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This Ilomba Fully washed AB is produced by smallholder farmers who deliver to Ilomba Best AMCOS (Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Society). Operating in the Mbozi District in Southern Tanzania, Ilomba Best AMCOS was founded in 1997 as a farmer group.

Ilomba Best AMCOS built Ilomba Factory (another term for a wet mill) in Ilomba Village in 2007 in Ilomba. The station sits on the steep slopes of the South Western highlands in Mbeya.

The group focuses on increasing value by processing cherry at a central wet mill, like Ilomba Factory. They plan to continue improving the quality of their processing techniques by building new fermentation tanks, offices and warehouses. They also accept cherry from farmers who are not members, helping all farmers increase their income by improving the quality – and ultimately, the value –  of their coffees.


Coffee has been a central part of the Tanzanian culture and economy since the 16th century. Though its role has changed over the last four centuries, coffee today generates approximately 5% (about $100 million) of the country’s export revenue and employs—directly and indirectly—6% of the population (about 2.4 million people).

Of those employed in coffee, approximately 450,000 people are smallholders who produce more than 90% of Tanzania’s 30,000-40,000 metric tons of coffee grown annually. Smallholder farmers cultivate plots that are typically between 0.5 and 3 hectares in size. The remaining 10% of total production is grown by larger estates that are located predominantly in the Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Mbeya regions.

The harvest season in Tanzania usually lasts from July to December. Green coffee is typically sold either through an auction or directly to buyers. Most coffees ship from two major ports, one in Dar es Salaam and the other in Tanga. The large distances between rural farmers—who are often at high altitudes—and the two ports on the eastern edge of Tanzania makes for a complex coffee supply chain.

Coffee Comes to Tanzania

The arrival of coffee in Tanzania is documented in oral history. The Haya tribe in Northwest Tanzania reportedly brought coffee back from Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia) in the 16th century. This “Haya coffee”, or amwani, was a Robusta variety. Early Tanzanians prepared amwani by boiling unripe cherries with herbs and then smoking the mixture for several days. The resulting cherry mixture could be chewed whole.

The role of coffee in Haya culture was more for cultural functions than daily consumption. Amwani was included in formal greetings, tributes to royals and religious rituals. Coffee use was so carefully restricted that, in order to grow coffee, people needed authorization from the royals. This strict control on coffee growing also increased its value and status by restricting supply and making coffee rarer.

Germans Take Control of Tanzania and Its Coffee Industry

When Germany took control of East Africa in the late 19th century, the colonial government quickly instituted laws that spread coffee planting throughout the region. These laws were intended to force the Haya to enter the cash economy and, in turn, become less independent and more governable. When coffee became ubiquitous, the Haya lost the wealth that came with having a monopoly. These laws also meant that the Germans could export the high-value, high-demand coffee for generous profits.

Similar to Rwanda, Tanzania has only recently become recognized for its specialty coffees. With increasingly better infrastructure, access to washing stations and farmer organization, Tanzania is now consistently producing high-quality specialty-grade coffees.

The North Leads Coffee Production

Coffee in Tanzania was grown almost exclusively in the North for a long time. The Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Tarime, Kagera, Kigoma and Karatu/Ngorongoro regions were prized for their ideal Arabica growing conditions. At the time, coffee production was so concentrated in the north that Moshi, a northern municipality, was the only hub for all coffee milling and sales.

Operations in Moshi grew to truly massive proportions in the 1950s and early-1960s. Since both Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi were under British rule in the post-war decades, Moshi was the second milling and sales hub (after Nairobi, Kenya) for British coffee production.

Even though transportation from the few farms in Southern Tanzania to Moshi could take nearly a week, there just wasn’t enough production to make it economical for the government or private companies to construct mills in the South until the 1970s and 1980s.

Coffee in Tanzania Today

Coffee cultivation has extended southwards in recent years. In addition to the historical powerhouse regions in the north, coffee is now also grown in the southern regions of Ruvuma and Mbeya/Mbozi. Most Southern expansion of coffee growing occurred in the 1970s and 1980s and was encouraged by two projects supported by European backers. In an ironic twist, today 75 to 85% of total coffee production in Tanzania today comes from farms in the south.

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