Arusha Coffee Lodge – A Lot More Than Just a Cup of Java!
By Donnie Sexton
GoNOMAD Senior Writer
When I first laid eyes on that beautiful freestanding pearly white bathtub, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. A bubble bath is always my go-to for relaxation and mediation.
It had been 45 hours, and three plane rides since I left my home in Montana to reach the Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania.
It’s the price you pay for living where travel outside of the US requires getting to a major airport first. This was my second trip to Tanzania.
I knew that the safari I was about to undertake involved long days of bumpy, dusty roads in the Serengeti in my quest to observe and photograph wildlife.
Burka Coffee Estate
I wanted to rest up and be ready for the adventure, so a bit of R&R at the luxurious Arusha Coffee Lodge was my ticket to start the journey.
The Lodge sits on the Burka Coffee Estate near the city of Arusha. There are 30 plantation houses nestled into the coffee bushes at the Lodge, with enough distance between each to deliver a true sense of privacy.
My bungalow was warm and inviting in rich wood tones with a small sitting area, a big-screen TV, and the makings for French press coffee at my disposal.
There was an enclosed private deck with a fireplace and chaise lounges.
My queen-sized bed was draped in netting as a precaution against mosquito bites, although these pesky insects were never an issue.
But it was the oversized bathroom, with that alluring tub, an array of toiletries, and a shower with a rain head that won me over.
Grateful to be Working Again
Like much of the world, the dreadful 2020 year of COVID ground to a halt Tanzania’s tourism business and my international travel.
As such, I found a nurturing staff at the Coffee Lodge sincerely happy to take care of me, grateful to be working again. I was more than elated to be back exploring on foreign soil.
After a long soak, a restful night’s sleep, and a hearty breakfast, I reminded myself I was at the Lodge to chillax before my safari.
But the notion of sitting on my deck and reading quickly dissipated when I looked over the menu of activities at the Coffee Lodge.
A massage was a must, as I typically have one wherever my travels take me.
The staff suggested I include their signature exfoliating scrub that, unsurprisingly, featured coffee grounds mixed in with the scrubbing mixture.
In a word – the scrub and massage were delicious – leaving me feeling like a limp noodle but ready to check out the Bean-to-Cup Coffee Estate Tour on-site at the Lodge.
A gentleman named Anuary spent a good hour with me as we wandered among the coffee bushes.
I learned about the origins of coffee and the process of growing and harvesting beans. Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia by a 52-year-old man named Kalid in the 16th century.
Goats Eat Red Berries
The village goats would eat red berries (coffee beans) from the trees and then be up all night making plenty of noise.
Puzzled by the goats’ behavior, Kalid boiled up some red berries, drank the mixture, and like the goats, couldn’t sleep.
Eventually, he and the villagers became addicted to the drink, which found its way to other countries by way of trading goods.
Whether or not the story is 100 percent accurate or part legend, Anuary spoke with such conviction and clarity I found myself soaking up every word.
The tour ended with Anuary brewing freshly roasted beans and pouring us each a cup to savor. What I did learn is there are two kinds of coffee, Arabica and Robusta.
Arabica (grown at the Lodge) grows at high altitudes – 100 meters and above, while Robusta grows below 100 meters.
The highlight of my day was time spent at Shanga, an open-air workshop on the grounds of the Coffee Lodge that employees people with disabilities who create unique and high-end artisan products.
The workshop is open seven days a week, and visitors are more than welcome to take a tour and join in on the activities.
At the different stations, weaving, jewelry making, glass blowing, and beading were underway.
There was very little verbal communication with the artists, but I found that a smile coupled with genuine interest conveyed my admiration for their talents.
These were craftsmen and women, whose abilities, rather than their disabilities, were on display.
I took to heart their motto attributed to Mark Twain. “Kindness is a language blind people see and deaf people hear.”
I thought back to my hometown, where we have a business that employs folks with disabilities to stuff envelopes or assemble cardboard boxes for shipping. In a word – mundane work.
But at Shanga, I saw these individuals as artists, proudly sharing through gestures what they were creating.
Much of what was crafted at Shanga came from recycling trash, making this a win-win social enterprise committed to environmentally sustainable practices.
Dinner at the Bistro
I headed to The Bistro for dinner, where bartender John Isack was keen on making me the signature Coffee Lodge cocktail, a blend of Amarula Cream, tequila, espresso coffee, and cream.
As expected, the food at the Lodge was distinctive and delicious, including my choice of Lemongrass chicken in a fragrant coconut broth served with crispy vermicelli noodles.
The Lodge offers day trips to nearby Arusha National Park and to the Ngorongoro Crater for the opportunity to see some of Tanzania’s epic wildlife.
Visiting the Famous Crater
The Ngorongoro Crater is a vast volcanic caldera formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed on itself some two to three million years ago.
These day trips are perfect for the guest who isn’t headed out on a multi-day safari, yet wants to experience the wild side of Tanzania.
The Arusha Coffee Lodge is part of the Elewana Collection of 16 luxury lodges found throughout Tanzania and Kenya.
I respect this group of properties for their commitment to responsible tourism and for giving back to their local communities.
Their Land & Life Foundation helps to ensure that future generations can experience the wonders of Africa and its people.
After my experience at the Coffee Lodge, I’ve made it my goal with future accommodations to seek out properties with a social conscience and those making an effort to reduce their carbon footprint.
It had been a coffee-infused visit at the Arusha Coffee Lodge, from my French press coffee to start my day, to coffee grounds incorporated into my massage, the coffee plantation tour, and finally, my signature coffee cocktail.
I was ready for the safari, although the idea of just hanging out at the Coffee Lodge for a few days seemed very appealing.
My only regret was not being able to return to the Lodge at the end of my safari and have another day to unwind before I headed back to my real world in Montana.