In early 2017, Dana, Micheal and Shak started talking specialty coffee...
The year prior, Dana and Shak moved to Uganda - where Micheal is from. Micheal and Shak had just finished their Masters at the London School of Economics (where they had become friends), and - at the same time - Dana had been setting up a specialty coffee shop with her sister in Prague.
After moving to Uganda, Dana spent some time looking at various coffee companies. She wanted to work directly with coffee farmers and focus on organic agriculture, coffee quality and environmental protection - areas she is passionate about. Surprised by the limited amount of specialty coffee from Uganda on the international market, she spent time with a range of actors across the coffee value chain to try and understand why.
Seeing and learning first hand the challenges farmers face led to lots of late night discussions. With Micheal and Shak’s background in development, ideas emerged for a business that would address these obstacles and improve the conditions for smallholder coffee farmers.
In mid 2017, the three agreed to test out a small pilot: work with one farmer family whose coffee had potential and provide support to improve coffee processing practices, training, access to loans on fair terms, and above market prices. The aim was to see if, by improving coffee processing practices and creating better incentives for farmers, we could produce specialty coffee that could be sold internationally.
This pilot was successful and turned into The Coffee Gardens.