Specialty green coffee traders, sourcing from 26 origins on behalf of over 1000 roasters.

Bara's Travel Journal - Uganda, January 2024

What is the meaning of the origin trip? What does it mean to me? 
A while ago, a colleague asked me why I enjoyed going to the countries where coffee is produced. My answer was simple. I love it because it allows me to connect with the people who grow the coffee and bring them closer to our clients. It’s a humbling experience to be in their territory and culture, and a sense of pride is shared among everyone. When clients know where their coffee comes from, they appreciate the value of it and feel connected to the farmers. Being emotionally and personally involved in the supply chain allows us to remember the coffee and talk about it uniquely.
Travelling together with your importer can open up opportunities for sharing experiences and learning from each other. For many people, including myself, it’s an opportunity to step outside of our comfort zone and confront our impact on the world. During these trips, I pay attention to the values of young people and how they are changing, as well as the evolving values of our clients. By connecting these two dots, I’ve been able to witness the positive impact it can have. Spending hours together in a car also allows us to recognise the changes that need to occur and how our behaviour and decisions can affect people on the other side of the world.
I stand by those things, but I would like to emphasise the importance of the actual experience. Every origin trip is unique and can be influenced by various factors such as the harvest, the group of people you are travelling with your expectations, and the real time you spend on the ground. You will create memories with the group, as well as your own personal memories that will become a collection of stories. These stories will be told about you and you will also tell them to others or to yourself.
The origin trip is much more than just a coffee trip, although we connect through coffee. I went to Uganda with a group of European roasters to connect them with our country partners through The Coffee Gardens project. 
The tale I’d like to share is about The Coffee Gardens (TCG), Dana and Shak, the two remarkable individuals who are constructing something greater than a simple washing station in the Mt. Elgon mountain region of Uganda. Their effort and dedication to their operation are truly awe-inspiring, and their positive impact on the community is widely acknowledged. Shak has implemented strict processes that have proven to be effective and valuable.
Every stage of their coffee production involves weighing, which may seem insignificant but can make all the difference in terms of profit and loss. Furthermore, weighing the coffee at each stage provides security for TCG’s employees in the event of a robbery, and each batch of cherries can be traced back for quality purposes. At dinner one evening, we discussed the day’s events when Shak’s phone alarm went off, signalling a break-in at their washing station.
The incident made us realise the harsh reality of daily life in rural parts of Mt. Elgon mountain. Watching the footage on camera was both reassuring and unsettling, but showed that the security measures taken were necessary and effective. We often come across supply chain reports filled with numbers, but it’s important to remember that the reality can be more complex than just numbers.
The Coffee Runners
But the story that resonated the most with the roasters was one that paved the way for a shift in values for them. Lack of infrastructure is a common issue when it comes to transporting coffee down from the mountains to the washing stations, and TGC is no exception to this.
However, what made a difference for our group was the hands-on experience. We hiked the trail that is used by TGC’s runners who carry bags of cherries from the top of the hill down to the washing station. These bags can weigh up to 50kg and are carried on their head or shoulders. We hiked up the trail and even tried to follow two runners on the way down in the rain. None of us were able to keep up with the runners’ pace, despite wearing hiking shoes and carrying mostly empty backpacks. The key role of the runners, as well as their physical stamina and agility, is an important example of what goes unseen and untold in the journey of how coffee makes its way to us from farm level.
Agriculture is a crucial sector in Uganda’s economy, despite being heavily reliant on manual labour. This is evident in the demographic composition of the population, where approximately 77% are below the age of 25, with over 7 million young people aged between 14 and 25. Moreover, more than 70% of the population is employed in agriculture, which remains the primary source of employment in the country.
The season was almost over when we arrived, and we ended our trip on the same day that TCG officially closed their washing station for the season. The harvest season passed by quickly, and unfortunately, the yield was much lower than expected, leaving TCG with a third less volume than planned. Drought conditions from the previous year led to no second flowering, which further contributed to the reduced volume.
Additionally, unexpected rain caused difficulties in drying the coffee beans and created volatility in the field. Despite the lower volume, TCG paid farmers a cherry price which was lower than the prices paid by international buyers in the same region. However, farmers still decided to deliver their cherries to TCG. The team had advised Shak and Dana not to raise the price as the volume of cherries left to pick was smaller than expected. Multinational companies offering higher prices when there is little coffee led to poor picking habits, and farmers were looking to sell what they had.
The 14-day trip was an incredible reminder of the astonishing job that stands behind every single cup of coffee. It made us realise the things we take for granted on a daily basis such as having a toilet in the house, access to drinking tap water, efficient waste collection, or the freedom to walk around in our neighbourhoods. We were amazed by the incredible differences in the standard of living between our world and many other people on Earth. 
We’ve sampled their representative selection of coffees, and we are pleased to inform you that we will be able to allocate more than 70% of their volume to existing customers once their lots are ready. They have worked on diversifying their coffee offerings by adding more cherry fermentation, dry fermentation, and experimental lots to their washed coffees.
TCG’s range this year is made up of 54% washed, 35% dry fermentation, 12% cherry fermentation and 4% experimental processes. 
I can’t wait for you to try these coffees and bring you closer to this important origin and project.