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
Kokoa Kamili has been evolving since the day Brian LoBue and Simran Bindra (otherwise known as the “Kokoa Kamili Guys”) poured a new cement floor in a defunct dance hall, a 16 hour drive from Dar Es Salaam, in the Kilombero Valley. The first fermentation boxes they ever touched were the ones they built, and for four years they’ve been growing a business that’s transforming the cacao industry in Tanzania. Kokoa Kamili buys wet (e.g. unfermented, freshly harvested) beans from over 3500 farmers, and ferments them in a centralized location. This way, they are able to control quality and consistency on a larger scale, producing beans that fetch a premium price from chocolate makers like us who are on the hunt for high quality beans with good flavor. That premium makes its way back to the farmer in the high price that Kokoa Kamili pays for those beans. In the end, setting this precedent has helped to raise the price floor of cacao in Kilombero, and put the country on the map of craft chocolate makers everywhere.
Kokoa Kamili is changing the cacao industry in Tanzania in a few ways, not the least of which is establishing a new standard for doing business. To this day, outdated laws keep most cacao producers from selling wet, unfermented cocoa beans, but Kokoa Kamili convinced the local government in Kilombero to let them prove their concept, and demonstrate that fermenting wet cacao in a centralized place can ultimately channel more capital to the people who grow it. Buying the cacao fresh is integral to maintaining great quality; Kokoa Kamili secures fresh beans by picking them up daily, and by setting up local buying stations where farmers can deliver and sell their cacao to the company. At last count, Kokoa Kamili buys wet beans from over 3500 farmers, the majority of whom live within ten miles of the fermentary.
Kokoa Kamili is always improving its process, but over the next year the company is looking to make the same change similar to our other partners at Maya Mountain and Reserva Zorzal: moving their fermentary to a better location. The dance hall where the fermentary currently lives is a rented space, and Kokoa Kamili will be purchasing a plot of land about 4-5 miles away, where they plan to build out a new fermenting facility (using everything they learned from building out their first one) with a larger capacity and easier access to land for building a nursery. To gain as much information for their new buildout as possible, in 2016, Brian and Simran traveled to Reserva Zorzal and Oko Caribe in the Dominican Republic (see page 000) as well as Costa Esmeraldas and Camino Verde in Ecuador (see page 000), where they had the chance to talk shop with Chuck Kerchner, Gualberto Acebey Torrejon/Adriano de Jesus Rodriguez , Freddy Salazar, and Vicente Norero. Seeing various structures and approaches allows them to see new possibilities for their own business. We love the flavor of their cacao and we love working with Brian and Sim. They’ve been great and consistent partners and were kind enough to let us bring a photographer to take photos of their business for our book!