Note: As you may recall, I dropped and broke my camera on the last day of our safari in the Serengeti. I replaced it when we got to Bangkok, but unfortunately there was about a 10-day period where I was camera-less. If you notice that the photos in this post are lower-quality, it’s because they were taken with an iPhone.
After our Serengeti safari, we had three days before our flight to Zanzibar. Rather than returning to Arusha, where we had already spent two full weeks, we decided to head to Moshi. Moshi is a small city located at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak. It’s smaller than Arusha but a bit more developed, and it gets a fair amount of tourist traffic because it’s the starting point for climbing Kili.
We found Moshi to be a very pleasant place to spend a few days. There were a few good restaurants and coffee shops. Also, we enjoyed the fact that as we walked around the streets, we felt mostly ignored. That might not sound like a positive thing, but when the potential alternatives are people staring at you like you’re out of place or people trying to sell you things, being ignored feels pretty good. I do think the location of our accommodation was key. We were several minutes’ walk away from a lot of the popular backpacker hostels, and the one time we ventured to that area, suddenly people all over the place were walking up to us trying to sell us paintings or calling out to us to come into their shops.
Our time in Moshi was mostly spent relaxing and recovering from our safari. The only major activity that we did was a coffee tour, and it turned out to be really interesting! Around the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, there are lots of coffee farms, both large and small. We booked a tour through a coffee shop in town, Union Café, that sources all of its coffee from local farmers in the villages around Kili.
The morning of our tour, we met our driver at the café. He drove up for about 30 minutes until we were in the foothills of Kili. As we drove, the air got cooler, the sky got mistier, and it dawned on us how inappropriately we were dressed. Moshi was pretty hot, but I’m not sure why we didn’t think about the fact that the weather would be cooler up on the side of the mountain. Matthew wore shorts and flip flops. Lilly and I wore linen pants and sandals. Lilly and Matthew were at least smart enough to bring pullover sweaters. I had nothing but a thin, 3/4-length shirt. As we arrived at the village, it started to rain. Perfect timing.
When we arrived at the village, we were met by the local coffee farmer who was going to give us our tour and teach us about how coffee is made. He was extremely kind, and immediately offered me his umbrella.
As you can see, our footwear was a bit silly considering that we were walking through the mud in the rain and the temperature was around 50 degrees. It was quite a walk to the actual farm, and that mud was slippery! In fact, one of us (not saying who…*coughcoughME*) may have had her feet slide completely out from under her and taken a spill, getting mud all over her pants. Maybe.
Our guide was very concerned about us being cold and about us falling. He kept apologizing for the rain over and over while we assured him that it wasn’t his fault. He also kept telling us “pole pole”(pronounced poh-lay poh-lay, which means “slowly”) as we walked. Eventually, our guide’s friend happened to pass by in a truck, and he got the friend to give us a ride the rest of the way.
Finally we reached our guide’s home. He and his extended family have a small plot of land where they live and grow coffee. The first thing he did was fetch a sweatshirt for me to wear. (He was super concerned about me being cold. It was really sweet.) Then it was time for us to learn how coffee is grown and turned into the delicious beverage that we enjoy every day!
Step One: Pick the cherries. (The fruit of a coffee plant is called a cherry, and the coffee beans are inside the cherries.)
Step Two: Use this cool hand-crank machine to separate the beans from the rest of the fruit.
Step Three: Put the beans in water and remove the ones that float. (They’re bad.)
Step Four: Spread the beans out and pull out any leaves or twigs or any beans that look bad. Then let the beans dry out for a few days.
Step Five: Use this giant mortar and pestle contraption to crack open and remove the outer shells of the beans. (The shells are thin and break easily, whereas the actual beans are much harder. So when you pound them, the beans don’t break, but the shells come off and then are pounded into dust.)
Step Six: Put the beans and shells onto this basket-y thing. Shake the basket in such a way that the crushed up shells (which are very light) blow off but the beans stay on the basket. (This is hard to describe. Watch the video at the bottom of the post to see it in action.)
Step Seven: Roast the beans in a pot on the fire. Stir frequently to try to make them roast evenly.
Step Eight: Remove the beans from the fire. Put them back into that mortar and pestle and use to break them up into coffee grounds.
Step Nine: Prepare the coffee using your favorite method. We like to use an aeropress. At the coffee farm, they just stir the grounds into boiling water.
So there you have it! Preparing coffee is much more work for this family than it is for the typical American. They definitely don’t have it every day. (And actually most people in Tanzania seem to prefer tea to coffee.) With Matthew and I being such coffee lovers, it was fun to be able to see how coffee evolves from the plant to the cup. Our guide was really nice, and we got to take the coffee beans that we roasted with us. I will say that we were told that we needed to tip the family (which we were planning on anyway) and then after we gave them some money our guide suggested that we needed to give them more. So that part was a bit awkward. Otherwise, we greatly enjoyed the tour and found it interesting and informative.
Matthew put together a little video compilation to show the process from start to finish. Here it is, if you want to check it out: