Today, the 1001 Organic farmers organised a training to teach all members of the cooperatives the best methods to harvest cinnamon. Mr. Mataka who is the chairman of the cooperative ‘Daya Cooperative Society’ as well as the most experienced among our farmers showed in a practical presentation every step of the process. Starting off, it is important that the branches of the cinnamon tree get soaked in water before so that the bark can be easily separated from the wood.
After the outer bark has been carefully scraped off, the cinnamon bark can be peeled offt. The next step in the process is drying these bark rings in the sun. While drying, the rings roll up into the typical cinnamon rolls shape.
It’s one of those spices that you may have a particular memory of… The moment when you might accidentally bite on it in a typical Swahili curry and your taste buds get catapulted over the roof. Peacefully sipping a mulled wine on a cold December evening back in Europe with the distinct flavour of the wine which has been brewing for hours filled with cinnamon, vanilla, orange.. and clove! Would you know where these spices might be coming from? I was lucky enough to get a first hand answer, after having been invited by 1001 Organic to join them on a trip to Pemba, an island 25 mins flight north of Zanzibar.
We were there to meet the farmers, see their various fields of vanilla plants, cinnamon trees, black pepper and particularly the current clove harvest coming along. And there is literally no running away from the subtle smell of Christmas during this month of October.
Blankets upon blankets full of cloves spreading along the streets of Pemba, in shades of white to red to brown to black, drying in the glistening sun waiting to reach the perfect condition to be packed and shipped across the world, to sooner or later potentially reach my favourite Christmas market? Despite traffic being sporadic on the island, I was glad to hear from Bakari Mshamata, who is heading one of the two collectives of farmers that 1001 Organic is buying their spices from, that since having been accredited with the EU organic farming certificate, the collective prides itself with drying their cloves not along the roads where car fumes could minder the quality of the spice, but along clear fields, far away from the occasional traffic.
While Bakarie gave us a tour of his land, I also learned that the clove trade is traditionally strongly regulated by the government which buys off the cloves from farmers at a standard price, while the collectives now working with 1001 Organic are able to obtain a premium price for their products, having gone the extra mile and growing all their spice along organic farming standards.
Having been presented with numerous presents from the farmers in the form of – you guessed it – spice, I am very excited to return home and prepare myself a 100% organic mulled wine with original Pemba cloves and cinnamon!