Matti Foncha Q&A – Coffee in Cameroon

Matti Foncha (Credit: Emile Foncha)

Matti Foncha Q&A – Coffee in Cameroon

 

Matti Foncha, is the man behind the finest coffee from Cameroon, Cameroon Boyo.

But what is Cameroon Boyo?

It is a group of small-scale farmers from the Boyo region in the Northwest of Cameroon.

Matti Foncha founded Cameroon Boyo in order to help the farmers to develop a business to overcome poverty.

In a few question, Matti Foncha tell us a bit more about Coffee in Cameroon.

What are the main Varieties, Varietals and Hybrids growing in Cameroon?

There are 2 main varieties of Arabica coffee grown in Cameroon – Jamaica (Typica) and Java; the Java variety is a recent introduction known for its higher yield and resistance to coffee berry disease

Cultivating coffee in Cameroon. (Credit: Emile Foncha)

What are the most used processes and why?

Until very recently, the exclusive post-harvest process followed in Cameroon for Arabica coffee was the wet process, performed by either the producing farmers (farmer-washed) or at a centralized wet mill (centrally/fully washed); the Cameroon Boyo™ initiative has recently introduced a third option – micro wash stations.

Farmer-washed process is the most common processing method: coffee is pulped, fermented, washed and dried at the farmer’s facility; the dried parchment is what is sold or sent to dry mills for export processing. Today, most of Cameroon’s Arabica coffee export is processed this way.

Centrally washed (also referred to as fully washed) coffee comes from large regional stations that receive harvested cherries and carry out the wet milling (pulping, fermenting, washing and drying) as well as the dry milling. There are only a handful of these centralized wet mills or washing stations, and only a small percentage of Cameroon’s Arabica coffee exports come from these centralized mills.

Drying – Credit Cameroon Boyo

The Cameroon Boyo™ Micro Wash Stations are small local wet mills where groups of farmers can collectively process their coffee. While the exported volume from these micro wash stations are insignificant today, their popularity among farmers and their projected growth indicate that they will very soon be the process of choice, most suited to conditions in Cameroon and delivering the best value for money to the farmers.

In the last couple of years, the Cameroon Boyo™ initiative has also introduced the cherry drying and honey processing of coffee from selected farmers. These “naturals” are the highest grades of specialty coffee exported from Cameroon, and though also insignificant in volume today, they present attractive options for specialty farmers.

Why the WET process?

Because the fermentation and washing remove all the mucilaginous matter around the coffee beans, allowing them to quickly dry out in the sun to dry parchment. Properly dried parchment can be easily stored and transported to distant dry mills without damage or loss of quality.

Why not the DRY process?

Because the slow and lengthy drying of whole coffee cherries or mucilage covered parchment leave these highly susceptible to undesired fermentation and even rot, leading to unpleasant notes in the final roasted coffee. However, when special care is taken to keep the harvested fruit from fermenting and moulding, the resulting beans will have a high fruity and sweet profile in the cup.

Where Cameroon stands on the future markets? Speciality and Commercial Coffee?

Most of the Arabica coffee exported by large-scale exporters today is commercial grade. Cameroon Boyo™ Coffee is exclusively specialty and has been placed in markets in Asia, Europe and North America.

Is Coffee sustainable in Cameroon?

Coffee production has been declining for over 20 years despite government efforts; the Cameroon Boyo™ collaborative trade process is the only approach today that is growing and promises to ensure sustained return of younger farmers to coffee farming. 

In a few line, talk to me about the level of education of the farmers in Cameron, as some ASTs may be interested to go over there.

Most of the Arabica coffee farmers are elderly men with limited formal education. A growing number of new farmers are growing coffee thanks to the Cameroon Boyo initiatives which require that its participating farmers grow other food crops along with the coffee, and following professional guidelines for the care and processing of their coffee. Since women have traditionally been the food crop farmers in the Arabica coffee region of Cameroon, they represent the bigger number of new farmers joining our initiatives. The higher remuneration our farmers enjoy from being co-professionals in a collaborative trading structure is also attracting higher educated youth.

Thank you Matti Foncha for these very informative answers.

We hope to appreciate Cameroon Boyo coffee in our local independent coffee shops very soon.

Régine L. Guion-Firmin.

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