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Posted by Alex | May 15

WHY IKAWA? THE JOURNEY OF COFFEE

IKAWA means coffee in Kirundi, which is the language of Burundi. The people in Burundi are highly dependant on coffee – and this is where Andrew grew up and the IKAWA concept was born.

This blog post delves into our archives from a trip Andrew and Rombout made with film maker Valentine Roels, with the backing of Schluter coffee to understand what it takes to create an excellent quality coffee and follow the coffee on the route it takes from Burundi to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam. During the process we learned how IKAWA could help coffee growers the IKAWA Roaster, The video is at the end of this post.

At the time the video was made, Andrew’s parents worked in Burundi. Stephen Stordy, Andrew’s dad was working with coffee farmers to set up a small-scale coffee processing facility and farmers cooperative.

Coffee is a very important crop in Burundi. About 80% of the countries earnings are derived from coffee. In Burundi coffee is grown by small-holder subsistence farmers as cash crop. The farmers sell the cherry to processing facilities called washing stations that process the green beans to state where they are ready for export.

Following the severely depressed coffee prices of the 1990s in combination with civil war from 1993 many Burundi farmers neglected to tend for their coffee trees. Government laws prevented them from pulling the trees out and using the land to grow other crops that might be more profitable. The result of this was that coffee yields had fallen, as the trees had not been correctly cared for.

The Codemu cooperative’s washing station that we filmed in the video had been set up with the help of Food for the Hungry, Burundi with the aims of enabling farmers process there own coffee and benefit both through more of the value chain and improving the quality, which would result in higher prices.

During the making of the video we followed the route coffee takes from being picked to the point where it is loaded onto a container ship for export. This involved travelling across Tanzania for 5 days on the lorries.

One of the things about the process that stuck us was the massive effort that goes into making high quality coffee. For example, we found that every single coffee bean is sorted through by hand three times. A machine also sorts the beans once in order to grade them by size.

Every cherry is sorted by the families who grow them to remove those that are under or over ripe.
The beans are sorted to remove dis-coloured beans during the first part of the drying process.
After the parchment is removed each bean is picked through again by hand to remove any defects.

The coffee is then loaded into sacks and exported to coffee drinking nations: Given the massive effort that coffee growers put into producing high quality coffee a remarkable fact is that that many coffee growers have never tasted coffee for themselves.

We gave some coffee to some of the workers at the washing where they tried if for the first time, as seen in the film.

Coffee producers in Burundi tasting their coffee for the first time.

IKAWA aims to supply consumers with green coffee sourced directly from the growers. As we simplify the supply chain we plan to pass back some of the savings by donating 10% of the revenues from coffee sales to projects that help growers improve coffee quality.

We also believe there is a need for a reliable roaster that is suitable for growers organizations to use, enabling them to taste their produce for the first time – and second, third and forth times to become experts themselves – to enable them to improve their production methods. Existing sample roasters are very expensive in comparison to the IKAWA roaster and are expensive and difficult to install.

The IKAWA roaster is easy to install and also has the added benefit that roast profiles and can be shared with exporters and exporters (and maybe one day IKAWA Home Roaster users!!) so all stages in the supply chain can roast coffee to the same profile and experience the same flavours.

We are working with Cafédirect Producers Foundation to distribute sample roasters to smallholder coffee farmers, funded by our Kickstarter campaign – and if you don’t want to purchase a Home Roaster for yourself, you can contribute £20, which will fund 1/25th or a roaster.