Sourcing Stories with Dustin Ryan Yu: Uganda
We chatted with This Coffee Co.’s Director of Coffee, Dustin Ryan Yu, about why he chose to source this coffee from Uganda and how the values of Sucafina Specialty align with his own.
Ugandan coffees can be quite difficult to source and find, and I first heard about this coffee through James McKenney, a specialty trader at Sucafina. I have known and worked with James for several years now, and it was truly a pleasure to learn more about the sourcing side of things, as well as Sucafina’s work at origin. He told us, “I think the real cool story here is the infrastructure that Sucafina has been setting up in Uganda to help farmers switch to specialty production.”
I learned that Ugacof, Sucafina’s sister company in Uganda, showcases a lot of their arabica production through their initiatives and investments. One of Ugacof’s main focuses is on farmer resilience and female empowerment on coffee farms in Western Uganda. For example, they support producers in income diversification, such as diversifying their crops and investments, and in turn, these business involvements improve their quality of life and increase their income.
Something interesting about this coffee in particular, is that the smallholder farmers used to send their cherries to commercial plants, which typically means lower prices paid to farmers, reduced traceability, and lower quality in general. Since Sucafina began to invest in the area, such as implementing solar panels and supporting the agronomy and harvesting process, producers now deliver cherry to Kampala dry mill station, which has resulted in a lot of positive impact on the community.
This impactful work at origin is important to me to consider when it comes to sourcing coffee. When sourcing from a seemingly infinite pool of options, there are a few things I do look for. For example, the chosen coffee must reflect my personal values as well as the company’s values. Sometimes it is not the perfect fit, but it must first and foremost have a positive impact on the producer, cooperative, or washing station. Of course, the quality of the coffee matters, but sometimes, relationship-based coffee or coffee that impacts producers directly can take priority. A balance between all these things is important, and it’s certainly also about the final coffee drinker, and what they might enjoy tasting or learning about.