Picking up from where we left off, Jan had agreed to do some work with the African Fine Coffee Association (AFCA) for producers in Africa prior to the start of his trip.
Founded in July 2000, the AFAC is a regional non-profit, non-political, member-driven association representing coffee sectors in 12 member countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, DRC, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Part of his trip also involved being part of an established annual high-end specialty coffee grading event which culminates from the different countries in the continent, with Jan agreeing to participate in the 2019 competition as a member of the Jury.
However as the competition began to unfold, it quickly became clear that competition standards and regulations were not a focal point of the show. With disorganisation causing a mix of naturals and washed coffees, the event was plagued with discrepancies. With the loss of anonymity and objectivity, Jan found himself having to refuse scoring along the same lines as the other judges.
Consequently, his scores were discounted, and Jan refused to attend the awards ceremony.
However, on a brighter note Jan made his way to the amazingly named 'Testi dry mills' who also export their own coffee.
From there it was off to another set of dry mills to see if there was an opportunity to work with them. What he found however was enough to stop him where he stood, not only was health and safety lacking but as was common sense.
Moving swiftly onward to Guji, Jan began his travels with SNAP coffee company. However, there was more to this company than meets the eye, with Jan on a separate mission to satisfy his own curiosity. SNAP Coffee company was part of a much larger organisation who were focused on the computer industry.
With coffee being the main source of receiving dollars, there were thoughts across the coffee community in Ethiopia that the SNAP coffee was a means of funding the computer company, that the care was not on the quality of the beans but rather just a means to an end. But Jan wouldn’t be the sourcer we know if he didn’t see it directly for himself, so visiting their washing stations in Yirgacheffe, Jan saw all his concerns and disbelief, explained and debunked.
While the owner of the company was admittedly wealthy with a passion for the computer industry, the department head of coffee was not only experienced in coffee projects with CQI but in it for the coffee and to help the farmers, which was also evident in the amazing coffees Jan was able to taste with them during his visits.
From this, there is something to be said for witnessing something first hand. What Jan thought was an organized and reputable competition turned out to be anything but, while his pessimistic approach to SNAP coffee was soon forgotten as he saw a genuine passion for coffee from its employees.
This highlights the importance of dealing directly with farmers and exporters to ensure both the quality of coffee for our customers plus a fair price and ethical treatment for the producers.