Roaster’s tasting notes: We have returned for a second year to the produce of this cooperative and are once again delighted with the results.
A balance combination of summer berries, such as red and black currant with sugar cane sweetness. The body is soft and light whilst the aftertaste is lingering.
This is a coffee better suited to non pressurised brewing methods such as the French Press or Sowden pot, however the Aeropress is an exception to that.
Iyenga Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Society (Iyenga AMCOS) was registered in 2003 under the Tanzanian cooperative act. The cooperative deals only with coffee and collects from more than 500 farmers within the Mbeya region (primarily within the district of Mbozi). Of these 500 farmers, around 191 are registered members of the cooperative.
Iyenga AMCOS is known within the region as very well-organised, with one of its greatest strengths being its committed board members. Leaders come into power through democratic election: all farmers who are members of the cooperative have right to vote for the person they’d like to be in power, and every farmer has the right to contend for a board member position. Group leaders encourage women and young people to participate in coffee agriculture activities and in all cooperative activities. When the group first registered, there were only 64 members, all of whom were male. Now, of the group’s 193 members, 17 are female!
All of the farmers in Iyenga village (from which most of the cooperative members hail) are very small scale and grow coffee on 5 hectares or fewer (most only have a hectare or so). In addition to coffee, many grow maize, peanuts and beans. The majority of farmers often keep one or two cows and some poultry, as well.
In 2010, the government granted the Iyenga Cooperative a Central Processing Unit machine – a Penagos UCBE 500 – which has enabled the Cooperative to improve their processing efficiency while using less water.
The potential production of Iyenga is good and the group currently produces around 80 tonnes of parchment annually; however, the cooperative has reached the point that it now requires a bigger pulping machine if they are to make significant advances in production. Nonetheless, farmers have a good understanding of the importance of the CPU machine, and the strong trust that members place in the Cooperative’s leaders means that Iyenga stands a very good chance of achieving their goals.
Harvesting and Processing:
This lot from Iyenga AMCOS is a mix of home processed and mill pulped coffees. In both cases, all coffee is hand harvested and pre-sorted before pulping.
Most farms are located quite near the mill, with the closest being only 300 metres away and the furthest 10 kilometres. In order to ensure that the coffee arrives at the mill in a timely fashion, the Cooperative has developed a shunting/ transportation system to collect coffee from all farmers who are either far from the wet mill or produce a large volume. Iyenga hires cars and motorbikes which go to visit farmers who have notified leaders in advance that they are harvesting that day. A secretary is appointed during the harvest season to arrange hunting logistics. This system has enabled the Cooperative to have more control over the quality of the cherry and pulped coffee that arrives at the mill.
All coffee cherry delivered to the mill is pulped within eight hours of being picked. Processing activities start at around 4 pm daily and end at 8 pm. After pulping (80 percent of the mucilage is removed by the ecological pulping machine), coffee is delivered to the fermentation tanks where it is fermented without water for 10-12 hours. Fermented coffee is then taken to the washing channels where it is washed and graded using fresh water. The wet mill has well-designed washing channels that facilitate the work and minimize the use of water throughout this process.
After washing, coffee is spread to around a 3 cm depth on drying tables, where it will stay for 7 – 10 days (depending on weather conditions). During the hottest part of the day, the drying coffee is covered with coffee shade nets and during the night coffee is covered with nylex sheet to prevent it from experiencing extreme temperature changes, over-drying and exposure to humidity.
After reaching the optimal humidity, the coffee is rested. All the coffee is usually milled in Mbozi and is sent to the Tanzania Coffee Board auction in Moshi, where it is then cupped, graded and sold at auction to the highest bidder.
Iyenga Cooperative members ensure the soil remains fertile by adopting the best agricultural practices, upon which they are advised by the cooperative. These practices include preventing soil erosion through dual cropping, using mulching materials and applying compost on a regular basis at optimal times. Farmers tend use manure from their own cows and composted coffee pulp, but some also use other fertilizers, though sparingly.
Renovation activities conducted by most of the members are pruning and de-suckering to encourage plant rejuvenation. These activities are normally conducted after the harvest, starting in September and continuing through March of the following year. Stumping is conducted for plants that are either too old or plants that are affected by disease or pest damage. The frequency of stumping is not scheduled and happens usually only when the tree’s production has declined.
Farmers receive recommendations from the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute (TaCRI) on which varieties to plant on their farms based on the weather conditions and soil characteristics of specific regions, variety productivity and variety disease resistance. TaCRI distributes the coffee to the farmers at affordable prices and has established demonstration plots located near to farmers for training purposes.
Despite these investments, climate change has resulted in inconsistent weather patterns over the last several years that have, in turn, posed challenges to production. More specifically there has been a reduction in the annual rainfall and a growing trend for the rains to come later in the year. Some farmers have resorted to buying irrigation equipment; however, this isn’t always possible due to the limited access to water and the costs involved in buying the equipment. To counter some of these water-related issues (which also pose issues for other aspects of life – including home use) the community is looking into ways that they can implement the construction of dam or infrastructure for taping water during the rainy season.