Summer is over, Harvest is Coming!

We have been a little quiet here, the main reason being that we have been extremely busy.

Credit: BirdSong Coffee

Credit: BirdSong Coffee

In July, we finally sent off our harvest from Lawrence and Jennifer Masaba family. Both orders went to the Czech Republic, and are now being offered by our customers The Mountain Gorilla Coffee and a very small batch of garden 5 by BirdSong Coffee, my old project run by my sister Linda.

We are happy about these two value-aligned customers. The Mountain Gorilla Coffee has been coming to Uganda for coffee origin trips for the last few years, promoting conservation activities and donating 1 % of their annual turnover to The Gorilla Doctors. The BirdSong Coffee offers the best quality and most eco-friendly coffees from Africa and Latin America sustainably, meaning that they supply unpackaged shops and promote #bringyourownmug at their coffee shop.

Credit: Annie Langford

Credit: Annie Langford

The export process was time consuming as it was our first time, but everything worked out well in the end and we were very grateful to have such a committed team of people working with The Coffee Gardens. We also had our first intern working with us. Annie is Canadian, passionate about photography, but mainly she loves Uganda. Her work ethic, value alignment and creativity pushed us to work on certain activities which we would have otherwise postponed until many years later. You will soon be able to see fruits of her work through a promo movie.

Since then, we have started focusing on the new harvest that is coming up in just a couple weeks. We are introducing a revolutionary plan compared to the last year. We are changing our processing strategy and operations completely. This season, The Coffee Gardens will work closely with partner farmers, assist them during the cherry picking, buy, track and trace coffee from farmers’s gardens and process it in our own processing station in Sironko district.

The Coffee Gardens’ future processing station during ongoing works.

The Coffee Gardens’ future processing station during ongoing works.

The reasons for shifting the processing from farmers hands to ours are numerous, and would definitely fill up a whole page in another blog post. In a nutshell: the climate up in the mountains is very challenging for coffee drying, the hard-to-reach areas don’t permit everyday overlooking over the coffee processing, the infrastructure is not sufficient, farmers are busy with other important activities during the day and they cannot look constantly after their coffee, there is risk of theft and more...

Farmers’ meeting with The Coffee Gardens team ( Job and Shak L- R ) to discuss logistics of harvesting to ensure traceability and picking schedule.

Farmers’ meeting with The Coffee Gardens team ( Job and Shak L- R ) to discuss logistics of harvesting to ensure traceability and picking schedule.

This season, we are working with Lawrence and Jennifer again, who introduced us to their neighbour farmers who are now interested in joining our program. While in lower altitude gardens the farmers are already processing, we will start in a couple of weeks as the coffee is still immature due to cooler climate in the higher altitudes. Before that, we need to finalize the station and set up a coffee pulping machine. We hope to beat the clock and be able to offer our new samples at the end of November.

Get in touch with us if you are interested in what we do, want to taste our coffee, or chat about coffee over coffee.

by Dana Siedem (Co-founder and CEO of The Coffee Gardens)

The Story Begins

Cupping session of Ugandan coffee samples at the BirdSong Coffee, Prague.

Cupping session of Ugandan coffee samples at the BirdSong Coffee, Prague.

When we moved to Uganda two years ago, I wanted to work for an established coffee company that worked directly with coffee farmers and focused on organic agriculture. Those were two areas I was passionate about and I felt I wanted to practically learn and know more about the beginning of the coffee value chain. I met lots of people passionate about coffee and working on different parts across the value chain, however, I didn’t feel satisfied with the level of work companies did in terms of agriculture sustainability and quality assurance. For almost the whole first year I spent in the country I kept searching for amazing coffee from Uganda and I wondered why Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi all have great coffees – but not Uganda! The Ugandan coffees only rarely reached counters of speciality coffee shops and I kept wondering why that was It took me a long time to find a coffee that really raised my interest.

On one occasion, I travelled back home to Europe packed with a suitcase of coffee samples that I gathered from different coffee people. In Prague, where we cupped it with my sister from BirdSong Coffee and other coffee friends, one particular sample among others raised our curiosity. The cup was clean, with hints of citrus and Christmas spices like star anise and cinnamon. After I returned back to Uganda, I searched for this farmer and finally found him. When people told me that he lived “far” it actually meant that he lived far from far…. on the top of the mountain right next to the Mt. Elgon national park. His farm is not accessible by car, and in the rainy season the dirt roads turn to sticky mud so that even motorcycles and people walking struggle. This is how I met our coffee farmers Lawrence and Jennifer, who live in 2050 above sea level and own 7 small coffee gardens (so called shambas).

by Dana Siedem (Co-founder and CEO of The Coffee Gardens)

 

 

Who’s the right farmer to work with?

Farmers Jennifer and Lawrence Masaba.

Farmers Jennifer and Lawrence Masaba.

When I first visited farmers Lawrence and Jennifer, I was impressed by the diversity of crops and trees in their home garden. They grow coffee trees among beans, peas, potatoes, and bananas, as well as tropical fruit trees, local trees and some climbers. The garden was very lush and fairly well maintained. This is not a common practice in Uganda, where native shade trees are often cut down for timber and replaced with eucalyptus or pines. The area surrounding their home is tidy, and thanks to the remoteness of their place, the garbage and plastic bags that can be found scattered around farms lower down is absent.. We chatted with Lawrence, who speaks some English, about their farm and coffee. He showed me how and where he processes his coffee and told me about the challenges they face each harvest season. Their store was simple, but spotless and coffee sacks were placed on wooden poles. I recognised that this farmer’s family have an eye for organization and preciseness. I collected some samples and I was curious whether the quality and flavour will resemble my previous findings. 

After analyzing the coffee, I could still map the hints of citrus and spices in it, however it was not the same as the first sample. During the visit to Lawrence and Jennifer, I also learned they owned 7 coffee gardens in total, but which are not directly next to each other. This raised my curiosity even more, I wondered why their coffee samples were not consistent; is it because of the management of the gardens, or the coffee varieties they have in their gardens, processing or something else?   No matter what it was, I decided to find out during the next harvest season. However I already knew that at least one of their gardens produces exceptional coffee and if carefully and consistently processed, maybe all the coffees could be great. 

by Dana Siedem (Co-founder and CEO of The Coffee Gardens)