Starbucks Black Apron Terranova Estate

by on April 7, 2007

I have commented on two previous Starbucks Black Apron selections (Sulawesi Kopi Kampung and Ethiopia Gemadro Estate), so I may as well keep going. The latest Black Apron coffee is Terranova Estate from Zambia.

Recall that the Black Apron Exclusives are limited offerings that are described by Starbucks as being rare, exotic, distinctive, or unique in some way. Farmers receive a cash award of $15,000 for community projects.

As far as I can recall, this is the only coffee I’ve seen from Zambia. This country lags behind the big players on the African coffee scene, such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Tanzania.  Zambia is a land-locked country, and at times its coffee has suffered from transportation problems getting to and sitting at port. Coffee is not a traditional crop in Zambia, which first began exporting only about 15 years ago in an effort to diversify the economy. The majority (greater than 95%) of Zambian coffee comes from the 30 to 50 large commercial coffee farms. About 40% of Zambian coffee is grown in the northeastern part of the country, the southern Mazabuka region accounts for about just under 50%.

So, what about the Terranova Estate? Terranova is one of the large estates, at 1000 hectares, of which about 20% is in coffee.  It supports a small village of 300 people year-round, and employs 2,500 people during peak harvest time. Terranova is located in the upper Kaleya Valley near the town of Mazabuka. The altitude is around 1000-1200 meters, at the low end of the arabica growing range.

During the European colonial era, when Zambia was known as Northern Rhodesia, large farms run by whites produced food for local consumption. Many European plantation owners left the country when it gained independence in 1964.  The Street family had been farming in the area for decades when they acquired Terranova in the mid-1980s.  In addition to other crops, including cut flowers for export, they began farming coffee with the help of financing from a number of sources, including the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, and the EU’s Export Development Programme.

The eco-friendliness of the estate is a bit hard to assess. Because coffee farming is relatively “new” in Zambia, the more modern techniques of pulp composting, water conservation, and natural pest control are often practiced. Southern Zambia has a very prolonged dry season, so coffee requires irrigation. In the case of Terranova, water is provided by at least one dam on the Kaleya River that was built by the Street family, as well as other advanced irrigation systems. However, there was nothing on the Terranova web site regarding their farming practices or sustainability measures.  The site does say that the “Estate contributes heavily to the wildlife management of the Lower Zambezi National Park.”

The export revenue as well as seasonal jobs provided by coffee is important to Zambia.  Zambia is one of the poorest nations in the entire world. Although I’m uncertain about biodiversity preservation measures at Terranova, there is a connection between poverty and environmental exploitation — and fighting poverty can preserve ecosystems. Terranova provides many jobs, and has constructed a school on the estate that has over 200 students.  It may very well be that this enterprise is a worthy cause to support.

As far as the coffee itself, Coffee Review pretty much flunked coffee from Terranova in 1999, calling it flat and woody. But according to Sweet Maria’s, 1999 was not a good year for Zambian coffee. Things have apparently improved.  Although not a fan of dark roasts, the Star[bucks]ling said that the Starbucks Terranova was incredibly complex, and fruity flavors emerging in stages as it cooled: blueberry, orange, apricot, and plum, with blueberry dominating.  He said it was “very African, like a fine, rich, wine,” and quite impressive.

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Revised on March 23, 2014

Posted in Africa,Coffee reviews,Retail and specialty roasters,Starbucks

Warren Street May 23, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Wow, we are very excited to have made it to your website. Thanks very much for reviewing the coffee and posting your very kind comments regarding it's outstanding cup. We apologize for the cost of the coffee, however we had nothing to do with the pricing structure. Whilst your research is fairly accurate I feel it necessary to correct some errors. Being family owned and operated we don't have an army of PR folks to defend us from the inaccuracies often found on the web.
All of the farm is well above 4000ft – it's been measured.
When the land was purchased in 1985 there was nothing on it but fallow farmland. The land had been poorly managed by Zambian farmers. Overgrazing and poor crop rotation mainly contributed to this.
Nearly all our water comes from underground. The rest comes from 3 small holding dams none of which are on the Kaleya river. These dams fill during the rainy season. All the damns have been stocked with native bream to support the many species of birds living around the dams as well as supplement the diets of the villagers.
As mentioned we do contribute heavily to the management of the Lower Zambezi National Park, but you should also know that we have a small 400 acre preserve on the farm itself. In the preserve you can find Zebra, Impala, Kudu, Ostrich, Waterbuck, Duiker, Bushbuck, Oribi as well as many other different animal and bird species.
The school is now almost 400 students strong and growing every year. We are currently building a library and a new 8th grade classroom. We have become a sister school to Woodward Academy in Atlanta GA and they have provided emmense support for the school and the students. It is indeed a worthy cause.
Whilst Coffee Review did give a poor cupping result we feel that the huge improvements we've made over the last 8 years have improved the cup quality substantially. We grow about 600 tons of coffee a year of which only 120 was purchased by Starbucks. The rest is sold to Europe and Japan. The buyers in Europe are very concerned with the sustainability of our coffee and we are subject to a 2 week audit every year to ensure we meet their exacting standards.
The $15,000 donated by Starbucks is currently building a clinic. We will be one of the very first farms in Zambia to issue AVR's to HIV patients. Additionally the clinic will have a maternity ward.

As a family we are very concerned with the fragile ecosystems, not only on the farm but elsewhere in Zambia. We strive to do the best we can to ensure that we don't damage the wonderful natural resources we currently have. We are a family of wildlife enthusiasts however we are a minority in Zambia. By building the school and teaching Zambians to look after their heritage we stand a better chance of properly conserving Zambia's natural resources.
Many thanks
Warren Street.

Caroline M. Brown September 22, 2007 at 7:07 am

I have found this to be one of the best coffees' I have ever tasted. I hope I can continue to purchase this Zambia Terranova Estate 2007. As a regular at our local starbucks, I have not noticed this particular type on the shelves. Please help me to locate this brand if you are not going to carry it.

BirdBarista September 22, 2007 at 7:45 pm

This isn't a Starbucks web site, nor do I carry any coffee. If you click through the links in the post directly to the Terranova Estate, there will be information available at their web site where to purchase their coffee. And it will be much cheaper than from Starbucks.

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