Dormans: Our work with the coffee exporter in Kenya
Kenya is one of the top five coffee-producing countries in Africa by volume, and around 16th in the world. It boasts a balance of high altitudes, moderate temperatures, even rainfall, and rich volcanic soil, making it perfect for cultivating high-quality coffee.
However, Kenyan coffee production has fallen significantly since the 1980s, thanks to a property boom in coffee-growing areas, widespread price instability, and a growing generational gap, with many younger people favouring more profitable crops.
To restore faith in Kenyan coffee production, however, training programmes for producers and co-operatives are trying to tackle this trend, and increase the volume of coffee that Kenya grows. One of the many organisations driving this change is Dormans, an East African coffee exporter.
Read on to learn more about what Dormans is doing, and how we partner with them.
Kenyan coffee: A quick overview
Today, Kenyan coffee is grown in the country’s Central Highlands (a high-altitude plateau located to the north of Nairobi), in the western Aberdare Mountains, and around and on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. More than half of all Kenyan coffee is cultivated by smallholder farmers.
Broadly speaking, Kenyan specialty coffee is known for its brightness, fruitiness, full body, and acidity. These characteristics have come to be associated with the origin as the home of the SL28 and SL34 hybrid varieties, which were developed by Scott Labs (hence SL) in the 1950s.
Up until 2006, all Kenyan coffee was sold through auctions and the Nairobi Coffee Exchange. However, after pressure from buyers and producers alike, the government introduced legislation to allow for something called the “Second Window”. This is a direct sales model where producers sell their coffee through marketing agents to international buyers.
What is Dormans?
Dormans is an East African coffee exporter that operates in Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. It was founded in 1950 by Charles and Ellen Dorman.
Since 2015, Dormans has been part of ECOM, a commodities merchant that’s heavily involved in the coffee supply chain.
Muki Yeung is a specialty coffee trader at Dormans. She explains that the company has a keen focus on sourcing quality Kenyan coffee.
“Our focus is sourcing the best specialty coffee in Kenya,” she says. “We work to build solid relationships between our producers and buyers, while providing support to improve quality, sustainability, and transparency throughout our supply chain.”
Dormans sells to coffee buyers around the world, and sources a range of coffees to meet a broad variety of sensory profiles. Its coffees range from the typical winey, blackcurrant Kenyan coffee profile to lighter and more delicate tea-like flavours. The quality control team for Dormans is located in Nairobi and offers a wealth of knowledge on coffees from the region.
Dormans also works with Coffee Management Services (CMS), a service provider that was founded to help connect producers more seamlessly with the wider coffee industry.
To this end, CMS offers agronomy advice for both large-scale and smallholder farmers, by cultivating demonstration plots and facilitating relationships with international buyers. It also helps producers access affordable finance, competitively priced inputs and fertilisers, seedlings, and lead and soil analysis tools.
Condesa & Dormans
Condesa started working with Dormans back in 2015, purely by chance, when our managing director Stephen met someone from Dormans at an SCA event. A few weeks later, Condesa ordered a box of Kenyan specialty coffee from the exporter, and the rest is history.
Since then, we’ve continued to purchase delicious coffees through Dormans, as well as working together through CMS. Both companies share a similar vision and mission about providing quality and service in everything they do.
From this connection between Dormans and Condesa, we’ve now started stocking a delicious coffee from Kamwangi. This is a washing station in Kirinyaga County, which sits on the southern slopes of Mt. Kenya.
The co-operative that grows the coffee we buy receives some great support from CMS, offering its producer members funding for emergencies, training, and other educational seminars. Producers around Kamwangi have also started to practice agroforestry, growing their coffee crops among macadamia trees. These serve as shade trees, as well as giving farmers an additional source of income in the off season. This coffee is a delight, with notes of black tea, jam, and rhubarb.
Another coffee we source from Dormans is from the co-operative of Gathaithi, in Nyeri County. The co-op has around 1,600 members, and brings us two crops every year.
The latest coffee from Gathaithi is a fully washed coffee grown at an altitude of 1,720 m.a.s.l., with notes of florals, tropical fruit, and tea.
We’re fortunate to have worked with Dormans and CMS to source amazing Kenyan coffees for more than six years. However, beyond that, we’re proud to have partnered with two organisations that are doing some excellent work – work that will support thousands of Kenyan coffee farmers for years to come.
Going forward, we expect that our relationship with Dormans will only continue, and we look forward to enjoying more delicious lots – as well as providing them to our roaster partners.