The Burka Coffee Estate is located on the outskirts of Arusha National Park, on the leeward side of Mount Meru. It's just 80 KM west of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. Situated close to the Kenyan border, this north-westerly region of Tanzania is famous for the coffee it produces.
Burka Coffee Estate was founded in 1899 by German settlers just outside the town of Arusha in northern Tanzania. The neighbouring Selian Estate was established in 1910, and it was acquired by Burka in 1991. The first coffee trees were planted in 1918, and they now number some 1.3 million trees. They're mostly shade-grown varietals. Three hundred and fourteen acres are reserved for forests. A further 250 acres are reserved as natural grasslands.
There are around 200 permanent staff at Burka, a further 200 casual daily staff, and up to 5,000 temporary staff involved in picking and sorting at the height of harvest season. All permanent staff are provided with housing on the estates, and their salary is set at least 20% above minimum government requirements.
Staff have social security and labour union membership included in their contracts, and an estate credit union also offer loans and advice for education, health, and house construction. Each estate has its own nursery, each of which educates over 100 children, and two primary schools also cater for over 600 children from the estate workers' families and neighbouring communities. An on-site health centre with estate nurse and dispensary is available for all staff, and the estate has its own ambulance. It also has shops, sport facilities, churches, and a mosque.
Regular inter-estate and inter-camp football and netball matches occur, along with staff BBQs and other holiday celebrations. Workers are supplied with free firewood from stumped coffee trees, and fruit and nut trees are grown around the staff villages.
The staff at Burka have a combined wealth of agronomic experience, and over the course of many decades the estates have built a reputation for consistent production of fine Arabica coffees characterised by mild acidity with flavours of lemon, chocolate, and caramel.
Harvesting is carried out between the months of May and October. It's done by selective hand-picking of red ripe cherries, which is followed by further hand-sorting to remove any over- or under-ripe cherries. Cherries are then dried slowly on raised African beds for 12–14 days. The cherries are carefully maintained through consistent turning to ensure even drying and to avoid over-fermentation. They are covered at night to protect them from excess rain and moisture. Once the cherries have dried to the optimum moisture content, they are sent to Moshi for hulling, grading by bean size, and careful handpicking. They're then bagged in GrainPro for export from the port in the capital city, Dar Es Salaam.
In the cup this is a big, chewy coffee with loads of liquorice and a creamy finish. As it cools, look out for prunes and a hint of tobacco leaf.