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Kilimanjaro Smallholders Revival Project

In our 2023 Tanzania Pre-Harvest Plan, we wrote about what we’d learned from our partners in Mwika North, and the resulting strategy to shift support towards coffee processed at a cooperatives’ Central Processing Units rather than the more traditional, and widely common method of processing coffee at home, then delivering parchment to the cooperative.

In Mwika, we observed cherry collections came in with higher premiums paid to members, predictably higher uniformity, quality and shelf stability as compared to corresponding HP coffee. We found that other investments made more of an impact as well; interventions such as shade cloth go further in a CPU where they can impact all of the community’s coffee in aggregate.

On average, we’ve seen cup scores come in 1-1.5 points higher from CPU versus HP coffee, but more, that CPU coffee has better water activity readings, and less of a tendency to fade. This gets to the root of the drying issues which have come to characterize some of Tanzania’s coffees over the past decade, and gives us more confidence to buy more qualities, which we are expecting them to retain for more time.

With this in mind, we’ve been looking for other Kilimanjaro cooperatives who might be willing to dust-off an old pulper or invest in a new central processing unit. The best new opportunity to present itself came through the Kilimanjaro Smallholder Revival Project (KSRP).

Originally subsidized by a European company and supported by our partners at Taylor Winch, KSRP aimed to reverse a trend that began with the collapse of the strength of the Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union (KNCU) following the nationalization and subsequent re-independence of the Union and liberalization of of the coffee industry in the 1990s. Without the support of a strong union, cooperatives collapsed as private exporters worked to secure coffee by buying it directly from cooperative members.

Smallholder coffee from Kilimanjaro—where coffee had grown since 1835—used to account for over half of Tanzania’s Arabica; by 2020 it was less than one-fifth. Old trees, aging farmers, and low premiums contributed to this decline—as did regulations supporting the growth of estates. In response, a European company funded, with the support of the local coffee community, a revitalization effort—the Kilimanjaro Smallholder Revival Project—aimed at engaging the next generation of smallholders on Kilimanjaro, and in doing so, preserving the practices, cultivars and profiles that first made Tanzanian coffee renowned.

The project and its German partners identified 9 AMCOSs to solicit for participation in the project then worked with them to secure organic certification and guaranteed premiums to promote quality and re-engage farmers; provided SL-28 seedlings, which were the cultivar that made coffee from Kilimanjaro famous; and established a youth corps to train the next generation of coffee producers.

We signed up to back cherry premiums for KSRP member groups who had the capacity and interest to collect and process cherries; specifically Marangu West, Lukani Lossa and Mrimbo Uuwo. Most of the volume would come from the six other cooperatives, and overall, come in as HP parchment—and therefore likely below the 85pt quality standard for Crop to Cup purchases. But the broader KRSP network and its backers lined-up a buyer in Europe for the coffee who, at the last minute, backed out—creating an opportunity for Crop to Cup to get involved in the project with the help of Taylor Winch.

For 2023, we were able to separate these coffees, which were collected in full container loads, by AMCOS. We hope, over the next few years, to work with partners to improve qualities and separations coming from their CPUs.


Our 2022-2023 Kenya Pre-Harvest Plan continues explorations in the West, shifts more support towards small estates, and unveils a new strategy of working with our Kenyan partners to build a pipeline for finding and supporting talented farmers who are interested in producing to the top of their potential for direct export. This is a departure from past efforts, which have centralized around calibrating with our export partner labs to secure selections from the same cooperative partners each year—in short, working through the traditional supply-chain in Kenya.


  1. Timing
  2. Background
  3. Expectations
  4. Challenges and Discussion
  5. Key Suppliers
  6. Sourcing Strategy & Supplier Updates
  7. How to Get Involved

Kenya 2022-2023 harvest expectations, at a glance

The harvest in Kenya is coming in a few weeks late and 20% lower than last year. Despite that, we anticipate:

Import volume
will increase over last year with more, smaller lots;

Arrival will be late May-early June,
with peak bookings in March—earlier than last year, despite a delayed harvest;

Qualities will be equal to or slightly higher than last year,
based on agronomic indicators and additional programming aimed at lot selection; and


will be about the same or slightly lower than last year.



The best hotel in Iganga – smudging the line between mishap and miracle

The best hotel has holes in the floors, holes around the fixtures and an unexpected hole in the sink. There are holes in the bed covers, around outlets and in the ceiling where the light should be. The window itself is actually just a hole with a frame stuck somewhat inside of it – you don’t open this window, no, you simply remove the frame from its hole as instructed when sitting in an airplane exit row.

But a hole in a wall is still most of a wall between you and the town of Iganga, which doesn’t even get credit for being on my top ten least favorite places to be. In fact, while I lived there at one time, it’s a city I rarely talk about and would never recommend – to anyone really – ever except for the six unfortunates who I brought with me to sample the city’s finest.

The last 18 hours had taken a toll on us all, and we needed the day to stop –the only reason Iganga counted as a good idea. In the end the tally included five cars, our luggage, a birthday, some vacay, and over a decade of goodwill.

But in exchange we got a few flavorful vignettes, drank champagne coffee with new friends, hosted an impromptu dance party at a street-side squeeze, ignored a kayak competition and learned a few lessons we’ll not easily forget.

If the devil is in the details then maybe we should be looking for miracles in the cracks. It’s what happened here anyways.

Trust and Verify

At Crop to Cup Coffee Importers we subscribe to the mantra of ‘trust, and verify’. These are the two legs on which relationships stand. And any good partnership needs two legs to get off the ground, to stand up to the winds of change, and to move forward year over year.

With trust, verification becomes an easy ritual. Without it, verification becomes an adversarial audit. With verification, trust is built step by step. But without checks there can be no balance.

This is a story of our oldest relationship – with a group called Bulaago in Mt. Elgon. A place where trust runs deep like the rudder of a tall ship, allowing us to ignore the holes in this old sail.

Looking back, I should not have been so surprised that the boat capsized.

Bulaago Coffee Farmers Association – Jan 2019

“The rains are coming, and we have to go now”. It was true, that rain was threatening, but that wasn’t the real reason we cut the meeting short. It is January of 2019 and I’m up visiting the Bulaago Coffee Farmers Association (BUCOFA) in Mt. Elgon, Uganda.

It started well, with greetings and introductions, gifts exchanged of passion fruit for branded bags that proudly printed “Bulaago coffee”. So far so good – with 14 years under our belt, this visit was meant to be routine, a repeat of our annual to bi-annual visit. But then the storm came.

Missing for 2 Years

“You are lost”, started one farmer. Not surprising – this is a common way of saying ‘we missed you’. But then “you have been gone now for over two years, why haven’t you bought our coffee?” This bristled, as I pointed to the sales report which showed what we bought, how much more we’d need, and what we’d done to market their coffee over the past year. I pointed to the guest book that showed my last visit in November of 2017, complete with signature and the comment ‘your coffee is as sweet as your hospitality – thank you for sharing both’. This wasn’t what I expected – things were getting interesting. I moved closer, curious as to where this would go next.

Straight down was where. “Our store has been empty now for two years. We have been on our own, and while we are glad that (Mr. X) brought you here, we only found out yesterday you were coming, and I wonder – why are you here?”

Mr. X was the son of the village elder, a muzee (respected man), and a long-time friend. He had known about our visit for months, but apparently had not told anyone until the day before.

Just earlier that day we had paid Mr. X to rent chairs and a tent, for food and for a truck to bring all of this up-mountain. And then another payment for another truck when that first one failed. But on arrival, it was clear that there were no chairs, no tent, no food, and no truck.  This money had been eaten.

So how did such a good thing go so wrong?

Looking back the reasons are clear, and I know better. So, the blame is on me.

First, I’d accidentally chosen to visit on a market day, a day when the average farmer moves down mountain to sell non-coffee goods. This left only politicians and board members to attend our meeting.

Secondly, I’d been lax, negligent. I’d not seen any meeting minutes from BUCOFA in over a year and hadn’t asked for them. Yet minutes were the only way we knew that messages got down to the farmer.

You see there is no cell reception up here, and no one with a smartphone either. So, WhatsApp conversations and emails got printed down mountain in the town of Mbale, and brought up to be read during the group’s meetings. While there were elected positions for treasurer, secretary, and chairmen, effectively the power went through those who could afford to move between the mountain and Mbale. And, as it turned out, this was really just one individual.  You guessed it, Mr. X.

Thirdly, I’d failed to adjust to some seemingly unconnected changes. For example, X’s father had fallen ill the year prior; when he moved down mountain, his son stepped into the role of village elder giving him influence without oversight and an invitation to take advantage if times ever got tough for him.

Zooming out to the macro, another change is that – for the first time – cherry prices beat parchment prices on the mountain. This was due to competition amongst washing stations that started sending trucks through Bulaago with cash in hand.


Versus the BUCOFA store, which could only pay once a week. Once a week our purchasing partner would bring a truck up to collect from the stores with cash to payout. Weekly can’t compete with cash on delivery. Even if second and third payments made selling to BUCOFA more profitable, these payments are delayed. The result was that BUCOFA could not compete for volumes from its own members.

So, three seasons ago, BUCOFA decided to close their store and mobilize coffee to one of four collection points set up by our purchasing partner. All Bulaago coffee was kept separate, and for two years we enjoyed unprecedented quality and traceability. Volumes and quality were up – we had come to celebrate, and to encourage even more participation.

But this also meant that BUCOFA, as an organization, was no longer relevant. They no longer needed to meet as regularly, or at all, and so went the way of all other Ugandan cooperatives …

Farmers in Uganda, even members of Coops, can sell to anyone, and they often do. Some coffee goes to pay school fees, to help out a relative or to cover debts from the offseason. Some go to that nice buyer you met last week in the market, and some to your brother’s wife’s father just to keep him happy. Sometimes buyers can approach a cooperative and pay a finder fee to buy from their primary societies. Then the next year they’ll cut out the coop as an unnecessary middle-man.

And the cooperative model – which pays less upfront and more of a profit share on the back –fails to compete. It’s a system that was brought by the British, but which had not worked since liberalization in ‘96. In this way coops and associations across Uganda have weakened and failed year over year, leaving places like Mt. Elgon a mountain of individual farmers, and not groups.

BUCOFA was set up as a primary society along the traditional cooperative model.  So, it seems, we had been hanging on to an old way of doing things. Coops and primary societies are officially dead – and so was BUCOFA they day they closed their store.

Two years passed, and I found myself meeting with a corpse of a cooperative.

“The rain is coming, and I need to get your customers down to safety”. This was how I ended our meeting, trying to save some face, and to buy some time while I worked all of this through.

As we piled into the van I encouraged BUCOFA to meet as a group, to talk, and decide what they wanted to do. In a typical zombie move, showing that they truly did not get it, they approached some of the roasters to ask if they could sell their coffee to them directly. Which would have been fine, if it was possible, but it was not possible, and in this context it was not fine.

On our drive down mountain I ran this through my mind, struggling to the conclusion that BUCOFA was no more. This had been our oldest relationship in coffee – the first group for whom we had bought drying trays and moisture meters, helped to open a bank account and maintain a truck. It was difficult to say goodbye, and impossible to give up. There are still so many good farmers, and so much good coffee, that it wasn’t fair for a few committee members to ruin over a decade’s worth of efforts.

So, I wondered, if not a primary society then what would come next? How can we communicate with and coordinate the efforts of nearly 400 farmers if they are not organized?

The answers didn’t come that day, but neither did the rains. We got down mountain starving, but safe. Our luggage, however, had moved on to Iganga. It looks like this long odd day was about to get a little longer.

You see, before Bulaago, on our way up mountain we had all three of our vans overheat. It was hot, but all three, at once – come on!  We ferried some folk up mountain using a pick-up, and others stayed behind to hitch.

Not Simple

I was one of those left behind to hitch. It was in this crack in our schedule that we found our first little miracle. While we sat around a group of kids came up to talk. While we were talking the shyest one started rubbing my friend’s arm. Now my friend has a hairy arm, so I motioned for him to pull down the neck of his shirt to show the kid what chest hair looked like.

He did, and the effect was as expected. Tremendous. Never had these kids seen so much body hair! Next, one of the bolder kids asked my friend to remove his sunglasses. Which he did, revealing green eyes to equally tremendous effect. The kid then said something simple that simply stuck with me.

“You are not simple’. No, my friend, he is not simple. And neither is coffee.

I have a brother who invokes the word ‘sonder’ as a reminder that everyone’s life is as complex as your own. It’s a nice reminder, and an interesting word*, but in this place and time I was thinking that some days are more complex than others.

This day, for example, was one that I couldn’t quite write off. For every bad turn we found something good. Being without cars in Kapchorwa let us spend all morning with a group called Zukuka Bora. While we didn’t get to set up shop in Bulaago we had all the equipment to help Zukuka Bora host their first cupping, which came to be a high point of the trip. They’re experimenting; we didn’t love the honey process, but were pleasantly confused by the coffee fermented using Champaign yeast.

Then, later that day, we got a private tour of Uganda’s largest washing station. Yes, we had to rent a mutatu to get there, ours having broken down, and yes we were held at the gate by an irate guard, angry at us for showing up after hours. And yes, the car did refuse to start – at first – when we were trying to leave. But in the cracks we got to know Deus, their washing station manager, including an interesting discussion about scaling up drying for natural and honey-processed lots.

Yes, we missed lunch with farmers in Bulaago. But were able to reconnect with an impressive young farmerpreneur named Dison. And yes, I just made a frakenword of ‘farmer’ and ‘entrepreneur’**.  Expect a separate blog on him, but I like seeing young independents like Zukuka and Dison as a growing alternative to the large mills, and our best chance at getting truly top lot coffees from this mountain.

Leaving Bulaago we chased our luggage to the greatest hotel in Iganga; and even this haul had a hidden gem in store.

This is where we introduce Clare, the heroine of our story and a true delight to have in the world of coffee. Her job is quality and promotions for the Uganda Coffee Development Authority – she’s the one behind Uganda’s Barista competitions, and who coordinates their participation in AFCA’s Taste of Harvest auction.  She’s a Q-grader, R-cupper and trainer extraordinaire.

More, she was the one responsible for getting us out of the day’s car mess and past the angry guard. She coordinated the reconnect with Dison, and felt the brunt of the Bulaago fail. And today was her birthday.

So the plan was to spring for a nice hotel and a bottle of red wine for her once we got to Jinja.

However, with the day so delayed it was already night, and us chasing our luggage to Iganga, this plan was no longer a possibility. So, instead, we stopped by a roadside cellphone shop turned bar. These juke joints are called Kafundas, which means ‘the squeeze’ because of how tightly they pack in people, DJs, and a pool table.

Buying beer for the group I looked up and to the far left of the bar. On the back of the top shelf sat a forgotten bottle, covered in dust. It was either sherry, or port oh, maybe – and tis would be a rarity – red wine. Red wine is all that Clare takes (no beer for her), and despite a few fancy hotels we hadn’t found a sip so far this trip. But here it was, hidden in the back of this loud-ass can be Kafunda, a dusty little miracle.

A miracle that blossomed as we navigated price (there was none so we had to make one up), glass (okay, I could buy a glass no problem – okay, this can be included in the price) and then – how to open the bottle without a corkscrew. And which climaxed with three grown men competing to see who could pull the cork using a nail – most attempts to pull the cork out using a nail led to smacking your own face. Which got them angry enough to try harder, leading to a harder smack, which got them angry enough to try faster. Until the next person stepped in to take over.

I ended up pushing the cork in, of course, and passing it around while dancing outside the Kafunda. So, in the end, Clare has something nice by which to remember her birthday.

A nice stop, but the day continued. We boarded back into the cars for the final leg to Iganga.

I heard a wilderness survival instruction say ‘all bleeding will stop. The question is what you are doing when it does’. I’ve applied this my life – ‘meetings will end, the question is how,’ or if I’m going through something unpleasant ‘It’s not when or if, but how I get through this’. For me the phrase ‘all bleeding stops’ is a reminder of ‘lets make the most’ with ‘manage against the curve’ and ‘this too shall change’.

I bring it up here as a way to skip over my night at the best hotel in Iganga.  We got through the night, and on to Jinja the next morning.

Jinja, the source of the Nile, and where we’d intended to spend the night before. We arrived too late to get on the water, but sat as sun set, looking over it, ignoring the kayak competition that was going on below, and toasting to the last 24 hours.

As the kayakers came up to the bar the band began to play, and I retreated to my tent for a little decompression. Just me and the monkeys, a beautiful view and a pint of beer. That’s where it came to me, the last little miracle of the day – a new way of looking at our work in Bulaago.

Bulaago Coffee Farmers Association (BUCOFA) was modeled after a Primary Society in a Cooperative. Primary Societies are one way, the old way, of centralizing a large coffee catch-basin. But if a centralized committee was no longer the way of the mountain, what would a decentralized model look like?

And was where an old memory brings back VSLAs to save the day.

Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLA) to Address Bulaago Challenges

VSLAs (Village Saving and Loan Associations) are pretty unique to Uganda. Picture a lock-box with three keys, each given to members who live on far sides of the community. They can include 8 to 40 farmers who pool their incomes to lend out to members at an interest rate of around 10% (exceptional – especially when compared to traditional bank loans at 24% – 36%).  They are like SACCOs or savings groups found in other countries, but without external regulation. Plus, Uganda has a long tradition of these community-level savings groups who have flourished far from the banking grid.

There are VSLAs in place throughout Bulaago, and they already serve as a nexus for some types of training. The idea I had was that perhaps they could also serve as a means of mobilizing coffee, organizing community lots and facilitating communication without needing a central body. I checked this idea out by a few friends in the area who agreed VSLAs are strong, they meet monthly with full participation – including many women – and that they could be engaged to get more active in coffee.

The next miracle was waiting on the other end of one of these phone calls. I learned that USAID-funded nonprofits are actively supporting community savings groups through training and capacity building – allowing us to piggy-back on these efforts to strengthen VSLAs in Bulaago. In fact, plans for this are already in motion and we expect meetings to begin by end of March 2019.

I’m still sitting at my tent overlooking the Nile when the next Tetris piece drops into place. VSLAs can be combined with an idea imported from other parts – Youth Teams. Youth Teams are trained groups of unemployed men and women, 18 – 24 years old, who provide services to their community at a fee. If you can connect Youth Teams to VSLAs you now have a means of organizing coffee, improving quality, administering premiums and financing it all.

And so this is the 2019 – 2020 plan for Bulaago. We are free from the baggage of BUCOFA, and up one significantly ally in Clare who has agreed to help us in setting this program up. First step is a survey of VSLAs in Bulaago. With this we will have an entirely new way of communicating with and mobilizing coffee from farmers we’ve known now for over years.

I once read a t-shirt that said ‘never a bad day’. Feels hokey to me. But if you change it to read ‘never a bad day, only complex ones’ I’ll consider it.

I expect Clare’s survey and the VSLA program in Bulaago to progress day by day, with some days being more complex than others. I expect there to be more complex days for me as well, as we explore this new way of working. I’ll be in more direct touch with more farmers, for example, with a lot more that we could do in terms of mobile money, reinvested premiums, lot separation and quality improvement. But while I’m glad for what came out of the day described here, I don’t ever again expect to spend another night in Iganga. If I do then that means I’ve messed up again.

But if you so happen to find yourself in Iganga please let me know – I can recommend the very best hotel.

*The word Sonder doesn’t appear in English dictionaries, but seems to be a Saxon word that traveled through German (set apart) and French (to probe). The Saxon roots are interesting (to me at least) and can be found in the first response to the quora inquiry here. Today its use is tied to the Dictionary of Obscure Shadows which states:

Sonder n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk. – Dictionary of Obscure Shadows

**or is that a portmanteau?

View our current offers here to keep an eye on this coffee coming out of Bulaago.

Growing the Right Way in Rwanda

Untimely rains caused a coffee shortage around the country right as specialty demand was peaking. Consequently, prices went through the roof and theft was rampant. Thanks to our strong partnerships (and a bit of lucky weather in the northern province) we were able to grow our volumes this year while hitting new high water marks for quality. Those two things don’t always go hand in hand. Sometimes chasing volume growth comes at the cost of quality. Thankfully, our key partners at Kinini believe that the only growth that makes sense is sustainable replicable growth. In Jacquie’s own words, “We didn’t want to outgrow ourselves.”

Before we look at the how, take a look at the amazing cup quality of this year’s Rwanda imports:

Kinini Village AA | Cantaloupe, lemonade, chocolate, cola, orange, brown sugar

Cocatu* | Orange marshmallow, cola, caramel, creamy honey, milk chocolate

*Currently the Kinini Village AA is in store. The remaining lots are scheduled to land at CTI in early March.

Rwanda New Arrivals

Supply Chains in Rwanda

If you are new to our supply chains in Rwanda, we source coffee primarily through two key partnerships, Nova Coffee and Kinini Coffee, pictured below. There are many parallels between these two groups. Both are located in the northern province, both are run by incredibly strong women, and both spend an incredible amount of energy to do things the right way. Since the Kinini Village AA lot is the only one that has landed so far, here is a small window into how Kinini was able to grow their volumes of specialty high-end coffee this year.

From left to right Theresa, Nova washing station manager, and Agnes, owner. Felix, Quality Control manager at Kinini.

Farmer Organization
While a LOT of energy has gone into improving processing over the years, something that is equally, if not more important, is helping farmers organize themselves. Since Kinini has launched just a few years ago, 7 new cooperatives have formed. Patrick, a member of Kinini’s leadership team who does so many jobs it’s difficult to put a title on him, spends at least 3 days a week visiting farmers and assisting them not only with their agronomy and farm management questions but also assisting them in organizing as a group. For context , this level of investment is at complete odds with other washing stations in the area who are all too happy to be dealing with individual smallholders. The cooperative that produces the Kinini Village AA lot that we buy is called the Cooperative Coffee Rusiga Sector, which is a group made up of 100% women and run by a women named Seraphina. Jacquie, one of the co-founders of Kinini calls Seraphina “someone not to be messed with”, which is high praise coming from Jacquie, and one of the main reasons for the collective buy-in on quality by the group.

Arc S

For those new to our Arc S sample roaster, it’s a roaster that I dreamed up after seeing problems in sample roasting across the supply chain, and over the last few years our incredible team made a reality. After many iterations, we got the Arc S to where we wanted it, and changed over to it in our own lab in Brooklyn. We immediately wanted to get it in the field, which is why we supported the team at Kinini with an Arc S last year. While I had high hopes for it, you really don’t know how things are going to go until people start getting their hands on it. When I asked the Kinini team why they thought their coffee improved this year in quality, their first answer was “The Arc S”. In their own words…

“The Arc S helped immediately in year 1. For the first time we could cup what was on the beds, and keep bad lots out and separate the best lots, and get a better understanding of what different parts of the harvest taste like. We were able to empower staff and farmers who felt more connected to the supply chain through tasting.”
Kinini is already off to the races with their sample roaster. They are in the process of building a flavor map of all areas that they work, and are linking this data with their comprehensive data-set from a company called WeatherSafe. For the last few years they have been receiving satellite imaging from WeatherSafe on a pro-bono level due to WeatherSafe’s belief in the Kinini model. It marries satellite images and weather tracking with on-the-ground soil samples to help farmers make more informed decisions about when/how to be caring for their farms. In Kinini‘s own words…
“Things change and it’s important to not make knee-jerk reactions. Things happen slowly here and it took 2-3 years to get a better understanding of the situation on farms. Now the system functions as a very helpful alert system for paying attention to the farm.”
They are already looking to the future, to continue to grow “the right way” as they see it. That includes Fairtrade certification rolling in 2022, Organic certification in 2023, and 4 new seedling sites with 10,000 seedlings each. Each of the seedlings was chosen from the best plants at each seedling site area, so that the strongest genes were being chosen that could thrive in that particular micro-climate.
I hope you all enjoy the fruits of this incredible harvest.

Kinini Coffee Cooperative

Good coffee comes from good people. We’d love to tell you more about each of these producers and their coffees. Get in touch to learn more.




It’s not often we get to add a new coffee-producing country to our offer list. Grown in the mountainous southwest region of Yunnan Province, which borders Myanmar and Tibet, this coffee has been years in the making for us. It’s also been one heck of a ride with China at the center of today’s global shipping crisis.

Crop to Cup has been active in China since 2011 and we have a solid team in place. In 2011 we began importing specialty coffee in China. A few years later, we launched the Arc Roaster equipment line with a team of partners (Arc 800 & Arc S Sample Roaster. They happen to also be active in small-scale farming in Yunnan. While most coffee we’ve imported into China has been custom for specific roasters (e.g. not to a spot list), in 2021 we launched a full trading office and lab in Shanghai. This was the beginning of Crop to Cup China—offering spot positions to roasters of all sizes.

It is only fitting that we expanded our China coffee activities back to the US, introducing roasters to coffee from one of China’s most beautiful and culturally rich provinces, Yunnan. Crop to Cup staff based in Shanghai travel regularly to Yunnan and several even operate their own tiny farms in Yunnan.

It’s through these long-standing connections in Yunnan that we source coffee from two cherry collectors: Mr. Yi and Mr. Zhang, who each collect from around 100 smallholder farmers growing mostly Catimor. Terraced farms dot Longling County’s steep slopes, including Baihu (White Tiger) Mountain.

The attention to consistency and quality separation at the mill is intense, leading to one of the cleaner cups you may find out of China.

China New Arrivals

Baihu Mountain Community

YUNNAN WASHED B | Raisin, peanut, tea tree, lemon | 82

A Note from the QC Lab:

You will notice that the score is on the lower side of what we usually bring in. Over the last 8 years in my capacity as a cupper & Q grader, I have been afforded the opportunity to taste a lot of coffees from Asia, mostly from producers looking to level up into the specialty market in Laos, China & Thailand. In the past, many of these samples had vegetal notes and at times what I called a “stainless steel” finish, which was really my way of conveying a metallic/mineral finish. In the past few years, however, I have seen a notable shift to better qualities, and I was very excited when we started putting our Crop to Cup roots down in China. This year we received offer samples from our partners in Yunnan that had both a pleasant cup profile and were devoid of a rough vegetal finish. While there is some citric acidity, this is really a mild cup profile and very balanced hot to cold (something I prize). It’s a pleasant and sweet cup of coffee that we knew would be a great first step for many people’s first cup of coffee from China.

Good coffee comes from good people. We’d love to tell you more about each of these producers and their coffees. Get in touch to learn more.

Happy Roasting,

The Crop to Cup Team



Kilimanjaro Reaches New Heights

We’ve enjoyed working with Mwika North AMCOS for the past four years. Great coffee and great leadership with slow and steady progress on selection, drying, logistics, timing, and financing. It’s been step by step towards a better cup.

Until now.

When we visited in January we saw what was once a parchment collection center convert into a fully functioning Central Processing Unit (CPU). This is a washing station, one that now allows the cooperative to collect cherry from members, pay immediately, and control processing from the moment the harvested cherries arrive through to the perfectly dried parchment.

In June the group voted to take out 40million Tanzania Shilling (~17,400USD) loan to invest in specialty. They installed fencing, poured concrete for washing channels, dug out water reclamation reservoirs, built drying beds (complete with shade netting), established a cherry sorting station, and even had time to put in a shaded nursery.

All of this was completed – along with training- in time to process 3 weeks worth of cherry collection. This served as more test-run and proof of concept that can be scaled up next year. Their efforts also showed up on the table, CPU processed coffees cupped at least a point higher over their best home processed lots (improved sugars, florals, and balance).

Josephine Kawiche, assistant secretary at Mwika North

Momrosso Josephine, pictured above is the CPU manager. She oversaw 3,000kg of parchment through the washing station. It was a short season, so next year she expects 10,000kg+ with a few more drying beds.

While Mwika’s leadership did the heavy leading, and their management did the heavy lifting. Furthermore, this would not have been possible without help from exporter Taylor Winch Tanzania (JJ, left), training from nonprofit Solidad, and 4 years of committed buyer support from Ohio-based roaster Deeper Roots (Adam, right). Chairman Saimon stands proudly at center.






The biggest costs come in the smallest packages. Hooking up to the electric grid saves the group a handful of shillings over using diesel, which over time can accrue into significant savings.

Premiums are paid on coffees processed through this CPU, part of which goes to pay back this four-year loan. Cherry collections only ran for a few weeks as CPU staff was getting going, but better prices are expected to attract more deliveries next season. The plan now is to be prepared for larger volumes.

power source for the CPU

The Mwika North General Assembly meeting is in June. Before that meeting, they will be tiling and painting the station, adding drying capacity, and moving the nursery off-site to a parchment collection center, where they can also build out a demonstration plot.

Additional plans include forming a committee to oversee quality at the CPU and to tap into programs that train ‘youth teams’ to provide general garden services to their neighbors.

In short, they seem motivated and moving in the right direction. Their Home Processed Coffee is coming in this Spring. PSS scored a melon sweet and tangy spicy 85.

It took three people and a bull mastiff two hours and nine calls to find the spot. The dead-end responses ranged from an honest – ‘huh’ – to the confused – ‘you’re crazy’, with a few lazier warnings of ‘it’s too dangerous’ in there as well. But we finally found one who didn’t hang up – the call just dropped. So we sent a text and told them we were on our way.

Farm sign

At the gate we were asked for money before entering – they didn’t think we were serious. We were asked if we knew what we were doing, if we were sure we wanted to go through with this. Then we were asked what we wanted for dinner.

Spooky. But the spot was perfect, and worth the effort. An exposed hilltop from where we could see the lights of Nairobi in one direction, and the silhouette of Kilimanjaro in the other. The line of sight was so good, I was told, that back in the World War the Brits set up pillboxes here – three AA guns to shoot down Italian planes coming in from Ethiopia.

The place looked the part, or at least, like it had played a part in some seventy-five year old history … and that maybe no one has cared for it since. We had two in our group walk past the barking dog we never saw but only heard, and into the guest quarters – then right back out and to the closest hotel. They weren’t into camping, and I don’t blame them for not staying inside. It was a beautiful plantation house cut in the classic style. Only thing is that it reeked of taxidermy, had mattresses pushed up against the wall to act as insulation, and was so completely yellowed that only the boldest of mold stains stood out.

That was inside, but outside the hilltop hid a private waterfall that cut between and then down the slopes of two tea estates. Tea, you may know, tends to glow an iridescent green with morning and evening sun, making this already majestic waterfall into something even more.

There was beer (Tusker, even though I prefer me a White Cap), food (Indian with Chapati), and a fire (with our very own Masai guard to keep us company). Plus, we were only forty minutes from our meeting that evening – while this place was far from normal, it was close to perfect.

Turns out, in Kenya, camping isn’t so normal, which is why we were the weirdos. While hunting down equipment to rent I was even asked, twice, ‘are you camping …recreationally?’.

Well, yes, of course we were camping recreationally. But I also had some business in mind. We set out from Nairobi to spend a couple of nights at two farms – meetings are more fun when they can go into the night.

One night saw a BBQ with our friends in Giakanja. In the States a BBQ may mean pork, beef or chicken depending on where you from. There BBQ is called Nyama Choma, and it’s all goat. And all of the goat. I’d asked for vegetarian options for our vegetarian friends … they got a fish.

The meeting started with feedback on Giakanja’s coffee, and introductions to their customers. It was a success story; last year saw record prices, qualities and group engagement. We reported a desire to double our purchasing, brought a contract to show our commitment, and then of course there was the goat to help us celebrate.

The inevitable question came up during the meeting – not a question, really, but an ask. No matter the price, it’s reasonable for farmers to want more money. In this case the question came up with interesting effect.

“So, you will pay a higher price this year, right”?

To start, I felt that we needed to manage down expectations. So I asked what price they’d received last year – a healthy $4.00 / pound for an AB grade – and if they were happy with this. Yes, of course they were –last year saw record prices. Good, I responded, ‘we have contracted to buy twice as much as last year, if you can match the same quality’. My colleagues thought me crazy, I told him, for saying I’d buy such an expensive coffee before even knowing what it would taste like.

Which was a good segue to recap the rules of the game. Roasters buy on quality, that when a sale is made it’s because of the effort they put into quality. So – in reality –the work a farmer does in the field does much to dictate price. In other words, the better the farming the better the quality, the better the quality the better the price. So he’s got both stake and say in the matter.

Next, I wanted to add some context. So I asked the group who knew about the International Price of coffee – not one raised a hand. Then I asked every U.S. roaster in the group ‘what is the most expensive coffee on your menu’. To a person, luckily for me, each of them said ‘my Kenyan’.

2018 Avg Auction Highest Auction
AA  $              3.31  $                 5.53
AB  $              2.54  $                 3.99
PB  $              2.37  $                 3.92
C  $              1.92  $                 2.66

Average auction prices are drawn across three random auctions in 2018 at a time when NYBOT was avg 1.23. Auction prices are quoted converted into USD / lb, but remain FOT Nairobi. Note that highest auction prices are more indicative of direct trade prices than averages, which include lower grades.

Kenyan coffee is already at the top of the value-chain, neither prices nor quality could get much higher. Even while farmers the world round freeze in sub-dollar coffee prices, Kenyans enjoy a plump cushion from quality premiums. And despite all this, coffee in Kenya is on the decline. In fact, this is the only place we work which produces less coffee every year.

And this is why, to the farmer who asked for a higher price, I ultimately said “the best way to make more money from coffee … is to plant more coffee”. This felt like a risk, and I was surprised to see nods and soft applause.

To understand why I was surprised to find support we must first think about the mentality of working in a shrinking industry. Every year there is less coffee than the year before. That means every year other farmers you know are getting out of coffee.

Before we count it off as lazy or crazy let’s puzzle through the more interesting ‘why’. With world-class quality and top of the line prices, why are farmers getting out of coffee?

Space is one answer; coffee shares the highlands with an ever-expanding Nairobi, which turns the country’s oldest coffee estates into its newest shopping malls. With real estate prices what they are in Nairobi, and with Nairobi growing as fast as it is – you’d be crazy not to sell at some point.

But space is only part of the answer – following the rest will take us to the fourth dimension.

Money is worth more now than it is later – this idea probably referred to by Wikipedia as the ‘time value of money’. It banks on being able to invest money you have now, allowing you to earn interest, and making it worth more than money you don’t have now, which can’t be put to work.

Coffee is the king of cash crops in Kenya, but it is losing to development, to tea, to pumpkins, nuts and corn for dairy. In fact, as a crop, it is the loser – coffee hasn’t been cool in Kenya since 1986.

To start, it’s hard. It takes time, a lot more time than other crops where you can ‘scratch the earth, wait a few months, and then pick your food’. Kenyan coffee is so good because they take time to cultivate it – that’s a 12-month job! And it takes time to navigate the heavily regulated system that touches (and taxes) nearly every point of coffee production. And, most importantly, with coffee it takes time to get paid.

Nearly everything else a farmer can do in Kenya pays at least monthly. Monthly is good, it’s regular. You can see it, eat it, use it. Kenya is developing so fast that you need money now to afford your house tomorrow.

Coffee, however, is annual, and difficult to plan around. Sure, coffee money is good money, but discounted by doubts on ‘how much are we talking about’ and ‘when will I get paid’. Questions I’d ask myself if I was being asked to do more work.

Turns out that these questions do have answers – we found some clues on our other overnight visit – an attempt to stay at the famous combined Yara Estate and Windrush Farms. Well, we failed, bringing us to the creepy beautiful hilltop that started this story. But it did allow our meeting to continue late into the night, where we failed to get what we wanted out of their farm manager Edward … but still ended up with a more than we expected.

By that I mean that we failed to get any commitment to lot separation or processing improvement – and that was one of my goals for the meeting.  Kenyan farmers are conservative, preferring the way their parents processed coffee.

With the quality they’re putting out I’m not one to argue … but I would really love to taste the difference between of Yara’s 12 blocks. Or to see what percent would be floated out if they tried floated before pulping. Or maybe just take a quick measure of the heat in the drum used to skin dry fresh parchment. Or, you know, buy this massive enterprise a moisture meter so that they know when coffee was done on the drying bed.

That said, they are averaging 15 days of drying, and producing primo coffees, so maybe sticking to best practices allows you to cut a few corners here and there.

If it’s not broken don’t fix it, so says Edward, who balked at any change to S.O.P.

So we didn’t get much out of him in terms of experimentation, separation or special preparation – but we are still discussing, and hope to come to some bite-sized compromise soon.

As additional consolidation, we also got from him the story of Gatatha Farmers Cooperative, including the secret to their success.

The Gatatha Farmers Cooperative annual board meeting is in February. Four years ago the discussion was about coffee. Production was down, currencies were crazy. Maybe it was time to get out.

Gatatha is a fifty-year old union with over three thousand members. All it takes is one vocal member to suggest that they sell roadside land for development, that they convert one field of coffee to tea, or to sell-back their shares – and the entire coop can start to crumble away from coffee.

That’s what’s happened to most of Kenya’s larger cooperatives.  Market volatility, local and national political, pressure from members for fast money – these claim coop after coop, leaving few coffee-focused shops standing.

But Gatatha is standing strong, growing even. Their secret lies in the fourth dimension.

Sure, they say, coffee is annual. And our members want regular monthly income. Easy enough – all you got to do is put your long money towards investments that pay fast money. That’s to say that annual coffee profits are invested into industries which pay regular monthly dividends to members.

This portfolio approach actually keeps the focus on the farms; the more profit, the more that can be invested (including in budgets, bonuses and staff). The more that’s invested, the more you can expect in monthly dividends. So coffee is the core of the portfolio, and the one sure earner.

This is the argument that was likely made that fateful day in February, when Gatatha decided to double down in coffee. Investments go up and down, they must have said, but coffee allows us to make more investments overall, meaning our downs will less low, and our ups will go a lot higher.

So, the decision was made. Edward was brought in as the turn-around man. Since, he’s invested in pruning, mulching, feeding and soil care. Much of Windrush Farms is already organic; his goal is to get to 100% in the next five years. Production is up, and quality seems to be too. The state of the core is strong.

Their 2019 board meeting happened right after we left, and I’m not sure what was discussed. But I do know that our 2018 sales report was presented to members of the board, and this makes me proud. It has a full physical and sensorial analysis of their coffee, a record of past and planned purchases, a map of where their samples we sent, and a list of their top customers. But more, Edward told me, this was the first feedback they’ve received from customers of their coffee – and consequentially – the first time that quality was expressed in anyway other than outturn at the mill or price at auction.

If good graces hold then maybe, just maybe we can get them to at least separate lots by block. They’d learn a lot, maximize earnings, build new brands and still always have the option to blend it all back together like they do now.

With all they have to gain and how little it’d cost to do – they’d be crazy not to. But when I’d made this argument before Edward had responded ‘if it’s not broken I’d be crazy to fix it’.

Hey, sometimes crazy has its reasons.

Some farmers think it’s crazy to get out of coffee, some think it’s crazy to stay in. The former are finding ways of navigating the new economics, owning more of the value-chain and earning top dollar. The latter leave because of how hard it is to do coffee correctly. This leaves behind only the most far-sighted and serious of farmers in coffee. So, while volumes are going down across the board, the reasons for this are reasonable. And there’s also reason to expect that qualities from quality areas will to continue to increase as volumes shift to new areas outside of the central highlands.

So it’s reasonable to say that what’s crazy to some, can be incredible to others. Like going to sleep on spooky hill, and waking up to an intensely cold waterfall.

The nice part about meeting over dinner is that I was able to find the farmer who asked the question on price. It was a good discussion, but a side-bar to this narrative. Phrases to highlight include “roasters are not in it for the money” and “your business is in your farm, mine is in my suitcase”. The latter was an attempt to explain how I could afford to travel to visit him, when he could not afford to visit me.

What’s in a name

São Gotardo means ‘village of confusion’. This is the Cerrado Mineiro region of Minas Gerais; an area best described as a high-altitude savannah, and best known as the carrot capital of Brazil. In addition to producing nearly half of the country’s carrots, this region also grows onions, garlic, onion, potatoes….and coffee.

Coffee was the most recent to join the party, starting in the 1970’s around the same time that São Gotardo earned it’s name. This region was designated as a destination for a rural resettlement program that the government was promoting in an attempt to feed growing urban centers. São Gotardo was the town to which people were relocated, and coffee became the way out of confusion.

Up to this time the land was owned by one rich individual who, it was said, was above the law. Enter Cooperativo Cotia, a cooperative owned by and representing Brazilians of Japanese descent. As part of a government resettlement program, Cooperattivo Cotia opened an office in São Gotardo to recruit farmers and then support them in the region.

This support led to pressure on the land cartel, which ended in the breakup of land into 100 lots, all reassigned to new farmers as part of the government resettlement program. To this day lots are still referred to by their number, with many still operated by Japanese Brazilian members of Cooperativo Cotia.

Coffee in the area was the exception until 1975 when a bad frost– called the black frost –wiped out many plantations further south (further from the equator, mind you). After this, more farmers moved up to the highlands of this region which, previously, had not been explored much at all, let alone turned to crops.

Compared to land around it, the terrain here is of a higher altitude, cooler and pretty flat. Perfect for fruit orchards, tubers plots and coffee gardens. And so, for the past 40 years, coffee from this region has been cultivated and sold as a commodity along the same channels and by the same brokers by which their potatoes get to market.

But now a new generation of farmers is looking back, bonding together in celebration of their Japanese roots. And looking forward, to the challenge and opportunity of bringing specialty coffee to their region. This group is patriotic, proud of their state and wanting nothing more than to see their name on coffee menus worldwide. Well, not their name, but names from their region – ‘Minas Gerais’, ‘Cerrado Minerio’, ‘Alto Paranaiba’, or ‘São Gotardo’ for example..

Behind this movement is a young entrepreneur named Yuki Minami (age 36). She is starting off representing her family and two other young farmers (Michael Tomizawa, age 35 and Edson Tamekuni, age 37) under the name Aequitas Coffee. The name means was chosen to represent Yuki’s belief that when farmers know what their coffee is worth, it is possible to do coffee differently than the way her dad did it.

“Aequitas is Latin for equity. But she was also a goddess that meant justice, transparency and fairness. And this is what I wanted to do, I wanted to promote a fair trade for producers.”

While raised on a coffee farm, Yuki never thought she would work in coffee. She started with an interest in languages, and later in business administration, before realizing that this work took her too far away from the hands-on agriculture that she loved. Her studies exposed her to people from around the world, and ideas too. For example, the idea that coffee can have different flavors – and that people will pay more for better tasting coffee.

Her ‘come to coffee’ moment happened in 2013 in a Parisian café. Here she saw coffee from São Paolo and realized two things at the exact same time. The first was how far coffee travelled, the many hands and miles travelled from her home to her. And the second was how her home needed a better agent; this coffee was from Minas Gerais but marked simply as a product of Brazil.

“One day I would like to have coffee from my community on a menu like this. This was in 2013 – I came home with a question in my mind – do we have this coffee in my home, is it possible to produce coffee that is good enough to get it on menus worldwide”.

In 2015 Yuki brought a sample of her coffee to a micro-roaster in São Paolo and asked him for feedback. “I did not know that we were already producing specialty coffee”, Yuki said, “or that an 86 was a good score. I also didn’t know anything about specialty, and so didn’t get a fair price when I sold to this guy. From this experience I realized that farmers must know what they have”.

Yuki had moved back home with her father, and could not get over one fact. He has been doing the same thing – farming coffee – for over 40 years. But his situation has not changed, has not improved. Yuki identified the need for good management – she described it like seeing incredible talent without an agent. If her father, and her neighbors, could get better representation, Yuki thought, they could get better customers. With better customers they could get a bigger share of their harvest, getting up enough to see the path forward.

Four, five years ago there was no talk of specialty coffee. The idea that coffee could have different flavors, and different values, was foreign to the region. But this is part of what Yuki brought back. With a plan in place she started recruiting her neighbors behind the simple idea – we do the work we get the reward. She argued that they could get better prices on the commodity market by working together to pool costs and negotiate sales as a block. She argued that some of their coffee could be kept aside, improved, and sold as specialty. And she convinced them that she could find buyers interested if they were willing to invest in quality. Lastly, she had to convince them that she was the right person, that she would get the training (Q), and make the connections (IWCA, SCA) necessary to make this dream come true.

This 2018 import was Yuki’s first. We are honored to have met such a spirited and capable partner in coffee. Please join us as we welcome Yuki and her community to specialty coffee.

Let’s meet the farmers

Farmer:            Yuki Minami and her father Niculau Minami
Farm 1:            Fazenda Olhos D’agua (Lot 71)
Farm 2:            Fazenda San Antonio (Lot 42)
Production:        5,000-6,000 bags between the two farms.
State:             Minas Gerais
Region:            Cerrado Mineiro
District:          Alto Paranaiba
Closest town:      São Gotardo
Map:               https://goo.gl/maps/PXn8g3CB4xm
Varieties:         Red and Yellow Catui
Altitude:          3750 – 4000 feet

Farm 1: Lot 71, the original. 56 hectares but just got a coffee plot in December ’17. In three years will produce a yellow Catui variety. Altitude = 1150m.

Farm 2: Santo Antonioaka Lot 42. Coffee was planted here in 2002 and now has 122 hectares of coffee. Altitude = 1150m.

The main challenge is renewing the coffee trees. They will start an experimental plant to try out classic bourbon and the new hybrid capped ‘parasio’ or ‘SL-34’; historically they have only planted red and yellow catuai.

2- Edson Tamekuni (pronounced: tamae – kuni)

Region:            Cerrado Mineiro
State:             Minas Gerais
Farm:              Vargrem Grande
Production:        98 hectares of coffee
Closest Town:      Campos Altos
Map:               https://goo.gl/maps/V63vhm5qt3y
Varieties:         Bourbon, Yellow Catui, Margoype
Altitude:          3800 – 4000 feet.

37 years old, Edson’s grandparents came from Japan, just like Yuki’s, and his wife is an incredible baker. They produce naturals and pulp naturals across two farms.

Farm 1: Pacoes [pronounced posoiynes; the ‘c’ is a placeholder for the ‘ç’ (c-cedilla)]

Focus of this farm is on productivity.

Farm 2: Vargem Grande (pronounced Var – Gem). Was purchased two years ago from a man who grew too old to manage the farm. But he was an award-winning coffee farmer (#13 Cup of Excellence in 2016 on the first year they took over operation of the farm). They just needed younger labor and management. The focus is on quality; shade-grown low yields.

3- Michael Tomizawa

State:             Minas Gerais
Region:            Cerrado Mineiro
District:          Alto Paranaiba
Farm 1:            São Bento
Production:        42 hectares 
Farm 2:            Fazenda Paraiso
Production:        28 hectares
Closest Town:      Carmo Paranaiba
Map:               https://goo.gl/maps/1FVN1j3ZYEM2
Varieties:         Yellow Catui, Yellow Bourbon, Mundo Novo, Paraiso
Altitude:          3400 – 3500 feet

Maycon (Michael) is 35 years old. His wife Patricia roasts; you can find their coffee at the local Farmers Markets.


Efrem was first introduced to us in 2017 as a new but trusted producer by Crop to Cup Ethiopia organizer, Moata. His year-one quality was through the roof. No complaints there.  We met him during a stop in Bonga town, where we shared an Ambo and some tibs (pictured).  It was enough time to hear a story that included military, Cuba and Israel, and not near enough time to wrap our heads around a saga of that magnitude.   Which is to say, we were very interested to learn more.

Fast forward to November as we are visiting near the onset of the 2018 harvest. The November rains stayed late this harvest, so we got stuck in mud. Lots of mud. Day one started with a slow and sloppy hike into the farm which gave us time to hear more of Efrem’s story.  He is an Ethiopian-born, Cuban-educated and part-time Israel-residing accountant who returned to work in his home community through coffee some six years ago.

You may remember that the US took part in a series of airlifts that brought almost all of Ethiopia’s Jewish population (~120,000 souls) to Israel following the ‘violent red terror’. But the Beta Israel (as they are called) have a history in Ethiopia that they trace back to the tribe of Dan (son of Moses), and now a few brave members, like Efrem, are coming home to reestablish their community.

“They claim Decha is the birthplace of coffee, and that coffee is the source of happiness for our people. Emero means happiness…” Efrem explains as he serves us delicious coffee, taro root, and a bread made from fermented roots of false banana trees. “This is what we eat here on the farm” he continues, as our small group politely nibbles on the spread.

Noticing my sweat, and not knowing it was from the false banana bread, he changes topics. “The hike here, it was hard wasn’t it? I’m hoping to build a road by next year.  Actually, he needs a few roads, one being a foot-bridge over a local river (where we saw cattle being dragged by the horn through fast moving waters deeper than their heads.)

Later we found out that Efrem took us the long way into the farm. Not a bad way to show off his estate, which included not only coffee but cardamom, teff, old growth trees and easily startled spider monkeys.  Or perhaps he took us the long way so that we’d work up a soggy-footed, high-elevation sweat.

In the parts where hiking was not possible, we saddled up.  When horses could not make it, we jumped on a tractor borrowed from a neighboring farm. This is the western highlands and the highlands are wet almost year-round…which is why our first conversation with Efrem was on the subject of drying.

While the harvest had just begun, Efrem’s drying trays were already thick with the first collection. When preparing naturals it is common to gradually increase the depth of they cherry pile (as a decrease in overall moisture occurs), this is done to consolidate and avail drying space for incoming cherry. But especially during the first few critical days cherries MUST be one layer thick and no more.

It was clear that Efrem would need more drying beds in order to scale up with the harvest. The day following our visit we saw a facebook update – viola!, more drying capacity. We are not surprised; this is Efrem’s style. He’ll take advice into immediate action. Last year Efrem’s farm was brand new.  In a years time, he constructed a brick-making operation, invested in a ton of raised bed drying, and erected two facilities, an office + warehouse.  Next on his to-do list is a vacuum packing machine.

This year, in addition to growing his volumes from 1 to 2 containers (ambitious), Efrem set goals around investing in local schools and improving the roads.

We bought all of Efrem’s coffees this year.  Most of it has been contracted out before arrival.  But there’s still a few bags that we reserved for our spots.  Efrem’s coffees lean into a subtle blue fruit-leather / concord grape profile.  They’re very clean and we think play especially well in espresso, which extenuates a nice round body, and coaxes those deep fruit notes to the fore.

In 2016 a handful of successful smallholder cooperatives from the Jimma region broke off from the Oromia Union to form Ethiopia’s first new coffee farmers’ cooperative in generations – The Keta Maduga Cooperative Union. They thought they could do a better job marketing member coffees, run a more efficient organization and return more to members.

In 2018 we used average export numbers to develop a Profit and Loss style breakdown of how this has worked out. It’s a good example of how complicated it can be to trace export prices back to the farm – even in this case, when the coop itself acted as the exporter, lots were collected all at one price (as opposed to being assembled across multiple daily prices), and minimal middle-men were involved.

The chart below starts with revenues on top (green), then variable costs (red) to show Gross Profit at the cooperative level (black). From there, expenses – including payments and premiums to member farmers are shown on an average basis by pound, bag and container (blue).

2018 Keta Maduga Income, Cost and Profit Distribution (an example)
 Pound Bag Container
Keta Maduga Income  $3.47 $458.73  $146,795
Export Green (FOB Export @ 3.40 / lb)  $3.40 $449.75  $143,921
Local sales (7% undergrades, broken, chipped @ 97c /lb)  $0.97 $128.31  $2,874
Keta Maduga Costs  $2.40 $316.96  $101,427
Red Cherry Purchases (price paid to farmer)  $1.45 $191.81  $61,378
Cherry – Parchment Loss (20%)  $0.29  $38.36  $12,276
Wet Mill Processing (fuel, transport, workers)  $0.22  $29.10  $9,313
Parchment – Green Loss (2.5%)  $0.04  $5.52  $1,767
Export Expenses (jute bags, grain pro, transport, forwarding, insurance)  $0.17  $22.49  $7,196
Union Commission (5% of export sales)  $0.17  $22.49  $7,196
Working capital loan (15% against red cherry purchases at 1.38 over 4 months)  $0.05  $7.19  $2,302
Keta Maduga Profit  $1.07 $141.77  $45,368
Keta Maduga Profit-Distribution
Reserve Fund (30% of remainder)  $0.32 $42.53  $13,610
Member bonus by share (10% of remainder)  $0.11 $14.18  $4,537
Member bonus by cherry delivered (55% of remainder)  $0.59 $77.98  $24,952
Social Project (5% of remainder)  $0.05 $7.09  $2,268
Total Farmer Payment (w/ shares)  $2.15 $283.96  $90,867
% of FOB Export Price 63%
Total KM Benefit (Reserve + Commission)  $0.49 $65.02  $20,806
% of FOB Export Price 14%
Total Capture of Export Value  $2.64 $348.98  $111,673