Farm: Mimba Estate
Varietal: Bourbon (with some Kent)
Processing: Fully washed & sun dried in raised beds
Altitude: 1,400 to 1,770 metres above sea level
Owner: Joseph Meila
Town / City: Mbozi
Overall: Oak, caramel, toffee
Mimba AA - Tanzania
Mimba Estate, located in the green hills of Mbozi, Mbeya in Southwest Tanzania, was established in 1995 by Joseph Meila, a Swiss immigrant who arrived in Tanzania almost a decade earlier. Joseph initially planted about 100 hectares of Bourbon on the land and has, over the past three decades, expanded production to cover the full 160 hectares of the farm. His experience has been fundamental to the success of the farm, and he consistently produces coffee of the highest quality.
Although Joseph and his team at Mimba use the most stringent cultivation and processing methods, the farm was actually never intended as a profit-making venture. Rather, Joseph founded Mimba with the raison d'être of creating local jobs and contributing to Mbeya’s economy. During the harvest season, the Estate provides employment to more than 150 people who live in the surrounding region. Food grown on the Estate is provided to the workers free of charge, and the community is further supported through various year-round work opportunities. Furthermore, the Estate provides training and resources to coffee farmers living nearby; farmers frequently come to learn best agronomic and processing practices; and all training is provided at zero costs to participants.
Mimba produces around 60 tonnes of parchment annually, and the coffee is normally sold at the Tanzanian Coffee Auction. In 2012, however, the farm was hit by a particularly bad case of Coffee Berry Disease (CBD), to which his nearly 100% Bourbon trees were very susceptible. Since then, Joseph has begun to introduce new, more resistant varieties. In 2012 alone, he replaced 30% of the farm’s trees and has continued replacing every other bourbon row with a row of a different variety. Mixing varieties like this stems the disease if there is an outbreak while ensuring that some of the older/heirloom varieties are kept.
Joseph is committed to farming as organically as possible. The farm operates a pruning schedule, which promotes tissue rejuvenation and which ensures the vitality of the trees. Trees are pruned every 5 years and then stumped every 20 years. Organic matter is encouraged to grow amongst the trees through mulching, which help conserve water, reduce the use of glyphosate (weed killer) and increases absorption of compost and fertilizer. Primarily, organic fertilizer is used - such as manure and compost produced from cherry pulp - however NPK is also applied sparingly where needed.
All coffee on the farm is selectively hand picked and sorted to remove any damaged or underripe cherries before pulping. Picking on the farm is incredibly stringent, and the harvest season at Mimba lasts nearly two months, with 3 to 4 passes being done for each tree. After hand-sorting the coffee is delivered to flotation tanks, where any underweight or damaged cherries are again removed. After this, the coffee passes through a Penagos pulper which extracts some of the mucilage from the berries, which are then transported by water to a wet fermentation tank where they sit for roughly 12 hours (depending on weather conditions) - or until the mucilage is removed. Coffee is then washed using cold, clean water through channels where it is sorted into P1 and P2 weight categories. Once washed the coffee is taken in buckets from the density-sorting channel to the drying tables where the parchment is then air dried for at least 7 days. The coffee is turned regularly and covered with netting during the heat of the day.
The rainfall in the area has also decreased in recent years, and in 2014 the rains came very late, which didn't coincide with the flowering of the crops and meant that the size of coffee cherries were very small. In addition the price of coffee in 2015 was very low due to market factors. These challenges are ones that Joseph plans to meet to ensure the future viability of the farm.