Region: Mangochi, Southern Malawi
Farm Name: Sable Farm
Certifications: Rainforest Alliance
Tasting Notes: Ginger Nuts, Peach, Green Tea
Coffee has been grown on Sable Farm in Southern Malawi for over 30 years alongside dairy and macadamia nuts. Sable Farming Company Ltd. is the only existing incorporated coffee producer in Malawi.
The History of Coffee in Malawi
Just a little smaller than Mississippi, Malawi is a landlocked country and yet is home to over 400 miles of lakefront land. One-third of Malawi is taken up by Lake Malawi, one of the world’s deepest lakes, reflecting the altitudes that borders its shores. Coffee first came to Malawi in 1878 and was grown by both local farmers and Europeans, but production and exports were nominal until the 1950’s when the government distributed seeds in an effort to encourage an increase in cash crops for export. This effort was primarily focused on farmers in the northernmost highlands on the border with Tanzania, the “Misuku Hills.” Enough small farmers started growing coffee that in 1957 they formed the Misuku Coffee Growers Cooperative Society, which is still in operation today.
Growing Coffee in Malawi
Like Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and eastern Zambia, Malawi is part of the East African Rift Valley which, geologically and as far as coffee is concerned, means ideal altitudes and volcanic soil. In addition to the many smallholder farms of the Misuku Hills in the highlands of northern Malawi above the shores of Lake Malawi, there are a handful of larger estates in the south on what explorer Dr. Livingstone dubbed the “Shire Plateau,” also known as the Shire Highlands. The small coffee farmers of central and northern Malawi have a long tradition of forming cooperatives, or “Unions” of farmers. Compared to tobacco, sugar, and tea, coffee production has always been small, less than 5% of exports, but that number is growing as a focus on quality processing for the specialty market increases and farmers are incentivized by better prices.