Region: Southern Highlands of Malawi
Owner: Small Holding Farmers
Varietal: SL28, Catimor
Processing: Wet Processed
Tasting Notes: Citrus fruits and green apples over sweet brown sugar notes. Bright clean cup, silky smooth body with a long toffee finish.
Roasting Notes: Full City Roast
Malawi AA Pamwamba Estate - Per Kg
This coffee is grown near the town of Namadzi in the southern Highlands of Malawi, an area better known for producing world class teas. Coffee has been grown here only since the early 1980′s, but with increasing sophistication. The coffee trees, consisting mainly of Catimor and to a lesser extent SL 28 varietals, grow in clay loam at 1200 meters above sea level. The coffee farms all maintain programs to subsidize the cost of housing, health care and education for workers and their families.
Planting coffee is also a soil conservation measure in these areas, where erosion is a widespread problem, as the bushes are planted in contour lines therefore controlling run-off and reducing soil loss. Coffee is mainly planted by smallholders, so it is often inter-cropped with other species in order to supply food to the household. Recently some farmers have started to plant macadamia trees, which can constitute another lucrative income source.
Cherries are harvested at dawn and brought to pulperies before early afternoon. Careful washing and grading is carried out on the same day before the wet parchment settles into separate fermenting tanks. Interesting to note that this Coffee (as with most coffee from Malawi) is transported through Mozambique for shipment from Port of Beira on the Indian Ocean.
Malawi´s history as a producing country began in 1891, when the first coffee plants were introduced by English colonialists. In approximately 1930, some missionaries brought back seeds from the north of the country where small producers bought them and resold parchment coffee to the same missionaries. The first cooperatives were set up in the 50s with the support of the British government, which began to supply small growers with plants. This is how in 1957 the Misuku Coffee Growers Cooperative Society came into being, exporting coffee via Moshi in Tanzania.
Independence in 1964 brought about the disappearance of cooperatives and left room for ADMARC (Agricultural Development Marketing Corporation), which did however retain much of the profits at the expense of smaller farmers. This led the Ministry of Agriculture to establish the Smallholder Coffee Authority (SCA) in 1971, which was charged with providing services and loans to small landowners in northern Malawi. However, the SCA did not fulfil the expected targets due to several internal conflicts and poor resources´ management. Farmers could only receive 20% of the proceeds of their sales, while the remaining 80% was used to cover the Authority´s expenses. In 1999, after racking up a debt equivalent to $ 100,000, the SCA was privatized and transformed into the Smallholder Coffee Farmers Trust (SCFT). It worked to support small cultivators through development programmes of coffee production and crop diversification, to carry them towards a new system of cooperatives. The introduction of the hybrid variety Catimor instigated the greatest development, with its high resistance and excellent yield in a short space of time. In 2007, after a consultation amid the cultivators, SCFT was transformed into Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative Union (MZCPCU), a system which integrated the main cooperatives from the different production areas and whereby the cultivators could – for the first time – have their quotas.
Nowadays, Malawi´s production is largely constituted by large tracks of land, cultivated intensively, and only 20% of the total is at the hands of small producers. In addition to Catimor, other cultivars cultivated in Malawi include Gesha, SL28, Agaro and Bourbon. In recent years producers have been incentivized to cultivate the more highly prized Gesha and SL28 varieties, which can yield larger rewards.