Hilltop (local name Cameroon Boyo Team) started the construction of a pilot micro washing station in June 2013 on a piece of land made available by one of our leading farmers in the town of Belo, using locally available material and personnel. The initial construction consisted of the platform for the pulping machine and the fermentation tank inluding it’s water pipes. A shed was then built to cover the fermentation tank and pulping platform. Several raised drying tables were constructed as coffee ripened and farmers were asked to bring freshly harvested cherries to the pilot station.
The design and setup of the Micro Washing Station takes into account the cultural and historic way in which people work with, and process their coffee. Therefore we chose not to copy and implement designs from, for example: Costa Rican or Rwandan success stories one on one. Instead the design and setup is tailor-made for the Cameroonian situation. The design splits the wet house, warehouse and a drying table portion of the project/process. The initial focus was on improving the drying tables, because it requires less investment, and can reach more farmers in less time. The wet house, a facility with clean water and pulping equipment, used for fermentation and standardized washing, greatly improves the quality. The warehouse is used to store processed parchment hygienically and well ventilated. The Circle of Excellence (CoE) group that runs the Belo Washing station is providing a support role for other Boyo groups in the area.
Because Cameroonian farmers are not used to produce for quality demanding markets, they never dried their products in a very quality effective manner, and
mostly dried them on the dirt, or plastics sheets when asked to. When new groups of farmers start working with Cameroon Boyo, one of the first things we do is inform
them on the necessity to use hygienic drying facilities to combat coffee defects and fungal or bacterial infection of the drying batch. Moreover, the various drying methods and unstandardized drying process creates the possibility for drying defects in the coffee, like over fermentation or moldy beans. The drying tables are a second level upgrade of CoE drying capacity, and place on tactical (preferably centralized) locations in the CoE area, at the premises of one or more of the participants. The tables are made by local craftsmen, using locally available materials. Moreover, they are designed keeping in mind the necessity for durability.
The wet house is a closable shed in which, or from which most wet activities will take place. The wet house is equipped with: 1. Connection to clean water. 2. A water basin, used for floater removal and fermentation. 3. A mechanized pulper. 4. Tools and implement for cherry and wet parchment logistics, floater removal and maintenance. 5. Space to store and maintain drying tables.
Clean water is key to producing defect free coffee by facilitating a hygienic conditionfor fermentation and washing in which bacterial and fungal infection is effectively kept to a minimal level on which it cannot take hold of a batch of coffee. The water basin is connected to a clean water supply, and exhausts into an adequate channel, tank or pit. The basin has a lid, to improve fermentation. The basin is used for several activities, and cleaned in between of these activities, namely: Water used for removing floaters from incoming cherry. This is usually done in large plastic buckets. Storage of woven baskets which hold fermenting coffee batches. Washing of the coffee batches, in the baskets, using clean water. The dirty water is drained and the process repeated until the coffee is scrubbed clean.
Farmers in CoE groups use various means of pulping their coffee. This ranges from mechanized pulpers owned by individual farmers and shared/rented by others, to farmers using low tech method like stone and mortar. These various methods create nipping defects, which require additional sorting and screening due to damage to the wet beans. Furthermore, various pulping methods create a wide spread pulped bean result in terms of mucilage left on the bean. This in turn has effect on the fermentation time necessary to soften the mucilage, and can lead to over fermentation in ‘well pulped beans’ as opposed to merely skinned beans. The Micro washing Station design is equipped with a small mechanized pulper with the capacity to service the CoE group for the foreseeable future. The model, brand and specifications are not know by the writer of this document at this stage, but the people in Cameroon already know which machines they need, and what their
approximate price is, as you can see in the budget.
The warehouse was added to the Belo pilot washing station in the onset of the 2016/17 season. Its main function was to provide direct, clean, hygienic and ventilated warehousing capacity for the parchment produced by the station. Up until its construction, finished parchment would be kept in a not well ventilated, steel
container, which endures too much temperature swings throughout the season, negatively impacting parchment quality. The warehouse is initially built as a
temporary structure made of wood. Well roofed and ventilated to maintain good conditions for parchment storage. The warehouse will also contain a small office, for
the processing of administration, cherry deliveries, etc.
In 2016 we got in contact with Matti Focha, who at the time was looking for a way to present the Cameroon Boyo coffee in the European market. The story about how the farmers are treated as co-professionals, captured our interest immediately. Farmers delivering coffee to Cameroon Boyo always have the choice to sell for quick cash to other buyers in the area, however, once they engage into the joint venture the benefit and development accompanying it will place the farmers onto a new professional level. By cooperating in this joint venture, the farmers are assured a fitting price for their cherry quality, more relative to the prices paid by roasters. The Coffee Quest functions as agent for Cameroon Boyo, providing services in quality control and logistics, and representing the organization towards specialty roasters in Europe.
In 2018, the next step for Cameroon Boyo was to replicate the successful pilot Belo micro washing station to a second site, together with the Circle of Excellence group in Sho. The new micro washing station was partly financed by roasters that had supported the project from the beginning. In return for their investment they receive a discount for upcoming purchases. The Sho farmers expressed their willingness to invest in the station in terms of work and materials and to some extend in financial backing if necessary. But first and foremost, they dedicaded their entire crop to the station. The Sho washing station has finished, but the Cameroon Boyo network is frequently disrupted by the turmoil in the region. The Hilltop Team and Circles of Excellence groups work hard to prevent delays and continue transforming the Cameronian landscape for specialty coffee.
In West-Africa there are only a few high altitude regions suitable for the production of quality Arabica beans. In Cameroon there is a limited variation when it comes to coffee variaties, however, these “older” Java II and Typica plants provide excellent quality. The Circles of Excellence groups are producing group lots of comparable quality, however, the quality coming from the Belo Station has been lifted to surprising hights. The honey lots are showing floral note we are used from Ethiopian Washed coffee, but include a beautiful citric touch. In 2019 we decided to take a different approach for the top lots only. To preserve the quality have decided to fly in the lots from Belo and Alonsi from Duala Airport to Shiphol Amsterdam. An expensive excercise which is necessary to show the real potential from Cameroon to the world. Competition worthy coffees with a beautiful story!