Photo Essay: From Coffee Berries to a Refreshing Brew

Photo Essay: From Coffee Berries to a Refreshing Brew

One of the stops of our 2014 world trip was the area around Moshi in Tanzania. Never heard of it? Well, if you set out to climb the highest mountain in Africa (Mount Kilimanjaro, 5895 m), your tour will most probably start from Moshi. But there are other interesting tours that you can start from here, some of which we described in our blog post “A Wonderful Day in Marangu, Tanzania“.

In the above post we also describe how to get to Msak’s coffee and banana plantation and how to arrange a tour. In about two hours the farm owner will show you the entire process of caring for coffee plants, harvesting the ripe berries, removing the outer skins, drying the coffee beans, then grinding and finally roasting them.

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The Coffea plant is a shrub or a small tree which Msak likes to plant together with banana palms because the two species grow wonderfully together. The bananas produce light shadow for the coffee, and the coffee plants preserve the moisture in the soil for the bananas.

Coffee and banana plants

Your daily brew starts out as berries which are hand-picked when they turn dark red. The ripening process on the bush takes about 9 months!

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The first processing step is to remove the thick outer skin of the berries by pressing them through a coarse mechanical press. This so called pulping occurs immediately after harvesting the berries, which are then left in water for one day, which dissolves the slimy layer below the outer skin.

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Now the beans are spread out to dry in the hot African sun for a couple of weeks until the parchment layer turns brittle and can be easily separated from the coffee beans.

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The easiest way to remove the parchment layer our host put the coffee beans in a deep bowl and mashed them with a wooden stick for a couple of minutes. This is called hulling.

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And there you go: your coffee beans are ready for roasting.

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After about 10 minutes of energetic stirring the coffee beans change their color from bluish grey to chocolate brown and wonderful aroma fills the air. 🙂

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We used this wooden grinder and lots of muscle power to produce a medium-grade coffee powder.

Grinding coffee beans

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Finally Msak poured some hot water through the coffee powder and produced the freshest ever cup of wonderfully strong coffee which we’ve ever tasted.

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Katja approves!

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