How It All Started

Cameroon is situated in Western Africa, a region not known for specialty coffee. It wasn't until Pierre hired a coffee roaster from Cameroon named Hamidou Yaya in 2004 that he found out that high-quality could be grown in this country.

Hamidou was the main inspiration behind the Direct Trade partnership Mocha Joe's now engages in with Cameroonian coffee farmers. His sister began shipping samples of green (unroasted) coffee beans from Cameroon for Pierre to see and test. Hamidou hoped that Pierre would see potential for a new country of origin for specialty coffee and that they would be able to travel to Cameroon together.

Pierre indeed saw potential in these green beans along with a great challenge. The quality of the beans was nowhere near specialty-grade, a status that mandates careful picking and sorting techniques. Pierre was excited about the idea of teaming up with coffee workers in Cameroon to elevate the coffee, introducing a new specialty product to the market and helping coffee workers make more money. Pierre and Ingrid (a long-time Mocha Joe's employee) joined Hamidou on Mocha Joe's first trip to Cameroon in 2009.

Pierre had a game plan: First, train the sorters to sort according to SCAA specialty-grade criteria, and second, to build a wet mill that would lead to more consistency in the de-pulping phase of the production chain. The training of sorters was begun immediately, but after Pierre tried wet milled Cameroonian coffee, he decided it wasn't the best processing method for the coffee. Pierre changed the game plan accordingly, leasing a dry mill instead.

Once these initial steps were taken, it wasn't long before the first ever specialty-grade coffee left Cameroon. This meant higher earnings for Cameroonian coffee workers in exchange for better coffee and a new market in the U.S., where Cameroonian coffee hadn't previously been imported. Pierre was inspired to increase the scope of the project, incorporating more farmers into the Direct Trade partnership and beginning the organic project, which resulted in the first ever Certified Organic coffee leaving Cameroon in 2013.