The business of coffee relies on the shared passion of coffee people all over the world, and this section is dedicated to introducing the members of our diverse, dynamic supply chain. Here we ask a few fun questions of our partners at origin, our employees, and our customers; and we share their answers with you so that you can get to know them like we do—in their own words.
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Samuel Thuo, Project Manager for Kenya's Coffee Management Services Ltd.Samuel Thuo is a Project Manager for Kenya's Coffee Management Services Ltd. (CMS), an agri-business service provider that works to promote quality, encourage sustainable production, and build relationships with farmer co-operative societies in Kenya, as well as offering other services worldwide. Counter Culture's Sustainability and Producer Relations Manager Kim Elena Bullock met up with Samuel in Nyeri, Kenya, on a visit to the Thiriku co-operative and spent a day together discussing coffee flavor profiles, agricultural practices, Kenya's complex coffee market, and World Cup soccer!
How did you get started in coffee?
After college, I ventured into private business for a few years, although later I felt the need to put my agriculture degree into better use. I was recruited by CMS as a management trainee and initiated into the art of coffee production, i.e from the farm to the cup. This was more of hands-on training, as I was attached to various departments along the value chain to learn from the more experienced staff. As they say, the rest is history and almost 5 years on I more passionate about coffee than I had ever dreamt.
Where were you born, and where do you live currently?
I was born and brought up at the Kenyan coast where I attended both primary and secondary school. I later relocated to Nairobi to pursue my university education where I stay to date.
How many years have you worked with CMS?
I joined CMS in mid 2006 as a management trainee and rose through the ranks to the position of a Projects Manager.
Please describe your work and your organization.
Coffee Management Services Ltd. (CMS) is an agri-business service provider offering a wide range of services to the coffee industry in Kenya and worldwide in general. Locally the company offers farm management services. CMS Ltd. is a subsidiary of Volcafe Ltd. the coffee division of ED & F Man Ltd., one of the world’s largest commodity trading companies. The company aims to become the centrer of excellence in agro-financial services and to promote sustainably grown coffees in the region.
My job entails varied responsibilities including developing and implementing sustainability projects, carrying out feasibility studies, guiding producers implement certification standards, marketing, and other duties that contribute to positive financial gain for CMS, and a basis of extended company business development. This broad job description has allowed me to grow and develop my career in the coffee industry and sustainability platform. I also get to travel widely in Africa, Europe, and Latin America.
What are the most important things that growers do to create great coffee?
A great coffee begins in the field. Growers ensure that the coffee tree is in prime condition to produce the best cherries. This is done through apt manure and fertilizer application, pest and disease control, and numerous recommended agronomic practices. The cherry is selectively picked to ensure only red ripe cherries are harvested and wet processed the same day. The coffee is then fermented, washed, graded, dried, and delivered to a dry mill for hulling before its auctioned and exported to millions of faithful consumers worldwide.
Do you drink coffee? If so, what is your favorite brewing method?
I am a certified coffee addict! I love filter coffee with some cappuccinos once a while.
What are the biggest challenges faced by the growers you work with?
They lament the increased cost of production, unpredictable weather, and erratic world coffee prices. Also, lack of current information puts them at a disadvantaged position in the value chain.
What activities keep you busy in your free time?
I love to spend time with my family. I am married with one son, who is one-and-a-half years old. Crazy little guy!
I am a big fan of the internet, where I do a lot of personal interest research, visit social sites, and blog. Separately, I like to watch nature documentaries, read novels, and listen to music.
What would you like coffee drinkers in the United States to know about Kenya?
Kenya is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, blessed with numerous natural flora and fauna, incredible weather, diverse habitats, and amazing people. It's not debatable that Kenyan coffee is the best in the world. Anyone who has had the pleasure of sampling it will attest to this!
For those who don’t know, we gave the USA their president, Obama!!!
Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Great coffee blends are like pizza. Brazil coffee is the dough – there is a lot of it, but, hey, who cares? Kenyan coffee is the topping – there is less of it, but it’s what makes it a pizza!