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Kenya: Prying open the 2nd Window

I’m back in Africa and its energizing! Although it was nice to recalibrate with my quality crew in Portland and “settle in” for a little while, it has become quite clear to me that my home is on the road. I feel stronger, more confident while on the move directing our operations at source.

Kenya is the first stop on a five country East Africa tour. You folks have become used to our top lot offerings year after year and we remain committed to bringing you nothing short of the finest quality Kenyan coffees. We’re going to take a slightly different route from here on out. For those of you who have kept up with the source report reading, you’ll remember that I met with the good folks at Dorman’s in April to discuss possibilities for 2nd Window purchasing. You’ll also remember that the 2nd Window is a direct avenue to the cooperatives and estates. The auction system, still alive and well and part of our purchasing strategy, was an impenetrable wall, keeping buyers from sourcing coffee directly from producers. Which is not to say that producers were/are not receiving fair due for their coffee, quite the contrary to be honest, as Kenyan coffee farmers command some of the highest wages of any coffee producing country in the world. Dorman’s deserves the bulk of the credit for getting those prices back to the farmers. The auction system does, however, keep us from establishing relationships and having any impact at the farm level. That’s all about to change with the advent of the 2nd Window.

We cupped through the top 8 Dorman’s lots of the year on day 1, which are always Kenya’s best, targeting cooperatives and estates for possible direct purchasing. Interestingly enough, an old favorite at the Stumptown, the Gaturiri washing station, jumped up and smacked my lips with its magical raspberry flavor and heavy, brothy mouth feel. It was decided then that we needed to visit these folks, along with a few others from the Barichu and Tekangu cooperatives.

We headed out to Nyeri, home to Kenya’s finest coffees, at the foot of Mt. Kenya, bright and early the following morning to meet with the cooperative leaders. We stopped off at Mathira Mill first to check out the dry milling operation and the brand new SL28 nursery that CMS, Dorman’s and the Stumptown are collaborating together on to ensure quality coffee production in Nyeri for years to come. Ruiru 11, an inferior, Robusta/Arabica hybrid has saturated farms in the area for the past few years. This will inevitably lead to a drop off in quality so we are looking to stop its progression dead in its tracks. The SL28 seedlings will be disseminated to producers at a very minimal cost making it the best option when farmers look to replant. We’re stoked to make a positive impact in Kenya!

The next stop was the Barichu Cooperative to meet with the Coop leader as well as the leaders of the Gotambayo and Gaturiri processing stations. I told them about the Stumptown’s interest in pursuing the 2nd Window and making efforts towards purchasing some of their coffees direct. Richard from the Gaturiri Factory told me he had been praying for a company like our’s to show up since the advent of the 2nd Window several years ago. He told me that this has been his dream and a dream of the farmers. I think time stopped for a second or two. Richard had my heart in his hand and the Stumptown’s commitment to his farmers. We can’t wait until after the harvest to taste the new crop!

After touring the processing infrastructure at Gaturiri we high tailed it over to the Karagoto washing station to meet the leaders of the Tekangu Cooperative. I spoke to them about the Stumptown and our commitment to coffee quality and quality of life for every participant in our supply chain, particularly our producers. They told me about their commitment to their farms and farmers and said they were up to the challenge.

We’ll be back for the harvest in November to work with these producers. The Stumptown won’t settle for anything less than excellent quality and we’re more than prepared to roll up our sleeves and get to work side by side with our producers in order to procure it. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for producers to sustain a direct sales relationship with a roaster prepared to pay top dollar for top quality. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Stumptown to be at the forefront in bringing our customers 2nd Window, direct trade Kenyan coffee. We’ll keep you updated.

-Aleco