Direct trade coffee - from war-torn Cameroon to Hackney's Twisted Fork
A London café owner has built a unique alliance with a trader from Cameroon whose workers risk their lives to export coffee from their war-ravaged country.
Richard Clark of The Twisted Fork is one of just a handful of cafes to team up with Matti Foncha – a Cameroon coffee trader on a mission to get a fair price for his farmers and to share his community’s plight with the wider world.
The Twisted Fork serves Cameroon Boyo – strong coffee grown in volcanic soil – sold direct from the farmers who brave gun-toting militia to get their coffee to market. And Matti, who divides his time between Cameroon and the UK, is often at the cafe telling his story.
Since late 2016 conflict has been raging in Cameroon between the Government and separatist fighters. Around 437,000 people have been displaced, homes burnt, property looted, people injured and kidnapped and hundreds have been killed.
(Matti Foncha outside The Twisted Fork)
Richard, whose magic-themed café opened in Stoke Newington High Street in the summer, said: “Matti’s story is incredibly moving. He’s lost friends in the conflict. Supply routes to the ports are regularly blocked as civil strife continues to flare up, and agricultural workers regularly find themselves caught in the crossfire as they make the perilous journey to the ports to export their goods. One of Matti’s workers was shot recently – thankfully he survived.
“As a business it would be so much easier and more economic to choose cheaper coffee options but that isn’t leaving a legacy in the world and it isn’t helping the people that really need it. What Matti is doing is better than Fairtrade – it’s direct trade and that means more money for farmers!
“The farmers Matti works with rely on him to get a good price for their coffee – this is their livelihood and without him they’d struggle. If they sell via the commodities market rather than direct to providers, they get significantly less return for their labour and can barely feed their families. Selling direct to companies like The Twisted Fork allows them to earn multiples of what they would ordinarily earn, and provides a much fairer system."
Matti and Rich are in regular contact – he visits the café often to talk about the conflict and the coffee and sends photos of what’s happening back home.
Rich added: “Cameroon Boyo is really good coffee; grown in small family-run farms in the western highlands of Cameroon – 5,000 feet high in volcanic soil. It’s a powerful taste and it’s been getting rave reviews.
“It seems as though the conflict in Cameroon is largely ignored by the mainstream media. Families are struggling. People are dying – but no-one talks about it.”
Since the conflict began, large swathes of farmland have been destroyed and the country’s crop production has declined significantly.
Matti says “The rich taste and flavours of Cameroon Boyo Coffee come from the volcanic soil, the natural inputs we use to nourish and care for them along with the other crops that grow side by side with them.
The farmers are the owners of the coffee, directly traded with partners like The Twisted Fork; every cup of coffee purchased directly contributes to the livelihood of the farmers' families.”
Local Buyers Club members save 10% at The Twisted Fork
If you’d like to hear Matti’s story direct and meet him when he’s next at The Twisted Fork, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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