Skip to main content

Coffee Story: Kenyan Coffee Brewed in Europe

A meeting at coffee cupping turns into an export deal

A good way to start 2021

Gloria Gummerus is radiant as she recounts the latest business deal of Sakami Coffee. She co-owns this company, situated on the slopes of Mount Elgon in Western Kenya, with her husband Jarmo.

2021 kicked off with great news for the company, as 100 bags of their coffee were sold across Europe through the Dutch green coffee importer This Side Up.

his business partnership was in the making for a while – Sakami Coffee and This Side Up had been crossing paths for many years, but no business opportunities materialised until recently.

The challenge of accessing new markets

Penetrating the European market remains a challenge even for producers of high-quality Kenyan coffees. Export licenses are expensive and complex to obtain and coffees are mostly sold at large national auctions, which reduces the options available to small businesses.

Finding and meeting buyers has become an even bigger challenge due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Sakami Coffee young berries inspection June 2021

Networking at the EAC Coffee Business Forum brings success

Maarten van Keulen, Head of Operations at This Side Up, tasted Sakami’s coffees last year at the cupping session during the EAC Coffee Business Forum in Mombasa. “I had cupped many coffees that day. Gloria invited me to try her coffee and it was outstanding! It was the only coffee that I took back to the Netherlands and shared with my colleagues!” he said.

However, it took another ten months before their paths crossed again during a training on coffee quality grading organised by ITC through MARKUP.

Gloria was able to connect with one of This Side Up’s partners in the region, Stean’s Beans founder, Stean Fasol.

Sakami Coffee amazes Europe

After many virtual meetings Gloria, Maarten and Stean joined hands earlier this year to import a container of Sakami’s coffees to Europe.

A crowdfunding campaign was organised to engage This Side Up’s clients and pre-sell as many bags of coffee as possible, to cover the cost of importing the container of coffee to Europe. This included the payment to Sakami for the coffee upon its delivery to the packaging depot in Nairobi.

70% of the bags were presold within a few weeks of the launch of the campaign. The handpicked fully ripe cherries, grown in an increasingly sustainable farm, made quite an impression in countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

The secret? Top quality coffee.

Stronger with MARKUP

“Thanks to the training by MARKUP I learned how to cup and assess the quality of my own coffees, which is so important for coffee farmers! Now I know what our coffees are worth, I am confident at the negotiating table, I know how to speak their language.” said Gloria. Her confidence and her brave approach to experimenting with coffee processing make her an invaluable business partner in the region.

With support from European Union – East African Community Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP), Sakami Coffee showcased their produce at the EAC Coffee Business Forum organized by the International Trade Centre, held in conjunction with the 18th African Fine Coffees Association (AFCA) Conference.

This article was first published on the ITC website

Picture credits: Delegation of the EU to Kenya