Farm: Usongwe AMCOS
Varietal: Kent & Bourbon
Processing: Fully washed & sun dried on African beds
Altitude: 1,460 metres above sea level on average
Owner: Various smallholder farmers
Town / City: Iwindi, Rural Mbeya
Tasting Notes: Caramel, toffee & malted chocolate
Shiwanda Estate has a long history in Mbozi, Mbeya – deep in the corner of Southwest Tanzania. Originally founded by colonial settlers, the farm was nationalised by the Tanzanian Government during the early 1970s (part of a wider policy of nationalisation that was the first comprehensive program of government intervention of this sort in East Africa). The farm was handed over to a parastatal organisation to be run for the benefit of the national economy for just over two decades; however, the farm was mismanaged during this time and never saw a profit. The government re-claimed direct control in 1998 and auctioned the property off. Seeing the potential that this beautiful piece of land held, Mr. Apson Mwang’onda (he goes by Mr. Apson) rushed to the rescue, purchased the farm and has worked, over the last several decades, to create Shiwanda Estate anew, maximising its potential as a producer of high quality specialty coffee.
Mr. Apson was Tanziania’s Director General of the Department of National Security between 1996 and 2006. He actually still held the position when he purchased the farm, but he knew he needed a plan for his retirement – and what better way to celebrate his love of his dear Tanzania than by contributing to the economic well-being of a region that was, at the time, struggling.
Mr. Apson wasn’t just looking for a past-time to occupy him in his retirement, nor was he looking purely for a means of supporting himself following his political career. Truly, he purchased Shiwanda Estate with the aim of creating local jobs and contributing to Mbeya’s economy. Upon acquiring the farm, he expanded the farm’s coffee growing area from 90 disused acres to the current 290 acres, establishing healthy plots of Bourbon and Kent coffee trees. He invested heavily in the farm’s infrastructure – particularly with regards to water systems and processing - and set up irrigation systems. Above all, he worked with the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute (TACRI) on establishing best agricultural practices that would lead to a balance of productivity and high coffee quality and made certain that all farm workers were trained to the highest standards. He knew that the future of coffee lay in quality and was committed to making that dream a reality.
Two decades on, his hard work and vision have paid off. Year-round the large farm provides jobs for families from the surrounding communities, and during the harvest season, the Estate provides employment to more than 100 people who live in the surrounding region. Food grown on the Estate is provided to the workers free of charge, and the Estate provides training and resources to coffee farmers living nearby. Furthermore, the coffee emerging from the farm has been recognized as being of very high quality. Coffee from the Shiwanda Estate placed 2nd in the Tanzania Taste of Harvest in 2007 and consistently performs well in quality contests within the country.
The farm also features an amazing ‘sculpture garden’ that celebrates Tanzania’s coffee culture and the country’s love of its native wildlife. Mr. Apson’s wife has a passion for gardening. When they bought the farm, she quickly focused on developing some of the surrounding land into a leisure spot and place of beauty. She particularly thought having fanciful animals was an important part of this and commissioned whimsical plaster and concrete giraffes and horses. It took two years for the garden to be complete, though she continues to oversee the care and maintenance that keeps the garden in its current immaculate state. Today, his grandchildren adore climbing on the statues when they visit on school holidays and the garden, which is open to the public, is widely enjoyed by picnicking families and people taking photos for their wedding!
In order to ensure soil fertility, Shiwanda Estate uses organic compost and manure and engages in a host of other good agricultural processes that seek to organically maintain the soil at optimal fertility. Industrial fertilisers are used very sparingly and only where indicated as necessary by TACRI. The farm also has installed a drip irrigation system that insures that nutrition is efficiently delivered to the coffee trees roots. Regular renovation has also lent a hand in establishing increased productivity and higher quality coffee. Mr. Apson and his quality control managers have consulted heavily with TACRI regarding recommended varieties. TACRI supplies the seeds and/or seedlings at reasonable prices to farmers and provides advice on which varieties are suitable for various soil compositions and microclimates along with providing advice and training on plant care: in fact, they often establish demonstration plots located near to farmers for training purposes and have done trainings on the Shiwanda Estate as well as neighbouring Mimba Estate.
The farm’s washing station is impressive by any standards: it is also one of the most impressively equipped and maintained in the region. During the harvest, coffee is selectively hand-picked by a team of local pickers (many of whom return to work on the farm annually) and delivered to the washing station within 8 hours of harvest. The cherries are sorted, again, to remove all underripe and overripe cherries and any debris, and are emptied into the hopper to be pulped by the farm’s McKinnon 2500 UCBE pulper. The pulped not only pulps the coffee but also grades the beans according to size and density as it pulps. The different grades are delivered to different fermentation tanks where they are fermented for 48 to 36 hours, depending on weather conditions at the time.
After pulping the coffee is then washed using cold, clean water. Once washed the coffee is taken in buckets to the drying tables where the parchment is then air dried for at least 10 days and sometimes as many as 13. The coffee is turned regularly and covered with netting during the heat of the day.
This lot is comprised of entirely PB size beans, separated out during the dry milling process.