We’re thrilled to bring Tanzanian coffee back to the menu this year, with another exceptional selection from the Vohora Family’s Edelweiss Estate.
This AB grade coffee, available in both 10kg Crown Jewel boxes and 60kg full size bags, is a gem. Soft and sweet, the coffee’s pear and white grape juiciness is matched in kind by a lovely milk chocolate and graham cracker sweetness. An easy-drinking coffee if I’ve ever met one.
For the second consecutive year, we’ve partnered with the Vohoras to bring in some delicious Tanzanian coffee. In addition to being excellent coffee producers, they’re also lovely people. I met Neel in Chicago years ago before visiting the farms with him for the first time in 2014. Neel 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 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.
Neel’s sister 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.
This Tanzanian AB aligns with 15-17 screen sizes, and has a fairly high density. It is quite dry and at a very low water activity; I’d expect the quality to last very nicely as the Northern Hemisphere moves into warmer months.
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.
So many coffees coming across the cupping table like old friends. I have had the good fortune to roast coffees from Tanzania Edelweiss Estate for the better part of my career. This year the coffees are on the drier side, but are still as sweet and sparkling as I remember. With the grand opening of our new location, I was only able to squeeze in one roast of this coffee. I started with a modest charge temperature of 356F and turned up the heat just before yellowing began. Fortunately, my young and wise apprentice noticed that I really cranked the heat up all the way to 5 gas, which may be the highest setting I have ever gone to. The 1 kilo is a high powered machine and most of our batches are very small, around 400 grams, so we never even come close to adding the true maximum heat available. Having spent several roasts on another machine, I went into auto pilot mode and dialed in a recipe that I normally use for our 5 kilo Diedrich.
This surge of heat created a second hill in our rate of rise, but occurred early on in the roast and shouldn’t make too much of a difference in the flavor on the cupping table. One consequence could have been an extremely short roast, but corrective action was made swiftly and we ended up with a very nice coffee on the cupping table. While the double spiked rate of rise did not affect the flavor of the coffee too much, I would not recommend this strategy for a production roast because it would be hard to replicate for consistent results.
This coffee was so fresh and clean that it made me think of summer in the middle of winter. Notes of peach, melon, white wine made me think of a sparkling white sangria. Sugar browning notes were also present with lots of vanilla and sugar cane with a creamy milk chocolate.
Unless otherwise noted, I follow a set standard of operations for all my Behmor roasts. Generally, I’ll use the 1lb setting, manual mode (P5), full power, and high drum speed until crack. Read my original post and stats here.
This Tanzania selection is quite dense and had low water activity – two things that significantly affected my roast on the Behmor. In hindsight, I could have applied a bit more heat.
My previous batches on the Behmor had cracked around 9:40, so I thought that I’d try to enter first crack with a little less momentum on this roast. I lowered the power to 75% (P4) at 8:05 to slow my approach. Lo and behold, it was a bit too slow, and a very soft crack started at 10:15 – just a bit later than I would have liked. I ended the roast at 11:25, when the pops of first crack had nearly stopped, and on first glance it seemed well developed.
On the cupping table, green grape, black cherry, and milk chocolate came through. But so did a bit of wheaty underdevelopment, and a touch of the vegetal. Definitely give this coffee a good amount of heat as Jen did with the Probatino roast – the Tanzania Ngorongoro can take it.
This week, Crown barista Doris took a dive into brewing our Tanzania Crown Jewel with a Bee House dripper and with the Ceramic St. Anthony Phoenix 70.
Initial dials of the coffee presented chocolaty base notes with hints of green apple acidity and peanut butter. The Phoenix offered more acidity but a thinner body, and Doris was able to balance this in subsequent brews by dialing up the grind on the Bee House, tightening the coffee-to-water ratio, and increasing the TDS without moving the extraction percentage needle much from the ~18% target. The final brew was balanced, chocolaty, pear-like with some tart cranberry notes, and had a finishing touch of crisp cucumber and almond butter.