.
1. Source Climate Change Coffee Kilimanjaro Cloud Forest – Best Overall
Coffee Region: Karagwe and Mount Kilimanjaro
- Roast Level: Medium
- Tasting Notes: Dried fruit, cocoa, molasses
Source Climate Change Coffee works specifically with growers who are committed to reforestation and conservation. Their Kilimanjaro Cloud Forest coffee comes from farmers on both sides of Tanzania, with Arabica from the Machare Kilimanjaro estate in the east and the brand’s own Plan Vivo Project in Karagwe in the west.
This results in a coffee that’s fresh and bright, with a delicate but flavourful palate. Sweetness comes from hints of dried fruit and molasses, balanced by the earthiness of cocoa and a hint of black pepper.
2. Cafédirect Kilimanjaro Tanzania – Runner Up
Coffee Region: Mount Kilimanjaro
- Roast Level: not specified
- Tasting Notes: Blackcurrant
Consider this Tanzania coffee if you’re looking for a bright but full-favoured brew. Cafédirect recommends brewing with a cafetière, which will bring out the coffee’s sweetness and subtle blackcurrant notes. We love that this is Fairtrade sourced, coming from the Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union. The KNCU is the oldest cooperative in the country and helps farmers in the Kilimanjaro legion get fair prices.
3. The East India Company Kilimanjaro Mountain – Runner Up
Coffee Region: Mount Kilimanjaro
- Roast Level: Medium-dark
- Tasting Notes: Dark chocolate, citrus, black pepper
The East India Company has a long history of sourcing the best tea and coffee from around the world, and their Tanzania coffee is no exception. The prime growing conditions of Mount Kilimanjaro have created a rich and complex coffee, with deep flavours brought out by a medium-dark roast. Expect notes of bittersweet dark chocolate and black pepper, lifted by hints of citrus.
Tanzania coffee is an underrated single origin in the specialty coffee world. Tanzanian beans have been underrated for years, now. But it’s time to change that! These fruity, bold, bright, and sweet beans deserve a place in your coffee rotation.
Yes, Tanzania coffee is a great bean for making espresso. While a light roast can make for an intriguingly sweet espresso shot, we’d suggest going with a medium or medium dark roast instead, if you plan to use this single origin in a latte.
The best places to buy Tanzania coffee are local roasters and high-quality coffee subscription services.
Every great coffee roaster will place the roast date on the package. What’s more, many roasters will only roast certain single origins at certain times of the year for peak freshness.
No, Tanzanian Peaberry coffee beans are just the result of a naturally-occuring mutation that causes a coffee cherry to contain one seed instead of two. Though the coffee seed is smaller and rounder, there is no appreciable difference in taste.
- Gakuo, P. (2021, October 13). A guide to Tanzanian coffee production. Perfect Daily Grind; Perfect Daily Grind. https://perfectdailygrind.com/2021/10/a-guide-to-tanzanian-coffee-production/
- Wikipedia Contributors. (2022, November 7). Tanzania. Wikipedia; Wikimedia Foundation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanzania
- Communal Shamba Coffee – Goods for Goodness. (2020). Communalshambacoffee.com. https://communalshambacoffee.com/
- Kilimanjaro | National Geographic Society. (2022). Nationalgeographic.org. https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/kilimanjaro/
- Perfect Daily Grind. https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/12/processing-101-what-is-washed-coffee-why-is-it-so-popular/
- Tanzania Coffee Board. (2022). Coffeeboard.or.tz. https://www.coffeeboard.or.tz/aboutus.php
- Katherine, A. (2018, December 18). Processing 101: What Is Washed Coffee & Why Is It So Popular? Perfect Daily Grind;