Coffee Investigations in Malawi
If you like (or love) coffee then in each country you visit the first thing you do is to find a good coffee place. I need to admit that it was not so easy to do it in Malawi though.
Why? Because I was mostly living in the poor rural areas of the country.
After visiting some places owned by Italians in the city of Blantyre and the capital Lilongwe I was not so sure if I could really feel the taste of the local beans. So I decided to do a small investigation by myself. Coffee production in Malawi doesn’t have old roots, it was only brought to Malawi by missionaries in the 1930s, but the land had very good conditions for growing coffee beans and even now organic fertilizer is used most of the time, so surely there should be some great coffee out there…
On my mission to find the best and most authentic Malawian coffee I started by buying all of the local coffee brands. Here I will write about a few of them and one special estate.
The Satemwa brand was the most expensive coffee and has great advertising, but I was a little bit disappointed by the flavour. The estate is located in a wonderful place not far away from Mulanje mountain and with a high level of tourism. But the coffee was definitely not the best I had in Malawi, maybe because the coffee is only grown at an altitude of 900 – 1000m above sea level and it gives it a slightly acidic taste. So if you are buying coffee in Malawi then you really shouldn’t believe in the idea that if the price is higher the coffee will taste better.
Makandi Tea & Coffee Estates
I am mentioning Makandi because I had an interesting visit to this company that now produces tea and macadamia nuts. They used to produce coffee, but now it is not possible anymore for them to grow the beans because of the results of climate change. Together with some friends we had an amazing private tour of the macadamia nut factory and got to know a bit about how this big international business is run locally by a great team.
I came to the conclusion that my favourite brand is Mzuzu coffee from the north of Malawi. The coffee is produced at an altitude of between 1000 and 2000m above sea level, which gives it a mellower and less acidic taste. After I did a little research about this coffee I realized that it is already quite a well known brand, but still not nearly as popular around the world as it deserves to be.
I really like the taste of Mzuzu coffee but the thing I love is not only the flavour of the beans, also the idea and philosophy behind it. The company is actively aiming for development in one of the poorest countries in the world. Every smallholder coffee farmer they work with is guaranteed the following benefits:
- Decent Accommodation – A house with an iron roof, cement floor, plastered walls and adequate ventilation.
- Food Security – Three decent meals a day.
- Adequate warmth – Quality clothing for the family and adequate bedding.
- Education – All children sent to reasonable level schools.
What do I like the most about the coffee from Mzuzu? It is not highly acidic and has a soft but strong and intense flavour. I am not an expert, but I believe the reason behind this is due to the geographical position, the coffee fields are relatively high above sea level, where the climate is predominantly temperate and fairly humid.
I had the idea to bring some Malawian coffee back to Europe and specifically to my homeland of Lithuania. We had a coffee tasting evening at a small and very active coffee bar ‘Kavamanija’ in the heart of Kedainiai, a town famous for trade from many centuries ago. Together with the coffee tasting I prepared a small exhibition about education and my experiences of working as a teacher in Malawi.