Rift Valley Coffee

Utengule coffee plantation.

Utengule coffee plantation.

When I am home in the USA, I try not to drink the real stuff, meaning caffeinated coffee after three o’clock in the afternoon, because I think  that it keeps me awake too long at night.  In our house, the after-dinner coffee is always the swiss-water-process-take-the-good-stuff-out-of-the-bean kind.  But here in Tanzania I don’t seem to have the no sleep because of caffeine problem at all.  Our hosts serve dinner at 8pm at night and invariably there is a good cup of arabica coffee at the end of the meal.  Refusal is not an option.  And I sleep like a baby.

This evening we went to the place where the Mwankenjas buy their coffee.  It is grown right on the premises, washed and roasted there and coffee doesn’t get any better than that.  If I got the info right, the plantation is called Utengule and was started by a son of German missionaries a while back.  Now the plantation house is a fabulous hotel and restaurant and the rest of the land is used to grow and process arabica beans which come packaged as Rift Valley Coffee (I am bringing some home with me).  We had dinner in the place with the Mwankenjas and Amani and his wife Blandina-our treat for the gracious hospitality.  The place was full of Western tourists, “white people,”  and our table the only one with locals.  It prompted me to ask whether the good folks of Mbeya ever go to eat there.  “Hardly,” was the reply.  Too expensive.  Maybe once for Christmas or Easter as a super special treat.  It disconcerted me because as I read through the menu I saw that a very nice glass of South African wine was less than two dollars and the tasty main dish I ordered for myself came in at about ten dollars.  At home, I have on occasion spent more for lunch.  I won’t even talk about the final bill because it was almost embarrassingly small for Randy and me.  Economically, this is a very divided world.  Utengule may be in Mbeya, Tanzania, but it belongs in my world rather than the Mwankenjas and the Mwaijandes.

On the other side of the shared meals is the wonderful, real Tanzanian breakfast we had at the Mwankenjas this morning before we headed off for a meeting with the bishop.  Mrs Mwankenja served us boiled African yams (very unlike sweet potatoes), the staple breakfast food that serves as the “bread” in these parts.  She also cooked us some of the eggs her chickens are laying and deep-fried samosas which are quickly becoming one of my favorite African foods.  For days now I have asked to help her clear and wash the dishes but she steadfastly refuses even though an African proverb says that when a guest eats at your table for the third day in a row you give him a hoe and on the fourth day send him out into your field.  She is a wonderful, gracious host.

Tomorrow we are headed to Tukuyu to visit the diocese headquarters, then onto the two hospitals on the territory, and finally Matema Beach at Lake Nyassa.  Another busy day coming up and after all of that, I am sure another night of deep and sound sleep.

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