Orders are shipped every Monday, Thursday and Friday. Blends are roasted on Mondays and Fridays each week whilst single origins are roasted only on Wednesdays at this stage (due to batch size requirements).
Unique coffee, produced ethically, traded transparently.
This coffee is the result of a research project and public-private sector partnership in Uganda aimed at improving the food security of coffee growers and their families through increasing the quality of their coffee and creating access to high value export markets. Our head roaster Adam was privileged enough to be part of the project team and with two other Adelaidians he met 'on the ground' - Eddy and Daniel - (and the immeasurable support of many more) went on to co-found Intersection Traders in order to bring the amazing coffee that has resulted to Australia. In doing so he's had the opportunity to take what he has learned working in specialty coffee over the years and, working with researchers and farmers on the ground - excuse the pun - 'practise what we preach'.
The coffee was grown on the slopes of Mt Elgon - a dormant volcano located in Kapchorwa in the east of Uganda. Literally translated from the local dialect as ‘Home of Friends’, Kapchorwa has a long history of arabica coffee production and is linked directly to coffee producers in Kenya - located on a smaller portion of the very same Mt Elgon and producing some of the highest quality coffee on the market. With strong diurnal temperature variation and two rainy seasons the region possesses optimal conditions for slow coffee development and an amazing environment of waterfalls and lush vegetation. Despite this ability to grow incredibly high quality coffee, exports of Ugandan coffee have previously only been to the commodity market - due mostly to a lack of access to specialty markets, knowledge or pre-financing and a decentralised post-harvest supply chain. All of which we are working to overcome.
Intersection Traders approached the development of a new specialty coffee program in Uganda with an explicit focus on ensuring that everybody engaged in the value chain would receive substantial improvements in income. Working with researchers at universities in Australia, Uganda and the Netherlands, they’ve trialled and implemented a novel contracting approach that allows coffee pickers and growers to be involved in a transparent and higher-paying harvesting program based around picking quality. From the outset they have explicitly sought to work primarily with youth and women in order to provide more opportunities to disadvantaged groups; furthermore in 2019, working with the local growers’ society they developed the community owned Bugimotwa washing station - giving producers access to the infrastructure and scale required to substantially increase volumes, with an aim to establish more stations in future years along with training in agronomy.
After passing our quality assessment stage (which occurs within eight hours of cherries being picked) the coffee is floated and then for the washed lots it is pulped (using well maintained and clean equiptment) and then fermented submerged for thirty six hours, after which the coffee is washed twice then laid on raised drying beds. The naturals are placed on the drying beds in thin layers diretly after floating with layers being built-up as the coffee dries. The coffee is dried slowly with meticulous stirring for two to four weeks until it reaches eleven percent moisture, after which it is stored in GrainPro until dry milling.
Curiously the volcano that this blend is named after is not really a volcano. Looking at it you could be fooled though, and this is how the area, surrounding the mountain that appears to be a volcano, was named "El Volean". This is a special coffee growing region beca use of the high altitude, the mild climate and shade found covering the coffee tree on the farms. Here the vegetation is green and plentiful, a healthy ecosystem where the coffee trees flourish. Farmers here take advantage of the special environment by not just growing amazing coffees but also by planting vegeta ble gardens to sustain themselves and their families, with fresh produce.
Farmers mainly grow traditional varieties here and they process their coffees to highest possible standard. Picked coffee cherries are de-pulped immediately and then left to ferment for between 24-36 hours depending on the altitude and specific climatic conditions of the farm.
This micro-lot was produced by Juan Carlos Diaz and his father Carlos Julio Diaz on their 12-hectare farm, El Naranjal (meaning “the orange” in Spanish) located near the small community of Laureles, in the municipality of Ibagué, in Colombia’s Tolima state.
El Naranjal is situated in the high hills to the South West of Tolima’s capital city, Ibagué. There are no roads that access the farm, so visitors must climb a steep and slippery path from 1750 meters to 1900 meters above sea level, across rugged terrain. The double story farmhouse sits on the peak of a hill, surrounded by high mountains and coffee trees. The highest points of the farm are over 2000 meters above sea level and can only be reached on foot or by mule.
Carlos Julio purchased El Naranjal in 1994 and today co-manages the farm with Juan Carlos. The farm is 12 hectares large, 8 hectares of which are planted with coffee trees of the Caturra, Colombia and Castillo varieties. The family also farms plantain, beans and oranges (for which the farm is named). Juan Carlos and his wife, Eliana, live at his parent’s farmhouse with their two children, Juan Julio (8yrs) and Renata (2yrs) and are saving to eventually purchase their own property.
Historically the area around the small town of Laureles has been known for cattle, sugarcane and vegetables. Coffee is a relatively new crop for the region, having only been planted in the last 30-40 years. Most coffee farmers purchased land in the area because it was more affordable than traditional coffee farming areas like Planadas and Chaparral, in Tolima’s south. Higher elevation areas were considered less prosperous than lower areas because they typically achieve lower yields. However, this region has since gained acclaim for the high cup quality, sweetness and complexity of the coffees produced here.
Most farms in the region are planted with the Caturra variety, which was the most popular variety during the 1970s and 1980s when the farms were established. Coffee in Laureles is farmed with traditional techniques. Fertilisation occurs around three times a year, usually after manual weeding, and pesticides are rarely used. The coffee is selectively hand-harvested, with most labour being provided by the farmers and their families.
Coffee from Tolima has historically been very difficult to access due to the region’s isolation and instability. For many years this part of Colombia was under the control of Colombia’s notorious rebel group, the FARC, and as a result, it was unsafe and violent. Since 2012, safe access to this region has been possible as a result of peace talks between the Colombian government and the rebels. Since this time some stunning coffees from small producers have become accessible to the international market.
The word ‘Tolima’ comes from the local indigenous language and means a “river of snow or cloud”. The region sits on the Cordillera Central, in the middle of the three mountain ranges that provide a range of microclimates well-suited to high-quality coffee production. Coffee is the leading agricultural activity in the region, followed by beans and cattle.
The most well-known regions in Tolima for specialty coffee are Planadas and Chaparral in the south. This coffee comes from the areas surrounding Ibagué, which is further north in the state. The city is also known as the “Ciudad del Abanico” or the “city of the folding fan” because when you look at it from the sky the rivers running from the mountains split up the crops of rice and cotton, and it looks like a beautiful handmade folding fan.
How This Coffee Was Sourced
The coffee is sourced by MCM's export partners, Pergamino, who purchase coffee from about 40 independent coffee growers in the region of Ibagué. This is the second year that Juan Carlos and Carlos Julio have sold coffee to Pergamino. During a visit to his farm, Carlos Julio recounted the story of the first time they sold a coffee lot to them when the coffee only achieved a cup score of 80 from the QC team. Following the advice of Pergamino’s co-founder and agronomist, Léonardo Henao Triana, Carlos Julio began fermenting his coffee to remove the sticky fruit of the coffee cherry from the seed, rather than using a mechanical demucilager. The result was a significantly higher cup score, which could be sold with a higher premium. With Pergamino’s assistance, Juan Carlos and Carlo Julio’s goal is to have a consistent cup score of 86 or higher, which will secure the best premiums. They intend to add a second fermentation tank to his ‘micro-beneficio’ (mill) so that he has the space to ferment all of his coffee, even during peak harvest.
During harvest, the Diaz family deliver small lots (around 100-150kg) of dried parchment to Pergamino’s Ibagué warehouse every 1-2 weeks. Mules are used to transport the coffee down from the highest parts of El Naranjal to Laureles, where it is transferred into small trucks to complete the journey to Ibagué. Only recently a bridge was built over the river that runs through Laureles, Rio Luisa – previously mules had to carry to coffee through the river and many drowned as a result. The new bridge is an incredible point of progress for the small community.
The warehouse in Ibagué is operated and overseen by manager Gonzales, who has a long history of working with Pergamino – in fact, he was Léo’s first boss in coffee! Upon delivery, a sample of the dried parchment is milled and assessed for physical attributes, including uniformity of size, presence of defects, moisture content and seed to hull ratio. If the coffee passes the physical assessment it is accepted and the farmer receives their first payment for the coffee, calculated by the weight delivered and a base rate related to the physical quality of the parchment.
The coffee is then cupped and assessed for sensory attributes. After being accepted by the team in Ibagué the coffees are transported to Pergamino’s QC lab in Medellin, Antioquia, where they are further assessed by an expert team of cuppers. Each lot is carefully evaluated and, based on the cup score and profile, the coffee is sorted into different grades of quality and combined into exportable sized lots. Feedback on each lot is relayed back to the producer and after it has sold a second payment is made to the producer according to premium the coffee attracted.
Each season the team at Pergamino cups through hundreds of small lots from independent farmers, looking for coffees that exhibit excellent cup characteristics and showcase the region where they were produced. This year, Carlos Julio’s and Juan Carlos’ coffee was selected to be processed separately as a micro-lot for its distinct character and high cup quality.
Pergamino has done a lot to help promote commercialisation of specialty coffee throughout Tolima and have actively been working to source and support coffee producers in regions where there is a high potential for quality, but historically have not had access to specialty buyers. Read more about their work here.
How This Coffee Was Processed
This lot was selectively hand-harvested, with most labour being provided by the family. During peak harvest, the family hires about 10 local labourers to help harvest the coffee cherry, who are paid on a daily rate. Juan Carlos and Carlos Julio prefer to work with the same pickers every year as they have taught them how to select only the ripest cherry for processing. To ensure pickers come and work for them they pay a 15%-20% premium on the local daily rate and provides workers with three meals a day.
The coffee was fermented for 24hrs in the cherry, before being processed using the washed method at El Naranjal’s ‘micro-benficio’ (wet mill). The coffee was floated in the mill’s plastic hopper and then pulped using a small electric pulper. The coffee is then fermented for a further 36hrs in bags, before being finished in the tank for another 12hrs. This is a space saving method, which will change once new tanks are added to the mill.
The coffee was carefully dried on raised beds over 20-30 days. Following fermentation, the coffee was washed using clean water from the Rio Luisa. It was then carefully dried (over 20-30 days) on parabolic beds, which are constructed a bit like a ‘hoop house’ greenhouse, and act to protect the coffee from the rain and prevent condensation dripping back onto the drying beans. The greenhouse is constructed out of plastic sheets and have adjustable walls to help with airflow, and temperature control to ensure the coffee can dry slowly and evenly.
Once dry, the coffee was delivered to Pergamino’s warehouse, where it was cupped and graded, and then rested in parchment until it was ready for export.
Read more about MCM's Colombian export partner Pergamino here.
Wahundura is a washing station (or factory, as they are called in Kenya), built in the 1960s and located in Murang’a County in Kenya’s former Central Province. It is one of four active washing stations – along with its sisters Kagumoini, Riakiberu and Karugiro – owned by the Kamachiria Coffee Farmer’s Cooperative Society (FCS). Kamachiria is made up of over 5,600 producers who farm in Kenya’s central highlands.
Wahundura receives coffee cherries from local members of the cooperative who grow coffee trees on nearby farms, located between 1750-1850 meters above sea level. The factory is managed by Catharine Wahu – the only female factory manager in the Kamachiria FCS – who oversees the collection and careful processing of the coffee cherries. Besides Catharine, Wahundura employs five permanent staff members from the local communities and an additional five or six workers during the season.
Murang’a County is part of Kenya’s former Central Province, which was dissolved in 2013. The area includes Murang’a, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Kiambu and Nyandarua Counties, and is traditionally the homeland of people of Kikiyu ethnicity. The central highlands of Kenya are considered to be one of the wealthiest areas of the country, due to the incredibly fertile land, geographical proximity to the capital, Nairobi, and close integration with the country’s colonial administration before Kenya gained independence in 1962. This integration afforded the communities of Central Kenya with opportunities for education, business and political prowess, despite the various injustices of the colonial government. The Kikiyu people have a long and proud history of agriculture and the region is farmed intensively, with coffee, tea and dairy being the most important modern crops.
The coffees in this lot are grown in the foothills of the extinct volcano, Mt Kenya, in an area defined by its bright red, nutrient-rich, volcanic soil, high elevations and cool climate, all of which contribute to the outstanding quality of coffees produced here. Most farmers in Murang’a are smallholder cooperative members – with farm size averaging just one hectare – and grow coffee as a cash crop alongside food crops like banana, maize, macadamia, avocados and vegetables. Tea and dairy are also important sources of income for the producers. Once harvested, coffee cherries are delivered to a centralised factory where it they are processed and dried, ahead of being transported to Nairobi for sale (either directly or through the auction system).
Many of the producers in the region are second-generation landholders, whose parents would have purchased and planted the land. Most coffee farms in Murang’a were planted in the 1950s, after agricultural reform allowed for small Kenyan farmers to produce cash crops on their family farms (instead of only on large, British owned estates). At that time, it was recommended to plant SL-28 and SL-34, which remain the predominant varieties found in the area and make up over 50% of this lot. Both cultivars have Bourbon and Moka heritage and are named after the laboratory that promoted their wider distribution in Kenya during the early 20th Century: Scott Laboratories. This lot also contains around 20% of the hybrid variety Ruiru 11, which was cultivated as a more robust variety with better resistance to Coffee Berry Disease and Coffee Leaf Rust. The remainder of the lot is made up of Batian, a newer, hardier hybrid that has been bred specifically for its high yields and disease resistance coupled with a high potential for excellent cup quality.
About Kamachiria Farmer’s Cooperative Society
Kamachiria FCS was formed in 1972. Most of their 5,600 farmer members inherited their farms from their parents who were existing members of the cooperative. Kamachiria now owns four washing stations – Wahundura, Kagumoini, Riakiberu and Karugiro. The cooperative supports its farmer members by offering pre-harvest financing, allowing them to plan and invest in the upcoming crop. They also buy inputs in bulk and distribute them to members at a lower cost than otherwise possible.
Kamachiria has six members on its board, which is currently overseen by Chairman Peterson Kinyati and Senior Manager Jane Ngunjin. Board members must be active farmers and are re-elected every three years, to avoid corruption. The cooperative employs 25 permanent staff members, who work out of their office in Murang’a town.
This is the first year that Kamachiria FCS have employed Sucastainability as their marketing agent. Sucastainability takes an on-the-ground approach to improving productivity and quality for Kamachiria’s farmer members through training and education programs. Beyond this, Sucastainability connects Kamachiria FCS to specialty-focused buyers (like MCM) that will pay high premiums for exceptional quality.
This coffee was sourced through Sucastainability, who act as a marketing agent for Kamachiria FCS. The cooperative receives assistance from Sucastainability to maximise the potential and profitability of their coffees, both through training and education programs that improve the productivity and quality of the coffees and in the marketing and sale of those coffees. Sucastainability’s objective is to ensure sustained industry growth by establishing transparent and trust-based relationships with small-holder producers. By training farmers on improving yield and quality, Sucastainability helps to improve the premiums that their coffees are sold for, which ultimately has a positive impact on the quality of life for coffee-producing communities.
Sucastainability was established in 2014 and has grown quickly to be the third-largest marketing agent in Kenya in 2020. The team currently works with over 1000 independent farmers and about 70 cooperatives across all coffee-producing regions of Kenya. The agency is managed by Wycliffe Odhiambo Murwayi (pictured above) who has over twenty years of experience working in the Kenyan coffee industry. His team of agronomists is headed up by Lucy Wanjiku Njoroge (also pictured) and they have a representative in each of the six coffee growing regions in Kenya. Lucy and her team provide training seminars for the smallholders focused on sharing best agricultural practices, with advice and resources to help improve yields and quality. These sessions are extremely well attended and have had a positive impact on coffee quality from Wahundura, as farmers emerge from trainings with a better understanding of the impact that fertilisation, pruning, and quality-driven harvest techniques have on the prices their coffee receives at auction and with direct buyers.
As part of their program, Sucastainability provides pre-financing to producers for school fees and farm inputs. They also buy farm inputs in bulk and then pass on the discounts they gain directly to the cooperative, who in turn sell these at cost to producers, ensuring that they distribute the correct fertilisers and pesticides at the correct time for application.
Sucastainability are responsible for milling the coffee, and also provide important sensory analysis of the coffees and feedback to producers. They are also responsible for marketing and on-selling the coffee either directly to traders or via the Auction system, who then sell the coffee to the final buyer. To learn more about the chain of custody in Kenya, click here.
How This Lot Was Processed
All the coffee cherry is hand-picked and delivered on the same day to the washing station, where it undergoes meticulous sorting. This is also done by hand and is overseen by a ‘cherry clerk’ who ensures any unripe and damaged cherries are removed. The ripe cherry is then digitally weighed and recorded, and the farmer receives a receipt of delivery.
The coffee is then placed in a receiving tank and pulped using a pulping machine to remove the skin and fruit from the inner parchment layer that protects the green coffee bean. After being pulped, the coffee is sorted by weight using water, with the highest quality and densest beans being separated out from the lighter, lower-quality beans.
The coffee is then dry fermented for 8 hours, to break down the sugars and remove the mucilage (sticky fruit covering) from the outside of the beans. Whilst the coffee is fermenting it is checked intermittently and when it is ready it is rinsed and removed from the tanks and placed in a washing channel.
The parchment-covered coffee is then washed with fresh water from the nearby Rwarai and Gatura Rivers and sent through water channels for grading by weight. The heavier coffee, which sinks, is considered the higher quality, sweeter coffee, and any lighter density or lower grade coffee beans are removed. The beans are then sent to soaking tanks where they sit underwater for a further 12 hours. This process increases the proteins and amino acids, which in turn heightens the complexity of the acidity.
After soaking, the coffee is pumped onto deep drying beds where they drain for 1-2 hours, before being transferred to raised drying tables (also known as African beds). As they dry the parchment is turned constantly to ensure even drying, and so that any defective beans can be identified removed. Time on the drying tables depends on the weather, ambient temperature and processing volume: taking anywhere from one to two weeks to get to the target moisture of 11–12%. After drying the coffee is moved to conditioning beds, where it rests in parchment for about a month. This resting period helps to stabilise water activity and contributes to long-lasting quality and vibrancy in the cup.
Once the coffee is ready it is transported to Kahawa Bora Mill (“good coffee mill”) to be dry milled and prepared for shipping. Kahawa Bora is located in Thika, about 1hrs drive from Nairobi.
Kenya uses a grading system for all its exportable coffee lots. The grading system is based on the size and assumed quality of the bean. A coffee’s grade is directly correlated with the price it attracts at auction or through direct trade.
This coffee is AA grade. This grade relates to the size (in this case, AA means that the beans are screen size 18 and above). More AA grade coffee is found in Central Kenya than anywhere else in the country, thanks to the high altitudes which allow for greater late yields. These later yield cherries have the benefit of better weather, with optimum sunshine and a longer period for the sugars to develop and when they are finally picked, they are on average fuller, redder and heavier than cherries grown in other areas.
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