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Tracking Chiuta's Journey From Farm to Cup

Straddling the equator at the heart of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) looms as the largest country in the continent. The landmass is about the size of the entire western United States and is covered in deep, thick jungle and rainforest.


The Congo river circles the country counterclockwise, starting in the southeast tip of the country and ending to the west in the Atlantic Ocean - crossing the equator twice. Some scientists called it the mother of all rivers because of the vast amount of fish species it hosts; yet it also serves as the country’s economic backbone.
Most of the DRC’s exports move along this river, and among those exports were this lot of coffee beans, which we were able to piggyback onto a fellow importer’s container. The coffee bean’s journey from soil to cup is one of the most fascinating parts of this tale. On to it.

Chiuta’s beans are carefully cultivated by communities scattered across the highlands of the mountains surrounding Lake Kivu’s western shore. 5,600 of these farmers came together to create a co-op called Sopacdi to jointly promote their coffee beans and provide a steady income to its members. Cedric Nkega, a spokesman for the co-op, explained what they have accomplished.


For the first time ever Sopacdi members had the opportunity to sell directly to customers instead of having to sell their harvest domestically. Just recently, the group finished building the first coffee washing station in the region for over 40 years. This accomplishment will give farmers more control over their coffee, and keeps more of the product value at the source.

Kisangani port by the Congo river - By MONUSCO / Abel Kavanagh, CC BY-SA 2.0

The incredible journey of this coffee lot starts in Minova where it was processed, sun dried, hulled, and packed. It was rested for a few weeks to achieve the ideal moisture content (about 11% for green coffee), then transported via truck thru
remote roads to the inland port of Kisangani, which resides at the farthest upstream navigable point on the Congo river.

To put things in perspective, the distance between Sopacdi’s washing station and Kisangani is about 500 miles, which, with Congo’s poor roads could take up to two days of driving depending on road conditions. From Kisangani the coffee bags were floated down the Congo river all the way to Kinshasa, a 1,080-mile boat trip that takes at least two months to complete. From Kinshasa, it was hauled by truck for the second time to Matadi, where it was shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to Houston where it was finally dispatched by truck to White Tale Coffee's HQ in Denver.
All things considered, the coffee bags you’re about to brew and enjoy made quite an unusual trip that broken down looks like this:
  • Minova, DRC to Kisangani, DRC - 458 miles by truck
  • Kisangani, DRC to Kinshasa, DRC - 1,077 miles by river boat
  • Kinshasa, DRC to Matadi, DRC - 204 miles by truck
  • Matadi, DRC to Houston, TX - 7,718 miles by container ship
  • Houston, TX to Denver, CO - 1,014 miles by truck
All this traveling adds up to a total of 10,471 miles of awe-inspiring, small-batch roasted coffee beans delivered to your doorstep.  We are very proud to be part of this amazing soil-to-cup journey and glad to bring you the best of Sopacdi’s latest harvest. Hope you enjoy these beans as much as we did.

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