East Africa is one of those places we can never wait to visit, and always feel quite sad to leave. Like the coffees themselves, this part of the world is incredibly unique, with innumerable opportunities for exciting growth. We have recently returned from a sourcing trip through Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda and have much to share!
On this trip, we spent the majority of our time visiting with some of our favorite Rwandan producers and washing stations. To our amazement, Rwanda has experienced a harvest two to three times larger than last year’s! From some preliminary cuppings, we’re anticipating that the Rwanda Kageyo—hitting coffee bars this holiday season—will be a real standout. We have purchased exceptional coffees from Kageyo in the Ngorororero District of western Rwanda in the past and continue to be blown away by the remarkable quality and characteristics of their coffees.
In addition to a week in Rwanda, we explored some major coffee-producing regions in Uganda and Tanzania. These countries have been harvesting and exporting coffee for decades, and have optimal climates and topographies for producing specialty coffee. While it still may be some time before we see world-class single producer micro-lots out of these regions, many producers are well on the path as perceptions begin to shift towards prioritizing quality over quantity. Imagine yourself a farmer with coffee trees. For decades you and your family have harvested coffee cherry and have subsequently taken it to a buying station in your town. You receive a payment for each delivery, determined by the weight of the coffee cherry and subject to the ever-changing coffee commodity market price. Without a tangible incentive or premium provided for quality coffee, you will most likely continue to prioritize volume.
What we have seen time and time again in various countries throughout the world—and what we see taking shape now in East Africa—is a paradigm shift towards the de-commoditization of coffee on the small scale. Farmers are beginning to deliver coffee to new specialty exporters who pay premiums for high quality coffees. Many specialty exporters are introducing farmer training initiatives and providing tools, fertilizers, and other farming support. Here, we are witnessing the beginnings of a more sustainable supply chain, one that we believe will continue to grow and evolve over time. Exciting things ahead!