Farm: JKT Itende
Varietal: N39, Bourbon, Kent
Processing: Fully washed, sun dried
Altitude: 1,652 meters above sea level for both CPU and farm
Owner: Tanzanian National Youth Service
Town / City: Mbeya
Overall: Apricot, blackberry, molasses
Itende AA/AB - Tanzania
In addition to offering a well-balanced cup full of blackcurrant, this Itende JKT coffee has a fascinating back story and is helping at-risk young people make a better future for themselves.
Itende JKT coffees are produced through the Tanzanian Army’s National Youth Program. The National Service – or Jeshi la Kujenga Taifa (JKT) in Swahili – offers alternatives to young people who have neither the opportunities nor the resources to access higher education. The programme is voluntary, and young people who inscribe are taught life-skills that enhance their ability to gain employment and income in areas such as agriculture, masonry, carpentry and entrepreneurship.
While the programme has multiple ‘camps’ across the country, the Itende camp is special in its focus on agriculture – and coffee in particular. The programme’s coffee plantations extend across 200 acres, and, in addition to using the TaCRI (Tanzanian Coffee Research Institute) seedlings that have been gifted to the programme, they have built their own nursery in which they have begun to cultivate their own seedlings. Through the land, there is a very healthy looking stream which is a vital source of fresh, clean water. In fact, considering the rural environs, it is surprising that Itende is located only 1.5 km from the city center of Mbeya – another feature that makes it attractive to the young people who attend.
Young people from all over the country attend the programme – usually for 3 to 6 months – and those who show initiative can apply for employment immediately after finishing their training. Most of those attending the Itende camp are from impoverished urban areas who, without the programme and the skills and self-confidence it conveys, would not be able to find gainful, lasting employment. In addition to training in coffee cultivation, they learn skills in farming other agricultural crops (maize, beans and sunflower) and in carpentry and masonry. Although they receive no quality assessment training at this time, the Tanzania Coffee Board and the Taylor Winch dry mill to which Itende delivers provide quality guidance and feedback.
The south of the country has not traditionally been a hot-spot for Tanzanian coffee. Perhaps in light of this, although the camp has grown coffee since 1968 (from the very beginning of the JKT programmes), current yields are quite low - about 50 tonnes in total for the 200 acres – due to aging tree-stock and partial abandonment of much of the coffee-growing land. However, Mercanta’s exporting partner in Tanzania has been central in helping the camp’s leaders to develop a coffee-growing programme that will secure access to speciality markets. In addition to providing training in agronomy and marketing (transferable skills for the young people involved), the programme receives training on all aspects of cultivation and processing in order to build the foundations for higher quality coffee and increased yields in this often overlooked coffee-growing area of Tanzania. With this support, Itende JKT plan to radically improve their productivity over the next 3-5 years, increasing their production to 150 tonnes.
This coffee was wet-milled at Itende JKT’s mill on the same day that it is harvested. First, the coffee cherry was sorted in cement tanks filled with water. Floaters (including lighter-weight cherries that may have damage and under-ripe cherries) are removed. The cherries were then pulped using a four disc pulper and subsequently washed through grading channels. The parchment was then dry-fermented for between 48-72 hours (where it is turned once or twice during that period) and then washed and spread to dry on raised beds. In 2014, from the 27th to the 30th of October, the wet-mill processed some 22 tonnes of parchment coffee.
All Itende JKT’s coffee is sold through the auctions. The income that is generated through the activities of the camp (such as sales of coffee) is then fed back into the programme so that it can continue to function.