Jamii Coffee: positively impacting lives

Our very own Kat Stauffer had the pleasure of interviewing Francis from Jamii Coffee to talk about the changes and impact Jamii Coffee is wanting to bring to the people of Kenya through the revitalization of the Kenyan coffee industry. 

Francis, tell me a bit about yourself and how you became interested and further passionate about the coffee sector in Kenya and thus creating Jamii Coffee.

I will share the short version. I was raised in an agricultural community in a town called Molo located in the Rift Valley province of Kenya. All I wanted was to be an agronomist, to help farmers improve yields and better crop management. I would eventually abandon this dream to pursue white-collar employment. My passion in agriculture would come back through coffee. In 2008, I visited Caravan to see Paul, who is my cousin through marriage. While I was waiting for him at the reception area, I noticed a map that showed countries that Caravan sourced its coffee from, but Kenya was not among them.

I asked myself, back home we pride in producing the best coffee in the whole world, but it is not roasted here? I had long talks with Paul and Pete. They both shared their challenges with Kenyan coffee. There was a huge disconnect between the two most important parties in the trade of coffee. On one side is a Kenyan farmer uprooting his coffee due to low pay and on the other is a roaster who loves Kenyan coffee but lacks transparency and traceability of the coffee. I made it my mission to fix the disconnect. I felt I had to do something to empower both the Roaster and the Farmer. Luckily, I was in Oregon, where there so many discerning coffee drinkers and coffee shops. I was on a fast lane learning curve of the specialty coffee market. I realized the impact that coffee has on communities.  

Jamii Coffee was founded to positively impact lives through the trade of coffee by changing the perception of Kenyan coffee associated with transparency and traceability. The right of the Kenyan African to grow coffee was earned not given, the failure of coffee is a failure of the rights that a lot of people died fighting for. There is no doubt in my mind that if coffee goes, Kenya goes down with it. Economically, Coffee employs 30% of Kenyans directly and indirectly. It used to be the #1 export and now it is #5.

What happened after you saw a need for “a different way of doing things” in regard to working with Kenyan Coffee Farms and Families?

The disconnect made me decide to build a system from scratch. It was during my research that I realized how difficult it is to get Kenyan coffee through the already established channel. Furthermore, I was not allowed to have direct communication with the farmers. During my visit to Kenya in 2016, you could see the suspicion from people that I met. I once went to visit a facility owned by a major player in the coffee market in Kenya and I was not allowed beyond the gate.

The manager came to the gate and we held an informal meeting and he wished us well. I held a lot of meetings with farmers and it is what one woman told me that stuck, she said, “If I ever find a way… she would go to church to tell other farmers of the great news.” I guess I had my work cut out from there on. I decided that I did not just want to bring in coffee, I wanted to bring in coffee that had an impact, not only to the farmers and their families but also to the Roaster. I think the Oregon farm to table ideal had a role to play in this thinking.

I’ve been told that one issue Kenyan coffee farmers face is not knowing the quality of the crop they produce, which has an effect on the price they are willing to sell their harvest for. Is this true and can you elaborate more for me on this important piece?

For correction, the farmer knows the quality of crop they are producing but where the farmer is blind is the cup quality. Jamii Coffee is exploring ways to sensitize farmers on the relationship between the two. The issue has its roots in the colonial times. Laws and regulations were put in place to make ensure that Africans did not roast coffee or drink coffee. Most Kenyans are tea drinkers by design. My dad tells me of a myth that coffee leads to heart and lung disease. This has continued to the modern times, considering that the average age of a Kenyan farmer is 65 years old. On the issue of pricing, the farmer is reliant on the Coffee Auction prices

Your tagline is “If we can’t touch the farmer, we don’t touch the coffee”. I LOVE THIS! How many farms are you currently working with?   

The coffee I am bringing in is from one farmer (Simon Nyaga of Njemu Farm) and Tambaya wet mill. The Tambaya coffee was produced by 920 small scale farmers. Because of our social capital and traceability system, we can provide data on the number of cherries each of the 920 small-scale farmers produced. Never in my life did I ever imagine touching the lives of that many people. We are planning to organically increase the number of individual farmers we work with as we get more resources and establish ourselves. We have individual farmers willing to join us and we are waiting for the opportune moment to bring them in.

Let’s talk Peaberry. From the 2 bag purchase Caravan made recently, what is the labor like with a strictly peaberry bean? Is it a simple sieve that only collects the smaller beans or is it also hand sorted? 

In Kenya, Peaberry is a screen grade. PB (Peaberry) is a screen grade 14. PB is only between 5-7% of the total lot size. Hand sorting and gravity sorting is done after grading. This is done to remove undesirable beans.

Kenya has a different way of grading and separating their coffees which is based on the size of the bean with a higher ‘grade’ being given to larger beans. Can you elaborate on this way of grading and how it differs from other ways of grading green beans?

I find the Kenyan grading system to easy to interpret once you know it. The letter-based grade system has been in Kenyan coffee industry for a very long time. The primary grades are AA/AB/PB. AA is screen grade 17-18 (7.2mm), AB is screen grade 15-16 (6.6mm). There are also E/C/TT/T/UG. TT are light beans separated from AA and AB by air current & T are Smaller than TT, many fragments. Light beans separated from C by the air current. The latter grades usually do not meet the SCA speciality green coffee grading protocol because of defects. This however, does not mean they are not high-quality coffee. Some buyers get the TT/T/UG grades and use them to blend other coffees. The grading has nothing to do with the cup quality.

I am in favour of the grading of green beans. The process tends to produce a clean coffee and it helps with roasting profiles due to the size beans are all very close in size. The exposure of heat to surface area is crucial in roasting.

Kenya has a different way of grading and separating their coffees which is based on the size of the bean with a higher ‘grade’ being given to larger beans. Can you elaborate on this way of grading and how it differs from other ways of grading green beans?

Jamii Coffee does not buy from the Coffee Auction. Our sourcing system allows us to cup coffee before it gets to the marketer. For our wet mill direct (Empowerment) coffee, we cup the coffee directly at the dry mill (owned by cooperatives) and for our Farm direct (Concierge) coffee we get samples from the farmers. After we identify a sample, we note down the outturn number and we inform the cooperative marketer to reserve coffee for us. Sometimes the marketer does not know about the coffee. For the individual farms like Njemu Farm, we engage them throughout the year following up on crop management and production process. We then connect him with our marketer for logistics and payment modalities. Therefore, it has taken 10 years to develop the system as we tried to figure out how to work within the coffee laws and regulations in Kenya.

Our system was designed to bypass the auction system to create transparency, traceability, and relationships with the farmers and cooperatives. We were very careful to identify a marketer to work with. We had to ensure that they did not have a conflict of interest of coffee in the supply chain and had to allow full access to the cooperatives and farmers. Most marketers in Kenya are dry mill operators, dealers at the auction, and buyers of coffee. They operate at different companies but owned by the same entity. This conflict of interest has created issues relating to traceability and transparency. In our own small way, we are working on changing that perception.

Only established large estate farms with commitments of lot purchase and long-term relationships engage in direct trade. They have the resources, expertise and personnel to be able to do this.  They also have the resources to purchase a license to trade in the coffee action if need be. That’s why the system favours the auction system.

Can any farmer process their own coffee and sell it directly?  Why don’t more farmers do this?

For a farmer or a cooperative to engage in direct trade, they must own a Grower/Marketers license. This license would allow them to sell and receive payment for their coffee. First, there are limitations within the law that come with this license, the owner of the license is not allowed to trade at the coffee auction. This means if the farmer or co-op does not have a commitment from a buyer to purchase all the coffee in their possession then the license doesn’t serve them.

Secondly, it costs $1,000 to purchase the license and it is renewed every year. The cost is prohibitive to farmers or co-ops. Third, there is the logistics involved in the movement of coffee. The farmer and the co-ops have no experience in doing this, this would create a nightmare situation for any buyer no matter the nobility of the idea. They would have to acquire an ICO number, FDA# (if exporting to the US) and many other licenses depending on where you are exporting. Fourth, due to limited resources the farmers and co-ops cannot afford to hire professional marketers to globetrot marketing their coffee, and logistics personnel to move the coffee. For these reasons and many others, they end up appointing a marketer to sell and market coffee on their behalf.

Let’s talk about women in the coffee industry in Kenya. How common is it that women are involved in the farming? Where do you see women most being involved and recognized for their efforts?

Women are very much at the heart of coffee farming in Kenya. Unfortunately, they are the ones who do the hard work and the men get paid. It is disheartening for me to see this based on my experience. I believe that the involvement and recognition of women should not be limited to any part of the coffee trade. For example, the current CEO of Othaya cooperative society is a woman and the CEO and Operations Manager of our marketer are both women.

There should be no limit of women involvement. Jamii Coffee is exploring different ideas and ways to engage more women in the industry. We have had long discussions with the Marketer CEO on how to proactively engage more women in the trade from farming to other parts of the supply chain. As a company, we a looking for a farm owned by a woman so that we can incorporate them into our Concierge Coffee model. Our Concierge coffee will be a handcrafted coffee from Coffee tree to Cup. The coffee will be unmatched in accountability, credibility, integrity and transparency. We achieve this by having our team located at the source in Kenya all year round and, over 60 years of combined experience in the Kenyan coffee industry focusing on agronomy and quality maintenance and management. This means our involvement with the coffee is from Seedling to Cup.

A notable woman is Irene Nyaga, the wife of Simon Nyaga who both own Njemu Farm. She has been instrumental in the development and establishment of the farm. She worked a full time job as well as acted as the Human Resource person at their Farm to allow Simon to concentrate on the crop management. As an agronomist, Simon’s skill is more on crop production. She later quit her job after the farm became established and now works side by side with her husband.

At Caravan, we believe in “Brewing with Intention”. There is an honor we can give to all the hands and combined efforts of those in the coffee chain before us as we brew, whether we are a shop barista or home barista. For this particular coffee that we have sourced with Jamii Coffee, what do you want our brewers to know?

I would like your brewer to know the work we do is constantly improving from Farm to the Cup and we commit to give soul to the delicious cup of coffee. I would like them to recognize the hard work, commitment, patience and effort that Simon and Irene Nyaga have made to make that cup possible. Pruning of the coffee starts in April the previous year and the coffee is in your cup in June the following year. The coffee not only touches the lives of Simon and Irene but also it made it possible to hire community members to work on the farm on a seasonal basis. This is why Jamii Coffee got into the trade of coffee. It is humbling to know that with a single purchase you make a difference in someone’s life even if it is for a day.  In the words of Nelson Mandela “poverty is manmade” and to answer Martin L King said, “all wealth is as a result of the commonwealth”.  

Thank you so much for spending your time with us today!

Some quick facts for our readers:

*Co-op AKA Cooperative: Many farmers have coffee as a percentage of their crops. With a co-op, the farmers can bring their harvest and be included in the “commonwealth” of coffee farming with other farmers with smaller lots.  With one coffee tree representing one pound of coffee, you can imagine why co-ops are so beneficial to many farmers.

*Peaberry: Typically a coffee cherry seed (bean) splits into two parts with nutrients going to each half of the bean. With a peaberry, instead of the seed splitting in two, it essentially grows into and around itself having all the nutrients going into one small seed, rather than two bigger equal parts.

*Kenyan grading system differs from others in that the bean size is graded first, then it is sorted for quality among bean size. As Francis mentions, similar bean size is important to an even roast, as the beans will roast at the same rate.

On July 9th, Kenya News released that there was an important shift in the coffee sector regulations (Read about it here in this link https://allafrica.com/stories/201807090095.html)…  We reached out to Francis with Jamii coffee to see what the interpretation of the 2018 regulations was…Here’s what he said:

“Kat,

Based on our sourcing approach we did not need a marketing agent, but this is welcoming news!

We have been going through the coffee regulations 2018 and it looks like they are scrapping the marketing agents license and replacing it with a general Traders license which is more in line with our vision.  

Our interpretation was that it would give us the power to negotiate prices directly with cooperatives/Wet Mills/farmers and pay them directly as opposed to the current system where marketing agents have become gatekeepers for payment processing and/or negotiations.

The current system is especially frustrating when they receive 3% of the sale and yet they did nothing to locate you as a buyer or market the coffee. This has been our mission all along and couldn’t have come at a greater time.Thanks!! Talk to you soon!”

As you can tell we are thrilled to see such a pivotal move in this direction for the coffee farmer in Kenya.  Thanks for joining us on this journey as we see this process of change right before our eyes!

Caravan and Cafe Femenino

I recently had the pleasure of sharing a meal of yellow curry and sticky rice with Connie from OPTCO as we discussed the work their Café Femenino Program was doing, specifically with the families and communities in Peru. The cause this coffee stands for has been dear to my heart ever since learning about it. This beautiful program that also includes a foundation helps partner with communities to bring empowerment for women through education, leadership training and practical application to coffee-growing communities around the globe.

As its name suggests, Cafe Femenino has women in leadership and decision-making roles throughout the coffee’s cycle. One story I took away from my lunch with Connie was how the Cafe Femenino Program has strongly encouraged and implemented women meeting together with other women to knit together a sense of community and support for and with each other. In some areas, women have not been allowed to step foot outside of their house without permission from the man of the house.

With assistance from Cafe Femenino Program, what used to be communities with household dictatorships, are being transformed into working partnerships running the house together. Women are now getting the credit they deserve from their hard work on the coffee farm, being paid directly and creating empowerment among themselves.

We have proudly sourced this coffee for over 3  years and it has continued to be the best selling origin in our Tasting Room. The Certifications it boasts are a sign of the hard work and attention to detail that these women take in handling their craft.

 As a barista responsible for the final presentation of these women’s combined efforts, I proudly pour this coffee as a final piece to the journey.

– Kat Stauffer

Caravan Giving Back

Caravan Coffee has partnered for 8 years with Newberg Early Bird Rotary Club for humanitarian projects in La Plata, Colombia. La Plata is our “sister city” where we not only give back but build relationships. We invest 5% of our monthly coffee club subscriptions into projects in La Plata.

This relationship in Colombia started almost a decade ago with an introduction from our Colombian coffee hunter, Alejandro Renjifo. He introduced me to a group of Colombian Rotarians in La Plata who were passionate about helping the poorest of the poor in their community. Through a series of meetings and personal visits in Colombia, we first started working together building biosand filters for the outlying areas where the drinking water was not clean. This led to many other projects over the years, including building a series of parks in depressed neighborhoods.

This year we are working on a sanitation project on a hillside above the city of La Plata. There, a community of about 400 have not treated their sewage in generations, which has not only polluted their own water table, but has contributed to polluting a river that flows down into the city of La Plata. This has lead to much sickness, which especially impacts the children who miss school due to dysentery and other maladies from poor hygiene.

This project has been complicated due to the steep terrain and heavy rainfall in the area that creates many washed out roads and landslides. There are no paved roads nor access to public utilities for this community. Due to these conditions, building a septic system requires bringing in supplies by horseback and manpower.

The following pictures are before and during the construction of the Sanitation Units with private toilets and baths using traditional septic systems. Completion of the project is anticipated this fall, when will send a group from our Newberg Rotary team to inspect the Sanitation Units and the impact that it is having on the community. In addition, we will be completing an assessment to discover the greatest needs for our next project. Stay tuned as we build relationships, change lives, and have fun.

Specialty coffee is going corporate

I live just down the street from Stumptown Coffee’s original store on SE Division Street in Portland, OR. Often, I’m one of the first customers there, blinking with sleepiness at 6 am, and clutching my hot cup of drip coffee like it’s a lifeline to sanity. The baristas know me, and sometimes they buy my coffee (which I attribute to my Very Charming Daughter). To me, as a dedicated coffee drinker, this is the perfect neighborhood coffee shop.

Ironic, then, that Stumptown is owned by Peet’s Coffee & Tea, a massive coffee chain which also acquired Chicago-based quality coffee company Intelligentsia, and is in turn owned by a German holding company (JAB Holdings) which holds controlling stakes in or owns the most coffee brands in the world. I’ve watched changes happen nationally and globally for Stumptown, but in the day-to-day, I’ve observed nothing different from the gritty coffeehouse I love.

What does it mean for my industry that coffee brands which, ten years ago, stood for independence and “not-selling-out” are now owned by a massive, foreign company? While many decry these changes as disastrous to the specialty coffee industry, I view them as a way to hold my finger to the wind and see which way it’s changing. What does it say about the small roasters I love so much that they are growing (fast) and that corporate business is sitting up and taking notice? That these brands (Blue Bottle is another) are being changed, yes, but their individuality is being retained and in fact turned into brands so cohesive and iron-clad that they are covering the world with fans.

Coffee Gone Corprate 1
To me, it says something beautiful and gives us a warning. It says that we coffee drinkers who care about transparency, who put our money where our mouth is, and who value connection with the growers and roasters who create our coffee, are driving the international coffee industry (which is a behemoth, the second-most-traded commodity in the world) to change to our values. Which, because slavery and many abuses of human rights still happen in coffee growing, and because there is so much more work to be done, is a good thing.

Which, because slavery and many abuses of human rights still happen in coffee growing, and because there is so much more work to be done, is a good thing.

It also warns us to hone in on exactly what makes us different from the big brands, and to remember that a brand is always changing. Here at Caravan, we have been serving beautiful coffee to the Willamette Valley and throughout the nation for twenty years, and we will keep doing that. We are also dedicated to continuing to adapt in every way we can to be more intentional in our sourcing, roasting, and brewing.

We continue to evolve our visual branding. And… most important: we recognize that you, our treasured customers, are changing, and that this community we’ve created together will keep changing as the years pass. Thank you for honoring us—a small coffee company with dedicated staff and customers—with your coffee choices and support.

Change is a good thing! Let’s embrace it… together!

Emily McIntyre

Emily McIntyre circle

Rainforests – Jewels of the Earth

 

We all know that sustainable practices are vital for responsible agriculture around the world and coffee is no exeption. Rainforests–so-called “jewels of the Earth” for their extraordinary biodiversity, a cornucopia of natural medicines, and crucial air quality function (nearly one-third of atmospheric oxygen is processed by tropical rainforests) are under an alarming threat.

Agriculture adjacent to tropical rainforests is encroaching on and destroying the rainforest at an unfathomable rate. Over sixty percent of the earth’s total rainforest ecosystem has succumbed to harvest, destruction, or redevelopment since the industrial revolution, an incalculable loss.

 

3

 

It may seem like an insurmountable task but there are people and organizations on the forefront of the sustainable agriculture movement  that we can support. One such organization is Rainforest Alliance.

Rainforest Alliance certifies producers that meet the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standard which includes general and local conservation requirements, environmental protections, child labor restrictions and other worker protections, guidelines for the reduction of agrochemicals, and the prohibition of transgenic crops.

 

4

Caravan Coffee is proud to offer a number of Rainforest Alliance Certified coffees.

Brazil Monte Carmelo and El Salvador Las Isabellas.

While Rainforest Alliance certification isn’t a guarantee of absolute sustainability or other ethical credentials (worker protections, for instance) it is regarded by academia and third-party evaluators as a meaningful part of the burgeoning sustainability solution for products with a historically devastating impact on tropical rainforests and workers alike including coffee, tea, cocoa etc.

(Note that certified organic and Fair Trade Certified coffees such as Caravan’s exquisite Organic Sumatra Mandheling are also regarded as generally more sustainable and ethical than many non-certified counterparts.)

– Garrett Schwanke

Garrett

Mothers in Coffee

My motherly smile is shining as I sit staring at the desktop background image of my sons, Shepard and Jamison. We recently made a trip to the grocery store and I unashamedly bribed them with the promise of two rides on the pink horse carousel if they listened and stayed close to me for our “quick trip” inside. This time, the bribe paid off (hallelujah!) and I helped them up on the beloved pink horse together. As the mother to these little darlings, I’m constantly adjusting the way I learn to steward their vastly different personalities and protect who they are while they are just beginning to figure that out for themselves. This sense of stewardship surfaces when I think about cultivating a concept of the ceiling of my talents and ideas becoming my children’s floor and launching pad for something bigger, better and brighter.

One of my favorite definitions of the word ‘mother’ is something or someone that gives rise to or exercises protecting care over something else; origin or source.  What a beautiful picture this portrays. Whether you are a woman who has birthed and mothered a child or a woman who has birthed and mothered an idea from deep inside, you are given this title as the origin or source of that beautiful creation. Women across the globe have given birth to movements and inspired the healing of lands, relationships, and human rights.

Throughout the world of coffee, the term mother is used both literally and metaphorically in a myriad of ways. Ethiopia is referred to as the mother or birthplace of coffee. When we reference coffee origin and stress how important the traceability is, we give credit to its motherland and those who have taken protective care over the wonderful beans we roast and brew.  I see coffee stewards everywhere doing their best to create a better world for the current and next generation of coffee producers, roasters, and enthusiasts alike.

If we, as a coffee industry, do just what this definition suggests and intentionally give rise to new thoughts, talents, and conceptions, I think we will continue to see a coffee world better than what we could have created by trying to hoard all the next big ideas for ourselves.

Cheers to all and Happy Mother’s Day!

Kat Stauffer

Kat-Stauffer

 

Arbor Day: My First Coffee Tree

coffee, coffee cherries, peru coffee

National Arbor Day was last Friday. As the nation gathered to celebrate trees, their impact on the world, and the way they help keep us in good shape physically and emotionally, I took a moment to recall my first coffee tree. Touching it after 7 years working in coffee changed my life in many subtle ways.

peru, coffee, arbor day

Our Driver, Jorge

Getting to Finca Timbuyacu through the northern Peruvian Andes mountains was tortuous. We crept in a rickety bus over mountains forbidding in their wildness, with sheer drops of thousands of feet and spare inches for the tires. At times, parts of the road would melt off the side of the mountain. Once I almost fainted when I looked over the crevasse.

Newly bathing in my adopted language, Spanish, and jotting vocabulary on the palm of my hands as I struggled to eat yet another boiled chicken-and-potato dish, with my mind and my heart exploding with newness and strangeness, I collapsed in the quiet hotel in Chachapoyas, deep in the region of Amazonas, relieved to stop moving and to feel the cool tiles under my feet. In the morning, the mists lifted the town into fairyland.

peru, coffee, arbor day

Finca Timbuyacu is a dream for owners Karim Rosario Araoz and her husband Alfonso Tejada, who also own Cafe Monteverde, a cooperative with around 300 farmers in the area. “Coffee is not easy,” says Tejada, who with Araoz owned a travel agency in Lima for years before returning to their home region. “When we came back here we started Monteverde with the idea of being a local broker. Once that business was up and running, we started working our own land, which was pretty much abandoned. Everyone told us the land wasn’t worth anything, but we have had success. My goal is to produce the best coffee in the country.” At Timbuyacu, Tejada and Araoz perform many tests on processes, including fermentation time, washing time, percentage of mucilage removed, and other measurables.

For me, when I cupped the green leaves of coffee trees in my hand and smelled the rich green sap running through the plants, Finca Timbuyacu was the site of my own crowning moment, a new chapter in the life of this roving coffee professional begun. I snapped a warm globular coffee cherry from its stem and popped it into my mouth, feeling the give of the dark red skin pop and the sweet mucilage cover my tastebuds. At the center of the tiny pudding-like desert was a double coffee cherry. It gave a little under my teeth. I spat it out upon the ground and watched it disappear in the undergrowth.

coffee, coffee cherries, peru coffee

Trees anchor us. Coffee trees make this huge global trade possible. This Arbor Day, let’s honor the coffee trees that produce our favorite coffees all over the world, Ethiopia to Peru.

A Roaster at Origin

Pineapple. It is such a common fruit that you could walk into almost any grocery store in America and be overwhelmed by the selection and preparations of pineapples. Whole, sliced, chunks, canned, you name it. We are all very familiar with pineapples but how well do you “know” a pineapple?

You can look at pictures, get the latest stats on importing pineapples and even do a number of lectures on such a topic. But to “know” a pineapple, one needs to bite into one or, even better, go to the actual plantation. Only when you can talk to the farmers and taste pineapple from the origin, will truly “know” a pineapple.

You might be asking, “Where are you going with this?”

It’s easy to pontificate about coffee’s many different attributes and feel like you have a full understanding of it. Until you have been present locally with the coffee farmers and walked on the farm yourself, you don’t really “know” coffee.

To see the trees, to touch the freshly dried seeds and to smell the unique fragrance is nothing less than inspiring. But you truly begin to “know” the coffee when you are standing side by side, cupping coffee with the men and women who grow your coffee and who share in your passion for it.

IMAG1142

So last year when Pete, Caravan’s Proprietor, suggested a 3 week trip to origin, I was more than thrilled. A trip like this would not only benefit Caravan Coffee or me personally, as Caravan’s roastmaster, but it also benefits you, our customers, by giving you a chance to “know” your coffee.

When you travel to origin, the coffee is no longer simply a commodity; it becomes an extension of the real people who work the soil, tend the trees and harvest the coffee. No longer is it just a co-op in Kochere, Ethiopia, but it’s Miriam, living with his sister, passionately working just 2 minutes from the Kochere dry mill on his 2-acre plot.

When I was there I was even able to see our broker, Dominion Coffee, at work and caring for the people they buy from. People like Tsehey, a double amputee, who was provided with prosthetic legs which allow her to go to school and get an education. She beams with joy! Knowing their stories and other personal narratives bring a new depth and perspective to the coffee we sip.

Even back at Caravan, when I am able to visualize those men and women, the daily tasks seem purposeful and energized.

It is an amazing experience to find that your pursuit of excellence in roasting is mirrored in extremely inspired farmers who feel the same connection to their own product as we do in roasting it.  Quality focused farmers are looking for someone they can connect with just as much as roasters are looking for great coffees and their farmers to connect with.

IMAG1213

When those connections happen, quality suddenly goes to a higher level. I was able to partake in new crops of Kochere, Abaya, Yirgacheffe… probably over 30 different coffees in the land they were grown and with the people who grew it. You can be sure the coffee you get back at Caravan Coffee will be both very personal and very delicious.

Coffee is not coffee without people connecting over it, and to truly “know” coffee is to know its story from beginning to end. This is either going to be in the form of a shared cup or an awareness of all the crafting hands involved in its journey to your table.

-Paul Allen