Arusha, Tanzania

Photo: elewana collection
Photo: elewana collection

It’s taken you a while to explore Tanzania. The largest country in East Africa is home to Mount Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti, Great Lakes, and lots of game reserves. Each trip has ended on an island, usually Pemba Island or semi-autonomous Zanzibar. But this time, you’re not heading toward the Indian Ocean. You’re staying on the mainland.

Arusha sits on the eastern edge of the Great Rift Valley just south of the Kenya border. It was first settled by the Maasai in the 1830s. The Germans and the Brits followed, before Tanzania gained its independence in 1961. Arusha has been an important diplomatic hub—for not just the country, but all of East Africa—ever since.

At the base of Mount Meru, you find a melting pot of backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions. The Natural History Museum and the Arusha Cultural Heritage Centre offer glimpses into Tanzania’s past. Handcrafted souvenirs are sold in the Maasai Market. Blue and colobus monkeys, turacos and trogons, buffalo and warthogs are easily seen in Arusha National Park. While a local lodge concentrates on more than the typical safari experience.

Photo: elewana collection
Photo: elewana collection

Arusha Coffee Lodge focuses on, you guessed it, coffee. The rolling hills around the lodge are lined with emerald coffee bushes. Fat red berries dangle between the green leaves. While the original landowner’s house, built in the early 1900s, is now the lodge’s main building. You arrive to find wooden shingled plantation houses outfitted with coffee percolators, sun terraces, and soaking tubs. A large, open-log fireplace fills the lounge. Monkeys play in the gardens around the pool. Plus a cold coffee drink and a warm towel await you.

After eating pizza made in the outdoor oven and sipping a glass of South African wine in the garden, it’s time for a bean-to-cup coffee estate tour. As you walk around the grounds of the plantation, you see how the coffee plants are grown and harvested. The berries are then dried to become the beans with which you’re familiar. The beans are roasted, ground, and mixed with hot water inside. You not-so-patiently wait as the coffees brew. Their aromas are intoxicating. While with each sip, you become more and more convinced that Tanzania produces the best coffee in the world.

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