Tanzania Coffee History


Coffee was introduced into the Tanzanian region from modern day Ethiopia in the 16th century. Coffee was not really brewed in the region but was used as a stimulant. Through oral sources in the region the Haya tribe located in northwest Tanzania in modern-day Kagera region was the only recorded tribe that used the beans. The tribe boiled the Robusta beans and steamed them with various herbs and chewed on the mixture as a stimulant. The tribe also used the coffee beans as a form of currency and the growing and cultivating of the beans were highly controlled by tribal leaders.

The German colonization of the region in the late 19th century changed the value of the crop in the region. The Germans introduced various laws that reduced the control of tribal leaders over the cultivation of the crop and the coffee seeds were made widely available. The Haya tribe was forced to grow different food crops such as bananas and pineapples and were pressured to grow the new Arabica variant introduced by the Germans. In other regions of the country the Germans introduced the bean in the North of the region near Kilimanjaro and Tanga. Due to the abolishing of slavery tribal chiefs that relied on the trade for income such as the Chagga tribe, entirely switched to cultivating the Coffee beans. After World War I when the British took over Tanganyika they further accelerated the campaign to grow coffee in the region and introduced various land reform laws. The British also continued to receive resistance from the Haya people and coffee production in the north-west region remained stagnant. However, the Chagga tribe who had no history of cultivating the crop continued to produce the crop and in 1925 exported 6000 tones worth $1.2 million. With the expansion of the railway into the country the British expanded their network of coffee farmers. In 1925 the Kilimanjaro Native Planters’ Association (KNPA) was formed and it was the first of many coffee cooperatives formed in the country, formed to help farmers obtain a better price.

After independence the socialist government of Tanzania saw a lot of promise in the crop and aspired to double the crop production. Various schemes and loans were given to coffee farms to increase production. Furthermore, large governmental estates were created in the southern part of the country namely in Mbozi and Mbinga regions. The government expanded the idea of farmer’s cooperatives into areas that had no prior cooperative experience or need. Most of the cooperatives failed and the mass movement of the population due to Ujamaa in the early 1970s hampered production. Before, 1976 all coffee trades were handled by two cooperative owned coffee processing factories one in Moshi (arabica) and the other in Bukoba (robusta) and then it was sold at the Moshi auction. in 1977 all coffee cooperative unions were dissolved and the government mandated the Coffee Authority of Tanzania. The coffee production in the country suffered drastically due to major governmental interventions and high cost of growing. Reform in the early 1990s which privatized the industry drastically increased the efficiency of the system. The Tanzanian Coffee Board was reinstated to issue permits and licenses and coffee growing and selling was made entirely independent. Moreover, they are responsible for grading beans and running the Moshi Coffee Auction.