Behind the Beans: Itende JKT PB from Tanzania

This medium bodied coffee is the perfect choice for an early afternoon wake up. With a medium light roast its subtle peach, vanilla blackberry, honey infused with cherry and floral notes create a unique and delightful flavour. What makes this coffee really stand out from the rest, though, is the unusual backstory of how the beans are grown and produced – they are a part of a national programme in Tanzania that provides young people without access to higher education with opportunities to learn valuable life skills and start a lifelong career.

This initiative comes from the Tanzanian Army’s National Youth Program (Known as Jeshi la Kujenga Taifi, or JKT in Swahili), and is a completely voluntary offering that the countries young people can sign up for to learn crucial skills that they otherwise may not have had access to that could prepare them for a career in agriculture, masonry, carpentry or entrepreneurship. The program has coffee plantations that spread across 200 acres in Intende, growing not only trees from the seedlings donated to the initiative by the Tanzanian Coffee Research Institute, but also cultivating their own seedlings in the program’s nursery.

Located only 1.5Km from the City centref of Mbeya, Intende is easy to reach by many local young people from all over Tanzania thanks to the City’s transport links. The programme is typically attended for 3-6 months, but those who show initiative are able to apply for employment immediately after finishing their training. Whilst in Intende, these young people learn coffee cultivation as well as agricultural skills for different crops including maize, beans and Sunflowers, as well as other practical skills. As the majority of attendees come to the program from impoverished areas – this sets them up with skills that will help them find lasting employment that could change their lives.

The coffee itself is wet-milled at Itende JKT’s mill on the same day the fruit is harvested before being places in cement tanks filled with water. Any coffee cherries that float in the water are judged as too low-density, and are discarded at this stage to keep quality high. Cherries are then pulped to extract those all-important beans using a four disk pulper, before being washed and then left to ferment for up to 72 hours before being washed once more and left to dry on raised beds. Beans are graded based on size alone, so whilst some will be sold as AA or AB lots – these don’t indicate quality but simply the size of the beans.

The dried beans are all sold through auctions, and the income generated from this is fed back into the program so it can carry on this important work.

Buy your beans and support this fantastic program here.

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