Deep in the Highlands of Western Cameroon, among seemingly endless chains of ancient volcanic peaks, lie a group of villages known as Boyo. Therein live farmers who cultivate, and in 9 months, harvest a high grade of coffee. This coffee has a rare and exotic flavor profile: full-bodied with herbal and floral complexities with hints of pepper. These farmlands are characterized by volcanic soil, high-altitudes, grown by small-holder farms, and contain no surrounding pollutants independent of chemicals. Its unique profile comes from the rich volcanic soil as well as the benefits of growing in a diversified crop environment.
During harvest season, farmers work from the early morning hours selecting just the optimally ripe fruit and carefully plucking them from the cluster of cherries. Harvesting continues into late afternoon when the harvested cherries are prepared depending on method: drying, pulping and drying, or pulping, fermenting, washing and drying. This preparation consists of dumping the harvest in a deep trough of water to remove floating debris, underdeveloped cherries, or insect-eaten cherries, leaving only cherries of uniform density and ripeness. The industrial complex consists of 10 pulping stations and 3 hulling stations located strategically within the coffee producing areas of the country. There are also two major plants located in the capital city of Bamenda that process green coffee beans for export.
About Cameroonian Coffee
Coffee was first introduced in Cameroon by the Germans in 1884. It has since spread to a total of seven different growing regions throughout the country. The majority of coffee production is Robusta in middle elevation zones closer to the coast. Arabica, mostly a Typica variety referred to as Boyo that is similar to the Jamaica Blue Mountain and Java varieties, is grown in the higher elevation zones farther inland to the northwest of the country. Coffee production fell drastically in the early to mid 1990s due to falling global coffee prices and issues within Cameroon's government and economy. By 1995 many coffee farmers had almost given up on it and had actually pulled up trees to plant other crops.
The coffee industry in Cameroon has rebounded over the last decade or so. Italy is a large consumer of both varieties. Germany grabs a large percentage of the Arabica production. Most coffee production is centered around commercial grade coffee, but specialty coffee is starting to become a focus. The soil, environment and genetics of the varieties there should lead to really amazing coffees. Small changes such as better harvesting practices should lead to exponential benefits.
Cameroon coffee is not widely sought out in the US. We hope to change this a little and also to help Cameroon raise the quality of their coffee to the potential we know they have. Getting more money into the hands of farmers and workers is a major goal in Cameroon. It is a country that has seen some stability and moderate growth in the last few years, after some serious internal conflicts as recent as 2008, but the benefits of this upswing in the economy have not reached all of the population yet. If this isn't addressed it could have a negative effect on coffee production and quality.
Many large roasters around the world see Cameroon as a place to go for cheap coffee. The industry is dominated by a small group of large trading companies that don't take a significant interest in "getting their hands dirty" as they say. In order to start to see some real positive changes in the country it will be up to the specialty coffee sector.