Coffee of Madagascar



The heady aroma of roasting coffee wafts through the air around the village, particularly in the afternoon, when the women are busy roasting. Traditionally, coffee brewed in Madagascar is made from roasted coffee beans crushed using a mortar and pestle. The powder is then added to water and brought to the boil before being filtered using a sort of special little sack. In the east of the island, in order to obtain a stronger brew, sugar-cane juice  sometimes replaces water. “Would you like some bread with your coffee?” And you have to choose between mofo gasy (it consists mainly of rice flour and sugar fried within a specific mold. Mofo gasy can also be made with coconut milk), ramanonaka (a classic breakfast dish of yeasted semolina and rice flour batter that`s fried in metal rings rather like English muffins) and menakely (beignets). All are Malagasy specialties taken with the coffee for breakfast. Typical Malagasy coffee does not differentiate between Arabica and Robusta. The only important point is that it has been brewed over a wood fire and is served in a metal cup, giving it a unique flavor.

Coffee is an integral part of the daily life of most Malagasy. It is used as a stimulant and known to have diuretic properties. The coffee grown in Madagascar goes back to the 18th century, when the first coffee beans were brought in. After vanilla and crustaceans, coffee ranks as Madagascar’s third agricultural export product.

This year, April 2019, I was fortunate enough to visit Madagascar again for the second time and meeting great intellectuals behind newly established coffee plantation, Zebu Coffee located in Ampefy, Itasy region, Haja Rasambainarivo and Njaka Ramandimbiarison. I adore those motivated, bright and innovative guys who try to make Madagascar coffee more sustainable and transparent. More about Zebu Coffee you can find here:

The farm is growing, coffee trees in abundance but one issue that did overlook the land of enchantment is leaf rust that makes the life of coffee farmers more challenging and difficult. With climate change and rising temperature the leaf rust triggers alarm of devastation that could potentially effect most coffee producing regions across the globe. Some measures taken at the farm to prevent the spread of this fungal decease that attacks coffee tree. But more precisely, this fungus mainly attacks the leaves of coffee tree and rarely found on coffee cherries. The farm’s main goal is to be organically certified, and, for this reason any type of chemicals to battle leaf rust is not encouraged. But what is the best solution to control leaf rust? Remove all infected parts and destroy them? Remove and destroy all infected plants and replant the area with resistant varieties? There is no right answer to this because at this stage we cannot be 100% positive that new varieties would prevent the attack of fungus even at the higher elevation possible. Removing infected plants and replanting with something new and unfamiliar would take more time and efforts for production to be fulfilled and for crop to be turned into cash. That another 5 years of commitment that can be unpredictable unless you have other business or other cash crop to compensate long waiting time for coffee farm to be more sustainable and more productive.

Zebu coffee stays alert for any changes that might affect coffee production at newly established organic plantation that could provide job opportunities for people involved in specialty coffee chain of Madagascar. Zebu coffee farm also helps to reduce poverty by helping local community to be employed, to grow more, sell more, and sell for more. Farmers make a vital contribution to food security and to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the local communities they belong to.  For Zebu coffee it is the first year of their coffee production, their first busiest time, because it is a harvest period. The manager of coffee plantation is a wonderful agronomist, Luberto Rakatoarisoa, who is very passionate about agronomic aspects of coffee and agriculture in general. Coffee farming is new for him and he puts all his knowledge and efforts to learn more and gain more about coffee production.  He supervises picking process to make sure only ripe cherries selected in order for coffee to be labeled “specialty”. The ripe cherries go through the de-pulping machine. But before de-pulping machine engaged, the first important task is to remove floaters, those cherries that are lighter due to defective beans. The processing method that I tried to encourage Luberto to proceed is pulp natural or natural. There are reasons why it was implemented. First of all, water is one of the main challenge for Africa, water supply is scarce. Second, washing process uses enormous amount of water and releases harmful contaminants into the local water supply. The wastewater that is often released untreated into local waterways is a significant source of contamination of surface water on which millions of people in coffee-growing regions depend on. Based on continuous research I have conducted I more then ever agree with coffee scientists that concluded that “the wastewater from the wet milling process is one of the leading contaminants of local water sources in coffee-growing communities.  The mucilage is so loaded with sugars and pectin that the viscous wastewater is referred to in Spanish as “agua miel,” or “honey water.”  The sugars and pectin in the water are fermenting into acetic acid when they are released into local waterways, where they can only be broken down by oxygen in the water.  But the amount of oxygen needed to break down pollutants in the wastewater – referred to as biological oxygen demand, or BOD – is so high that it exceeds the natural ability of rivers and streams to purify the coffee wastewater effluents.  The net result is an anaerobic effect that threatens marine life and fosters the production of bacteria harmful to human health.”

On the other side, pulp natural and natural process requires no water whatsoever, and, if properly processed, can lead to outstanding cup of coffee with bright acidity and incredible bursting flavors of fruits and berries. This is the task Luberto is assigned to work on, and hopefully when everything is properly done and all necessary steps taken in controlling fermentation and drying phase, the coffee from Zebu coffee farm could change the perception of what Madagascar could offer, not only with the success of such export crops like vanilla, cacao and cloves, but the best specialty coffee full of incredible flavors and mind blowing aroma from the Land of Enchantment.

Mikhail Sebastian

Zebu Coffee Farm. Madagascar (YouTube)





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