Behind the Beans: Mbeya-Iyenga AMCOS AA/BB

Our Mbeya-Iyenga AMCOS AA/BB coffee beans are produced in the Mbeya region of Tanzania, where the Iyenga Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Society (Iyenga AMCOS) works with over 500 local coffee farmers (191 of whom are registered cooperative members) to help organise and support smallholder coffee farms flourish. The cooperative is led by a group of committed board members who gain the position through democratic election. All farmers who are members of the cooperative have right to vote for those they'd like to be in power, and every farmer has the right to contend for a board member position themselves. Group leaders encourage women and young people to participate in coffee agriculture activities and in all cooperative activities, and the number of women involved in the group has grown exponentially since it’s foundation.

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 other crops both to sell and consume themselves, so most will not have expertise in coffee production. This is where the cooperative has been immensely helpful, as they are able to share knowledge, and larger production partners (such as those who we partner with to source coffee) can offer support to large groups of farmers at a time by offering training in modern techniques and quality control, as well as offering help with providing and setting up new machinery including the cooperatives wet mill site and Central Processing Unit machine (granted by the government). This cooperative has been going from strength to strength in recent years and are producing very impressive amounts of high-quality coffee, with more progress well and truly on the horizon – which is great news, because we can’t get enough of their beans!

The farmers also receive advice from the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute (TaCRI) on which varieties they should plant depending on soil properties and even weather patterns, to help ensure the highest quality and efficiency of their farms. However, recent climate change has resulted in inconsistent weather patterns making this pro-activity incredibly difficult and the growing process increasingly unstable. For instance, there has been a considerable reduction in rainfall in recent years, and lack of water and machinery have led to the community looking into ways they may be able to construct a dam to collect as much water as possible during rainy season, to help them continue watering their crops throughout the year.

What many don’t realise about coffee beans is that they are actually the seeds of a coffee cherry that have been pulped to remove the rest of the cherry before being dried and roasted. The Iyenga AMCOS coffee beans are a mix of home processed and mill-pulped coffees, but all the coffee cherries are hand harvested and sorted before they even reach the pulping stage. In order to ensure that the coffee arrives at the mill as quickly as possible, the Cooperative has developed a transportation system to collect coffee from all farmers who are either far from the mill or produce a large volume of coffee. Once at the mill, all coffee is pulped within 8 hours and then delivered to the fermentation tanks before being fully rinsed with water and then dried on traditional drying tables for around a week. During the hottest part of the day, the beans are covered with netting to protect them from extreme temperature changes, over drying and exposure to high humidity.

Once fully dries, the coffee will be rested before being milled and then sent on to the Tanzania Coffee Board for grading depending on weight and then sold to the highest bidder.

This particular coffee is graded “AA” and the flavour profile consists of a balanced coffee of dark fruit, shiraz, raisin notes. We think these beans are great for any type of extractions. It's a full body coffee with caramelised fruit notes after taste; and we think it’s a very easy coffee to drink at any time of the day.

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