A few days ago a panel, organized by Artisan Coffee Imports, took place at the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Expo in Boston titled, "East Africa Quality Innovation."
· Sara Yirga, moderator and founder of YA Coffee Roasters in Ethiopia
· Rachel Samuel-Overton, Co-founder Gesha Village, Ethiopia (private estate)
· Lauren Rosenberg, Managing Director, Long Miles Coffee, Burundi (private)
· Ruth Ann Church, President of Artisan Coffee Imports, representing Kopakama coop, Rwanda
The panelists focused primarily on marketing, and how marketing green coffee as a producing organization requires also attention to price paid to suppliers (either farmers, workers or both) and quality control mechanisms, to control the quality of incoming coffee.
Bench Maji zone, Ethiopia, shared an inspiring video that advertises their annual auction. The estate earns 15% of revenue from sales of the 6% of coffee sold during the auction. Prices can go as high as $100/lb green.
Long Miles Coffee, founded in 2013, offered the perspective of a private organization, working in a complicated and ever-changing regulatory context. Their mission is to uplift farmers and to do this, they find they must continuously find ways to work closer with the farmers, 12 months per year. Ms. Rosenberg also highlighted the visibility they give the story of the farmers through their Instagram posts and other media easily accessible to roaster- customers.
Kopakama, a cooperative started in 1998, represented the oldest organization and farmer-owned-and-controlled business model. Kopakama holds a triple certification (Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Organic) and most notably pursues "Lean at Origin" processes. This management philosophy is well-known in other industries, but is new to coffee. With it, Kopakama is moving towards more efficiency, in order to allow its employees to focus on growth, not every-day fire-fighting.