Gaia Farm is a 620-hectare family-owned estate located in the Karatu district of Tanzania. Gaia is one of two farms managed by Neel and Kavita Vohora, siblings, multi-generation coffee growers, and agricultural entrepreneurs in this extremely unique part of East Africa. Both farms are cultivated along the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, the largest unbroken caldera in the world and a breathtakingly scenic landscape of escarpments and fertile open range that has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979.
Neel and Kavita are third-generation Tanzanians of Indian heritage, and their 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. 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 and honey, 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.
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, and a mother. Neel is also a knowledgeable farmer with a persistent drive to experiment, has staffed the estate with experienced management. They both keep an army of pets around the offices, including terriers and ducks.
Of the 620 hectares that comprise Gaia Farm, 260 are planted with coffee. These planted hectares are sub-divided into 50 blocs by microclimate or coffee variety, allowing the Vohoras and their harvest staff of 800 to manage each specific need of the farm in an orderly way. Neel and Kavita have been steady suppliers for Royal for a few years, and beyond the ever-in-demand peaberries that have become synonymous with Tanzania specialty, the brother and sister have put their size and expertise to use introducing a dizzying variation of processing styles into the world. Some of which we are also lucky to cup and carry each year.
This lot of coffee is a unique natural process that uses an additional custom step devised by the Vohoras, in which fresh-picked cherry is piled deeply into a wooden box, covered with plastic, and then rotated several times a day as it ferments in the form of whole fruit. This stage lasts for 6 days; by the end of it, the inner seed is starting to break out of the softened fruit and is sitting in the sticky sugars (the “wine”) that have been drawn out with it. After this step is complete, the coffee is fully depulped and dried in the shade for 2 days, and then dried for another 10 days in alternating shade and direct sun. The result is a microlot with piquant acids and flavors of watermelon, rose water, and sweetened balsamic.