Coffee Sourcing Trip ’09 (CST) post #1, by Taylor
Day 1 – NYC to Kampala, Uganda
November 3, night
Just arrived in Kampala, and it’s great to be back. Uganda is really where Crop to Cup started, so we hold closely our many old friends and valuable relationships we have here. Although flying in under the cover of darkness (and the lack of much light on the Entebbe-Kampala road) cuts away that rush of emotional excitement that you feel when returning to a much beloved spot, the lights of central Kampala and the warmth of good friends (Tony and Godfrey – former colleagues of mine in Bugisu and now Robusta traders – met me at the airport) made up for anything lost in a 10pm arrival time.
I’m actually only here for tonight and tomorrow, before boarding two more flights to reach close by Burundi, where I’ll be for 6 days meeting new farmer groups we’ll be working with very soon. Regional air travel in Africa is generally pretty difficult, so I had to fly into Uganda (via London), spend a night and a day, then tomorrow to Burundi (via Nairobi), then back here to Uganda for almost two bound-to-be-awesome weeks with 3 other Crop to Cuppers coming over from Chicago and NYC (Alexis, Jake and Neil). But the beauty of that convoluted route is that I am able to ease into Africa via a city I already know and love, spend a day checking out the new specialty coffee shops that are rumored to have opened up here in the past year, have a few casual meetings with old industry friends and stay in a comfortable home (Tony’s) instead of some random hotel off by the airport.
Tony is an old friend from my and Jake’s days working at Main Trader, a Ugandan specialty coffee exporter. He’s made an impressive living trading Robusta beans between regional collectors in the country’s western districts and the exporters based in Kampala (the vast majority of Uganda’s coffee is Robusta and, although it’s not going to fetch top-cup prices anytime soon, its export revenue is the backbone of the country’s economy and not to be ignored by anybody concerned with sustainable development here). Tony has had a ton of success since I last saw him, and the new home he recently built in a quiet corner away from central Kampala, new car that finally has adequate shock absorbers and awesome home-cooked meal of g-nut (peanut) sauce, steamed bananas and beef curry is a testament to his hard work over the past decade and – from my own selfish point of view – the perfect landing pad after a long day of travel. Sure, British Airways lost my suitcase in London and I’ll probably end up in Burundi for six days having only the blue office shirt and jeans I wore from New York, but the coffee gods, I think, were still somehow watching over me. I could only fit clothes in my suitcase yesterday morning, and luckily all the overflow that went into my carry-on is all the important stuff for a few days up in the Burundi coffee hills: video camera, GPS, raincoat, toothbrush, phone charger, hiking boots, and – most importantly – candy corn from my lovely fiancé.
Anyway, thanks to Tony and to the coffee gods – it’s great to be back!