Neel Vohora is a third-generation Tanzanian of Indian heritage, and his family has been in the Tanzanian coffee business since the end of the second World War. The family export business based in Arusha has more than 60 years experience in the country. Since 1971, the Vohoras 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. Gaia Farm, one of their estates and the source of this peaberry lot, is 620 hectares, 260 of which are planted with coffee.
Fully washed cherry at Gaia Farm is depulped immediately after picking and dry fermented (without added water) for 36-54 hours depending on batch size and relative climate conditions. Once fermented clean the parchment is washed and graded by density, and then shade-dried for 2 days to allow the parchment surface to slowly and evenly dry to the touch. After the first drying stage is complete, the coffee is moved to a partial-sun environment to fully dry, which takes another 10 days.
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.
The Vohoras are growing an interesting mix of coffee varieties on their farms. In addition to the heritage Bourbons and New World Typicas, they have planted SL28 (a drought-resistant selection made in Tanzania in 1931), Kenya’s improved and backcrossed Batian hybrid (named for Mt. Kenya’s highest peak and a prominent Masai leader), and lastly Kent, a Typica selection made in India — the first such selection made for rust resistance.
Neel’s sister Kavita runs the dry mill, roastery, 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.