Source: Kokoa Kamili
Region: Kilombero Valley, Morogoro Region
Source Type: Privately owned Fermentary and Social Enterprise
Beans Source: Purchases wet from > 2000 producers
Fermentation Style: 3-tiered boxes, fermented for ~6 days
Drying Style: Mobile mesh beds for 4 – 7 days
Cultivation Notes: Non-grafted trees grown from seed with miscellaneous genetics
Exporter: Kokoa Kamili
Importer: Meridian Cacao
Tasting Notes: Ripe mango, caramelized red berries, brownie batter
Start of working relationship: July, 2013
Last Visit: Oct 2016 by Greg
Tonnes Purchased in 2016: 12.5 MT
Purchased TOTAL (lifetime): ~30 MT
Brian LoBue and Simran Bindra of Kokoa Kamili have grown a successful cacao business in the remote Kilombero region of Tanzania, learning from others in the industry and looking to improve things for everyone in the value chain. Kokoa Kamili works with over 4,000 farmers in Tanzania, buying wet beans then fermenting and drying them in a centralized facility. By consistently controlling and improving quality in this way, they produce an outstanding cocoa bean, are able to garner a premium price, and are one of the larger suppliers of specialty cocoa to the craft chocolate market. Kokoa Kamili puts the same level of care and thoughtfulness into their cocoa that we try to put into our chocolate, making them an ideal partner for us.
We have been working with Kokoa Kamili since 2014 and over the past five years it has been inspiring to see their growth: from shipping their first container to supplying chocolate makers around the world. They’ve achieved this feat through steady and thoughtful growth based on experimentation and attention to detail. In 2017, they purchased land to move their facilities to a better location with more space and access to power and water, replacing the current fermentary which is a former dance hall. They plan to build a new facility using everything they have learned from their ongoing fermentation experiments as well as visits to other producers such as Zorzal Cacao, Öko-Caribe, and Costa Esmeraldas. The construction on the new facility is planned to begin in 2020 and will be designed to better meet the needs of their cocoa operation, including a permanent drying space (as opposed to the mobile drying beds they currently use), a nursery to grow seedlings for the farmers with whom they work, and a demonstration farm for farmer trainings.
Even before the new facility is completed, Kokoa Kamili’s production has continued to expand with new buyers every year. Despite this growth in production, quality remains high and price consistent at approximately $5,000/tonne FOB. The quality of Kokoa Kamili’s beans is evidenced by the number of small-scale chocolate makers that source from them year after year. The continuous learning of the team has also paid off in other ways, earning them a coveted Cocoa of Excellence award at the International Cocoa Awards in Paris in 2017 (yes, there are indeed awards just for cocoa!).
Because we love the team at Kokoa Kamili so much, we started bringing others to visit them as well! Starting in 2017 and continuing into 2019, Kokoa Kamili hosts a group from Dandelion Chocolate each year composed of our customers as well as the occasional chocolate maker. These trips help people from around the world to learn more about Kokoa Kamili while letting their team meet some of the end customers of their product. We find it’s a great way to close the loop on a complex supply chain as well as learn more about each other along the way. For more information about Kokoa Kamili check out our book “Making Chocolate” where we go into detail on Kokoa Kamili’s operations and share some fantastic pictures of their team!