Did you know that specialty tea is grown on Mount Kilimanjaro? In this series, we meet the business minds behind organically grown coffee and tea surrounded by the beauty of nature on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
Who are the founders of the business?
There are two divisions of the business.
- The Coffee business, Machare Coffee Kilimanjaro was founded by Jeremy& Janet Lefroy and Bente Luther-Medoch- Ralph Medoch.
- The Tea business, Specialty Tea Kilimanjaro was founded by Bente Luther-Medoch- Ralph Medoch and John Mbatia.
Cover photo: meet the dream team.
What year was your business founded and what was your mission at the outset
I am Bente Luther-Medoch and I arrived in Tanzania in 1992 from Germany with my husband who is a coffee trader.
COFFEE BUSINESS: The Coffee Farm is leased land owned by the Government of Tanzania. We leased it in 1998 and I became in charge in 2001. I was a Dance teacher and Artist until then. I learnt everything from scratch from a very good friend, a Kenyan (Peter Gethi). After 3 Years I was the first farm certified in Tanzania and 4 years later I became the first farm Rainforest Alliance certified in 2007 in Africa. Tea years later I started looking into organic Agriculture, which is what I am still doing. My original job was to check on the accounts and continue with that but along the way I became a farmer.
Img: coffee cherries
TEA BUSINESS: The tea business is very dear to me and this is how it started. I always wondered why there was no Tea grown on Kilimanjaro. I was told it does not grow but I could not accept that and planted a small trial field having no clue how to process Tea. Three years later the first leaf was ready to be plucked in 2015. This encouraged me to start studying more on tea processing on the internet. I continued to do trials in my kitchen with the learnings as my goal was to make real handmade tea that is traditionally processed but leaving the leaf whole. After three months a friend took samples to Germany. I had made Green tea, Oolong tea, Black tea and Silver Needles and the feedback was very positive which encouraged me to continue. After another year there was more demand and as I was not able to expand my Tea garden on Kilimanjaro quick enough, I began buying leaf from Smallholder Farmers in Usambara Mountain region of Tanzania. Today I have been encouraged to plant more tea on Kilimanjaro by the regional Commissioner of Kilimanjaro which became a significant milestone. I always feel the need to innovate in new ways, so I am now also making Tea from the leaf of Coffeetrees and from the coffee Flower, as well as from the Coffee Cherry.
Img: green tea
How did you come up with the idea and name for your company?
Blue Mountain Coffee Farms is the Name of the Company that runs Machare Estate where the
Tropical Treasures is the company that sells the Tea. We were looking for a catchy name that will not limit us to one product. By the way, I also do Jewelry and other handcrafted items (samples below), I hope we can feature the accessories business soon on vieews.com 😉
Image: future jewelry business goal sample
Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I became first an entrepreneur when I was 25 years old and opened my own dance studio in Germany at that time. I was an Entrepreneur ever since.
What is the best part of being able to get coffee and tea from the mount Kilimanjaro surroundings?
The Kilimanjaro offers a nice Microclimate and together with the volcanic soil it makes the taste of our Tea and Coffee very special and unique. The Problem is to be frank with you is that Tanzania is not well known for specialty tea. It is my mission to bring Tanzanian tea onto the world map of Specialty Teas.
What has been your proudest moment so far in the business?
In Coffee: When I became Organic certified, as it is common opinion, that for Estates it is sort of impossible, as costs will be too high, and productivity will go down. This did not discourage me, I did it anyway ;-))
In Tea: When I got the first time the feedback from Germany that they had never tasted such a high-quality Tea from Africa.
All tea are hand selected
How can users buy your products? Are they available at Retailers or Wholesale specialty supply?
So far, no Retailers are selling my product, but I can supply in Wholesale. Also, ready smaller packages are available in wholesale.
What is the best part of being an entrepreneur?
I can have an idea and do it. I do not need to ask and go through numerous meetings and write-ups until I can do it. My shareholders are trusting me 100%. If I want to do it, I do it, and immediately. I do carry the responsibility of course because no risk, no fun.
Can you tell us a bit about the process of getting coffee and tea ready for the market and what kind of training did you require prior to starting your business?
OK in general: I am the self-training type. I read and can try, then continue to learn by experimenting until I get it right.
In Coffee: In coffee I got an informal training of our friend Peter Gethi. The rest of the way, I learned on the job and by reading up as much as I could.
In Tea: As already discussed previously in the article, to get the tea making process right, I read a lot with experimenting, and tasted a lot from the trials of course 😉
Today there are many videos online about tea processing, but then there were very few good ones and they are not able to show the full process but huge machines.
The processing itself is of course complex, but I will try to keep the process brief.
Coffee Processing: Coffee grows best on a higher level of altitude like for example the Kilimanjaro. After about nine to ten months of growing in the field, it will be hand plucked when it is dark red. It is being pulped and fermented and afterwards washed. After washing it is hand sorted and later dried in the sun only. At that stage it is still surrounded by a parchment skin. This skin will be mechanically removed, but by that time the coffee has left the farm already. Some of this service is subcontracted out, and they also grade the coffee into different sizes.
It is the called Green Coffee and as Green Coffee, it will be exported to Europe, Japan and the US. As you can see, it is not sold as roasted coffee, as it is bought by roasters who pride themselves on the roasting process and would want to carry out the roasting themselves. We have a small local roasting business commencing soon to serve the African market.
Tea Processing: Black Tea, Green Tea, Ooolong Tea and Silver Needles, all come from the same Bush. It just depends on the processing.
- Green tea is steamed as it is still very crisp and thereafter immediately rolled and dried, so it does not change its color. We want it to be still green, when hot water is poured onto it.
- All other teas will first thing after plucking wither for 24 hours approx. Thereafter it is being rolled and then fermented. It now depends on the fermentation time what kind of tea you want. Black must be fully fermented until its red like rust (it is also called oxidization)
- Only the Silver Needles will not be rolled at all. They are the finest tea. The buds are by hand removed from the leaves and after withering it will be immediately dried. Of course, there are many variations, but this will be too long.
Where would you like the business to be in 2, 5, 10 years’ time?
For Coffee: the business is quite well settled, but of course we have had a head start here of 20 years.
I just hope that the climate will hold up and let us grow coffee here.
I hope our Local Roasting business will thrive and we can supply to Hotels and private customers and tourists.
For Tea: I would really like to put Tanzania onto the Map of Tea Origins for specialty teas.
I hope we can sell tea wholesale all over the world and make The Kilimanjaro/ the nearby Usambara mountain range not only known for its excellent coffee but also its excellent Tea.
Happy Tea pickers.
Thank you for the opportunity to talk about the business. You can discover our specialty tea here:
- Website: www.macharecoffee.de
- Instagram Coffee: @machare_coffee_kilimanjaro
- Instagram Tea: @speciality_tea_kilimanjaro
Obsessing over African businesses and entrepreneurs, join our obsession… subscribe below for updates to new African business inspirational blog posts.
Want us to blog about your African businesses? Tell us your story here
Follow us on social media to stay tuned to the latest African business and fashion trends from the following handles:
• Instagram: @officialvieews
• Facebook: @officialvieews
• Twitter: @officialvieews