Ugandan coffee is still an undiscovered territory, with massive potential, when it comes to speciality coffee. Finding the right partner and understanding how coffee is grown and sold there were key-stones of our coffee buying journey. We were looking for a partner who is, like us, focused on transparency and sustainability, and willing to collaborate on projects to tap into the true potential of this wonderful hidden gem of East African coffee. The Kaffa Handshake program empowers us to make all of our supply chains transparent and traceable.
Uganda has all the potential to produce amazing coffee; fertile, volcanic soil, plenty of rainfall and smart people. Unfortunately the country has mostly been known from its Robusta, but happily, over the last decade, Arabica production has started to boom as well. Part of the problem has also been a lack of transparency in Ugandan coffee trading. Luckily, we found a partner who is on a mission to change this: Great Lakes Coffee. They are a small family-owned green coffee sourcing and exporting company. They have been involved in coffee for three generations, starting out as farmers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their goal is to make coffee sourcing and exporting 100% transparent and traceable.
I visited Uganda in October and got the chance to meet farmers and plan future projects that will hopefully lead to something exciting for you guys to taste. Most of the farms there are tiny, and separated micro lots is still rare. The problem before has been that when crops get mixed into bigger lots, the info of who grew the coffee does not reach the buyer, let alone the end consumer. This is what Great Lakes wants to develop. By building a traceability app called Maxtrace, they are able to trace even the tiniest portions of a lot back to the farmer. On top of this, they can tell exactly how many kilos each farmer contributed to a certain lot and how much they get paid.
In order to get the coffee quality up, they are building so-called demo plots to showcase which farming methods lead to better coffee. This education is crucial for farmers to be able to increase the number of cherries they produce, and the price they get from their crop by adding value through higher quality.
Increasing the quality of coffee is something that we as a buyer can also help with. Great Lakes Coffee’s main focus is on natural processed coffees, and we are working together with them to find a way to make the fermentation process more stable and consistent. By investing in infrastructure, simple tools and lot separation with key lead farmers we can pay more to the producers and ensure consistent quality and exciting flavours. Stay tuned.